It's our duty to kickstart the demand cycle: Partha Sinha

With premium inventory filling up fast, the BCCL President is already excited about the upcoming festive season

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Sep 14, 2021 8:36 AM
partha sinha

With Covid pandemic finally appearing to be under control, marketers and brands have pinned high hopes on the upcoming festive season. If industry experts are to be believed, consumer sentiment is at an all-time high, giving publishers and broadcasters reasons to celebrate.

Partha Sinha, President, BCCL, believes it’s the duty of their media house to give the demand cycle a push. “This festival season, people want to buy and we want to actually encourage that. As a responsible media house, it's our duty to kickstart the demand cycle,” Sinha tells e4m.

With a lot being lost during the pandemic year, Sinha believes that an increase in the demand cycle will bring the much- needed change.

“If there's consumer demand, people will figure out how to manufacture for it, then manufacturing units will work, then there will be jobs and there will be no job cuts. Eventually, this is a domestic consumer-driven economy, so if the consumption cycle isn't stopped, nothing will happen. And I think we can play a significant role in kickstarting the demand side,” Sinha explains.

It’s time to celebrate

Sinha, who took charge as the President of BCCL on the second day of the lockdown, is excited about the upcoming festive season. He claims that his premium inventory is already filling up fast and he is hoping the revenues coming from September 2021 will surpass September 2019.

“We don’t compare anything to 2020, our August 2021 was very comparable to August 2019. And if things go well, as they are going, we will surpass September 2019 in September 2021. And that too, we'll do with a slightly leaner team,” says Sinha.

The advertising veteran believes that this is the time for brands to help the consumers by holding their hand and assuring them, “Yeah, we have come out of this (pandemic).”

He asserts that this is the time for the brands to build confidence in consumers. “The role of the brand is to hold the consumers’ hand and make sure that they cross the road. Because you need a little bit of confidence. We have gone through a difficult time. It was so low. It was historically low, but now we are out of it,” he adds.

New BCCL sales structure

Sinha calls Covid a better consultant than McKinsey or any other consultancy. The pandemic, he believes, clearly underlined all the inefficiency that every organization had. It also pushed us into finding new ways in which one can change the business structure and make it more efficient and cost-effective.

So, what changes did Sinha bring into the system?

“Different brands engage with us differently. Some brands engage with us in a long-term sense, and they have some significant investment with the objective of building something at the end of the investment. It could be sales, it could be a new channel, it could be a change in opinion, it could be legitimacy, or it could be a perception change. These are things that print does very well. Why? Because print is the only credible environment.”

We figured out that we can bring this value. So why not create a structure in which we discuss the value right upfront and help the client navigate through how they want to use not only print but our group as well, because our group has the same reputation as its tone is print.

So the group has created two clusters-- one is called ‘partnership cluster’ and another is called ‘development cluster’.

In the development cluster, there are people who are slowly building their advertisement, and then coming into Bombay Times, and then from there, they're moving into the Times of India. So they are they're on a journey. These are new clients who want to run just one promo, so they are development clients.

Partnership clients are already slightly mature and savvy and they've already figured out what they want to achieve by the end of the year.

These two clusters run separately. Typically, partnership plan clusters are primarily in three locations-- Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore. They have a very clear objective of what they want to achieve at the end of the day.

Now, you need two different sets of mindsets. And in business development, you get two kinds of people. One is, slightly consultative people who help clients by saying, “Okay, you want to do this in these three months, you want to do this in the next three months… it’s fine.” And others are those who say, “You want to run a promo, let me try and organize the promo for you.” One is a little consultative, like partnering with the client to reach the target. Other is like partnering with somebody who's on the journey to make sure that they develop the business.”

Sinha further explains the need for this change. “The previous structure used to be a matrix structure. So it used to be branch and industry-specific. The matrix was a good structure. But in the new structure, everybody has a very clear responsibility of what they're supposed to deliver. The partnership teams report to one set of people and the development teams report to another set of people,” he elaborates.

Sinha says the best vindication of the change in structure is when you start seeing results. “These changes were made towards the end of last year, i.e. December, January. The moment the market picked back up after the second wave, all our strategies started paying back. Although, no strategy can be 100% right, majority of it is coming through. And of course, as we are going along, we are fine-tuning some of the strategies,” he adds.

Print stands for effectiveness

Sinha believes that while digital can give brands reach, print continues to be the most effective medium.

“People talk about the whole digital ecosystem and how it has become very responsible. It's actually a misnomer. What they have done is that they have created measurability matrix, which talk about efficiency, that how many people have been reached and how many times, but none of them talk about effectiveness.”

Sinha further explains that effectiveness is when it does something to people versus just merely reaching people. So far, media was always run on efficiency parameters like reach frequency. But that measure would only come at the end of the advertising, in terms of whether it has moved sales or valuation needle into anything. Now, we have a very simple example to give: anybody who has built great valuation of late, you can ask them what percentage of their budget was spent on Times of India and Economic Times.

Spend when the market is open

We're telling brands that since the market is open, they should utilize it and not wait till the festivals. What if the third wave comes on the day of the festival? Therefore, I think smarter brands are becoming flexible about it. And we are telling the other brands to utilize the time when consumer sentiment is key. As of now, touchwood, we don't have anybody personally affected by Covid. The number of cases is under 500 in Mumbai, though I know most people are without symptoms. Also vaccinations are happening. So, we are telling brands to ‘dry your clothes, when there is sunshine,’

New launches

There will be launches across platforms. We are looking at some products that will stay in maybe print & digital format, and print & audio format, like podcasts. There are interesting propositions which are being worked on. Our group will take a lot of time before we launch them because we want the products to be of a certain quality.

For instance, the soft launch of Times Property, for which we also have a website called timesproperty.com, has already been done. And we are now ramping up the production. In another couple of months, we will have a robust product which is both print as well as digital. There will be an additional team that will be running the digital side because the digital side will have to be a lot more interactive, where you need to give information to the people who come on to the website.

We want to bring them on to the internet in a manner which will serve a purpose for both. Basically, it's created from the perspective of a buyer, where the insight is basic. Whenever somebody wants to buy an apartment, he or she thinks that the whole world is against them, right? …builders, contractors, etc. So we want to show that there is one person who will be on your side, and we will give you the whole gamut so you can make your choice.

Increase in newsprint prices

Yes of course it will affect profitability because there are two issues associated with newsprint; one is price and one is availability. As of now, we are watching the space carefully and we will figure out as we go along. But increased newsprint price is something that we have faced before also.

So, you need to know what kind of inventory management we do because the price is cyclical. Times has a more sophisticated system of managing inventory. And remember, it has gone through large cycles. So, luckily, we have a good system. But even with the system in place, we are watching the space very carefully because it could be a long-term problem, and prices will not come down in a hurry. Therefore, our cost structure will have to be different; we have to bring in efficiency in other manners to make sure that we compensate for some of the rise.

Layoffs/paycuts

Every single salary cut has been restored. And at the end of last year, we gave 100% variable pay to everybody. This was an indication of the fact that we are out of the lapse.

Layoffs will depend on how the organizational structures change. As of now, nothing has been planned. We are actively recruiting. In certain areas, related to growth, we're recruiting aggressively. But again, we are working on a strategic thing.

 

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