May is going to be one hot month down South. Apart from obvious natural reasons, The Times Of India is set to launch its all-colour Chennai edition by end-May, 2005.
According to sources, Vikas Singh, senior assistant editor with TOI, Delhi, will take over as the resident editor of the Chennai edition.
The development was confirmed to agencyfaqs! by M Venkatraman, director corporate, The Times Of India (TOI) Group. He said, "We have already ordered for the printing machines and hope to get it within a few months. So, the launch will only happen till the end of May 2005."
Even as the TOI group readies for the Chennai launch, there's some amount of nervousness within TOI about Hindustan Times' proposed Mumbai launch.
"Can TOI fight battles at two fronts? What if our Chennai launch coincides with HT's launch in Mumbai?" asks a TOI insider. It's hard to hazard a guess, but HT may not be able to launch its Mumbai edition before June 2005. That should give TOI some breathing space.
Venkatraman added that the company will start hiring the team from March 2005 onwards. While some of the existing TOI executives/journalists will move to the Chennai edition, the company is also looking forward to hiring fresh talent.
When asked whether the launch will start a price war in Chennai (as has been the case with TOI across cities), Venkatraman said, "I will not like to call it a price war. At the same time, with The Hindu already having a stronghold in the Chennai market and another major player, Deccan Chronicle, planning a Chennai edition, TOI will certainly be priced very strategically."
"But the final decision will only be taken prior to the launch, depending on how Deccan Chronicle prices itself," he adds. Incidentally, both The Hindu and Deccan Chronicle have been under constant pressure in Hyderabad from TOI, which launched its edition (and consequently, the price war) about five years back.
Venkatraman clarified that the Bennett, Coleman & Co. management, publishers of the The Times of India, had been planning for the Chennai edition for quite some time. "However, it was only two months ago, when the final decision about the launch was taken."
BCCL, apparently, had earlier set a November timeline for the launch, with a plan to outsource all printing. But that strategy ran into rough weather when it was realised that the printer did not have the requisite facilities of handling all-colour editions. The printing capacity, it seems, was a problem too. For a print-run of one lakh copies, the editorial would have been forced to stick to a ridiculous deadline of 9.30 pm. Little wonder, the plan was called off.
Although Venkatraman did not reveal the initial print run, sources say the Chennai edition will start with a circulation of one lakh. "The group will continue with its aggressive marketing strategy even in in Chennai," Venkatraman concluded as a warning to prospective competitors.
© 2004 agencyfaqs!First Published : November 25, 2004