The Pune-headquartered Sakal Group of Newspapers, which publishes Sakal, Gomantak, The Maharashtra Herald and Gomantak Times, believes that catering to "focused needs” is where the future really lies for the publisher.
The rural farming community in Maharashtra is one such focused group that the newspaper house would like to target.
In the next six months, the company will launch a 16-page, tabloid-sized newspaper for this group, informs Abhijit Pawar, joint managing director, Sakal.
The paper, which has the working title of Agrovon, will obviously attempt to fill the information gap experienced by the rural farmer in Maharashtra. "Most newspapers have a page or a supplement devoted to agricultural issues. But our focus is to launch a daily devoted to the farmer and his family,” says Pawar.
Interestingly, Sakal too has a four-page agri-supplement called Pragati that runs every Wednesday. But the need for launching a full-fledged paper for the agricultural community has its genesis in the importance of the sector in the state.
Agriculture is still one of the primary economic sectors in Maharashtra. It employs a large number of people, especially in the countryside, and according to the Census 2001, the total number of main and marginal workers in agriculture in the state is 4.21 crores.
Sakal will primarily target the landowning farmer or the "Sadan Shetkari” (as he is described in Marathi) with Agrovan. This farmer is literate, well-off, and is keen on improving his lot by employing new agricultural practices and so on. Hence, his information needs are also equally high, and the group along with Pune-based market research agency Metric Consultancy conducted "exhaustive research” over a year to understand the needs of this segment.
One interesting observation during the research, says Pawar, was the high-level awareness of the wives of these farmers, who more often than not stay home to perform their duties as homemakers. "We were amazed with their involvement and understanding of issues,” says Pawar, who convinced the company to fan out and target not only the farmer, but also his family through the paper.
Agrovan will be priced at Rs 2 and plans are to go in for a launch in phases. "We are still debating how we should take it forward,” says Pawar. "But chances are we may first target certain regions and then look to cover the state slowly but steadily.”
Pawar does not rule out the possibility of an increase in pages over time or the likelihood of the migration of the paper to other states. "We were approached by interested parties from neighbouring states during the recently concluded Kisan 2004 (the largest agricultural show in India held in Pune between December 15-19, this year) to replicate the model in those states,” adds Pawar.
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