Forbes India: Pedigree in place, but needs to create clear USP, more specialised content, say media planners

One of the first international business magazines launched in India, Forbes India has just completed a year of its presence in the country. A lot had been riding on the performance of the magazine and also a lot of expectations. exchange4media asked some leading media planners to give their views on the magazine's journey in India so far and what has worked or not worked for Forbes in India.

e4m by Pallavi Goorha Kashyup & Tasneem Limbdiwala
Updated: May 24, 2010 8:22 AM
Forbes India: Pedigree in place, but needs to create clear USP, more specialised content, say media planners

One of the first international business magazines launched in India, Forbes India has just celebrated its first anniversary. Given the Forbes brand name, and the fact that it was partnering with the Network 18 group in India, had lead to significant expectations from the publication.

To commemorate the magazine’s first anniversary, a special collector’s issue on ‘One Idea that can change the World’ has been launched that features exclusive contributions from a stellar panel of global thought leaders and the finest business minds, including Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman & MD, Mahindra Group; Tarun Khanna, Professor of Strategy, Harvard Business School; Tony Fernandes, Group CEO, Air Asia; and Mohammad Yunus, Nobel laureate and Founder, Grameen Bank, among others.

Speaking on the occasion of the launch of Forbes’ Anniversary issue, Ajay Chacko, CEO, Forbes India, said, “It has been a momentous year for Forbes India. As India’s first ever local edition of a foreign news magazine, the expectations from Forbes India were immense and we’re glad that the team has delivered. Despite launching amidst an economic slowdown, Forbes India is today India’s most influential business chronicler and a sharp editorial product that combines the global prowess and legacy of brand Forbes with a unique local sensitivity. Forbes India’s rise is a testimony to the growing demand for a truly glocal product that appeals to the large swathe of discerning and aware Indian readers.”

Indrajit Gupta, Editor, Forbes India, added here, “We believe that the first anniversary special issue epitomises what Forbes India has stood for in the last year: thought leadership and influence. The 25 top thinkers around the world have contributed an essay on one Big Idea to Change the World. Never before has such a galaxy of fine minds graced the pages of an Indian magazine. We will continue to adopt the intellectual high ground with meaningful, impactful content that reinforce our position as a drama critic of Indian business.”

What media planners say

Meanwhile, exchange4media asked some leading media planners to give their views on the magazine’s journey in India so far and what has worked or not worked for Forbes in India.

Sharing his views on Forbes India, Sandeep Lakhina, COO-South Asia, Starcom Worldwide, said, “Forbes launched in India with great expectations as it was one of the first truly ‘international’ magazines to take off. To some extent they have met the expectations in terms of their content, the issues they are covering, their design and style. I believe that this is a magazine geared more for the senior management, the so called C-Suite if you will. Personally, I am a big fan of the magazine, having lived on a staple diet of the magazine for many years when I was in the US, and having read every issue since its launch in India.”

Lakhina continued, “The business magazine space, and even the overall business journalism space, has seen a lot of action in the past few years with many new channels, dailies, editions, magazine titles joining the slugfest. People’s interest in this segment is obviously growing, and as we become an even more business-oriented economy, and as people become more educated (not just literate), this interest is going to continue. While it is a niche segment, I think there exists an opportunity for Forbes to create a niche within this niche and up the ante on its engagement with the decision makers and CXOs. For many of us in India, the one strong linkage to Forbes has been the ‘Forbes richest in the world’.”

On the expectations from Forbes, he said, “The Indian business news consumer is evolved, especially the one whom Forbes would target. He or she is online for extended periods, and getting his/her dose through that medium. TV is used for getting quick updates, quick analysis and ‘news’. Forbes can strengthen its coverage of international business issues, deeper analysis of business issues in India, identify and explore trends that matter, in-depth interviews with the business leaders, run specials like the Forbes Richest, Best B-Schools, what the rich and famous are doing, etc. When I read the magazine, I want to be ‘edutained’ and engaged in a non-frivolous manner.”

On the competition, Lakhina said, “The space is growing and, of course, many other players are going to come in. However, Forbes has the advantage of being one of the early international players and should use this headstart to build on its heritage and develop a loyal subscriber and reader base. I think, leveraging the online medium to engage its readers in conjunction with the magazine would be a good first for them.”

Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media India & South Asia, noted, “Forbes is a magazine of international repute and has interestingly adapted to Indian business environment. It is a name to reckon with. As long as it maintains the balance between micro, macro and other business related issues and fills in the existing gap in the business environment, it will continue to have its own niche. It is believed that many more such business magazines to be launched.”

She added, “When Forbes came to India, there were already many established business magazines in the market, yet it has found its own space. Each product, as long as it is differentiated in some form or the other, manages to create a place for itself in an increasingly cluttered business as well as media market in India.”

NP Sathyamurthy, President & COO, Lintas Media Group, observed, “Forbes India seems to be on track as far as editorial content is concerned, and they have a decent print order exceeding 60,000+ copies currently. With a cover price of Rs 100, this is a good number to begin with. In my opinion, there is no clear USP for the brand here in India, despite a rich editorial content. This is a challenge for Forbes to craft and articulate their USP to a larger set of prospective readers.”

He further said, “The content needs to have sections that are appealing to a larger set of readers to make this magazine an attractive advertising option. Given the pedigree, rich content, Forbes will do well, provided it makes some amendments in the content and better marketing initiatives.”

“Personally, I don’t know how have they performed in India, but what is interesting about Forbes India is the way they have positioned themselves,” said T Gangadhar, Managing Director, MEC India, adding, “Business magazines as a nature target a niche space, and Forbes India slices that niche further and focuses on the SEC A+. It is very early to comment on how the magazine will perform over the coming year. The success of a niche magazine such as Forbes India cannot be based on circulation numbers, but has to be measured by the quality of the readers.”

Meanwhile Forbes India has also announced a special anniversary subscription offer, where a subscriber could win a Mercedes-Benz and all subscribers get assured premium gifts, including golf putt sets and a limited edition wine and cheese sets.

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