Since its launch a decade ago, Sakshi is today the second largest Telugu daily, both in readership and circulation numbers. KRP Reddy, Director â€“ Advertising and Marketing, Sakshi Group, talks about the performance of the flagship paper, betting big on local retail advertisers and the challenge of upping revenues from advertisers. Below are the edited excerpts of the interview:
How would you evaluate the performance of Sakshi?
Sakshi launched in March 2008 and we recently completed our 10th anniversary in March. It has been a steady progress since Day 1. We peaked in 2014, in terms of readership and circulation. Then there were elections and the division of the State of Andhra Pradesh into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana happened and there was some correction in circulation. After 2014, we stressed on circulation, we built on it and now we are maintaining our circulation at a steady level of over 11 lakh copies (as per ABC). We hope to do better as we go towards 2019 and are gearing up for the elections slated in both the States.
As per the last IRS data, your readership was at 98 lakhsâ€¦
In the last IRS there was a mix up in the readership of our variant. The IRS data surprised us as it showed more readership where our variant was not present and where the variant was present they were showing lesser readership. It was a mismatch and did not match with the ground reality so we took it up with the technical committee and explained where it went wrong and they accepted it. We now have a readership of 1 crore and 15 lakhs. IRS corrected this and sent a circular that this can be added to the readership.
What are your expectations from the upcoming IRS and ABC?
ABC probably there will not be much difference, we will be steady there plus or minus 1-2% but in terms of readership we expect to do much better. We are putting in an effort in penetrating the semi-urban areas and Tier II cities while concentrating on the urban cities of Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and the new upcoming capital of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati. We are also focusing on our tabloids. The focus is also in penetrating areas where even if only five copies are taken, we will supply it there.
What has been the growth in revenues and also the growth in advertisers?
Last year, Print revenues grew by an aggregate of 5-7%. Most of it happened on the back of local advertisers. Our tabloids cover 270 constituencies and we are strong in local advertising and we get small advertisements like birthdays, obituaries, wedding anniversaries and even retirements. This is a trend in Andhra Pradesh and Telegana and we get a about 14-15% of revenues through this.
What is the ratio between the National advertisers and local retail?
The ratio of national to local is almost 50:50. In local retail, textile, education retail, supermarkets, jewellery, real estate are all big, particularly in Hyderabad.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face?
70% of the cost of manufacturing is newsprint. The cost of newsprint was around Rs 11-12 and now it has shot up to Rs 16-17 per copy. 80% of newsprint that Sakshi uses is imported. It is a big challenge and we are taking some internal measures. Cover price revision is one of the ideas but fortunately or unfortunately, we are governed by an association of newspapers - The Telangana State Newspapers Association and Andhra Pradesh Newspapers Association - and we are discussing with the associations to increase the price.
By when and by how much would you look to increase the cover price?
We have proposed the price-point internally and have not come to a conclusion. However, probably by the end of September we will decide and increase the price. It is still in discussion and we donâ€™t want to do it individually. If it was only Sakshi, we could have taken a decision but since all the brands are collectively in discussion to increase the price, we are waiting for everybody to come to one platform so it will not be an advantage to any one brand.
What are the other challenges?
The stagnant budgets of the clients, they are not growing at the pace of the cost that we are incurring. That is also a challenge to get the revenue from the advertisers.
What are you doing on the Digital front?
We are quite strong on the Digital front with sakshi.com and SakshiBusiness.com is there. We will be launching sakshipost.com and sakshisamachar.com, our English and Hindi sites soon, both are presently in the beta phase.
What will be the growth drivers?
The flagship is Print but we are also looking at Digital and are gearing up to some tie-ups. Though the growth rate appears to be 100-300%, the value of the
revenues is not very high when compared to print.
What are your future plans?
For the next six to nine months, we see purely organic growth of the newspaper. There is no need for us at this stage to start any more editions or variant. However, we will try to understand the needs of the reader in a much better way because of the competition from the websites.
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