NEW DELHI, December 13
Make people read. It is a marketing strategy that has helped Dainik Bhaskar become the largest-selling newspaper in Chandigarh - all in a matter of six months.
When the paper entered the Punjab market it was determined to become the largest read paper. That meant not only beating its rivals, but also making the city prefer Hindi to English. In the National Readership Survey of 1999, Chandigarh was the only town among the top 54 towns of India, where the English press dominated the language press. The Tribune and the Indian Express vied for the top spot in the city.
Yet many people never read a newspaper. This was where the market lay. "We estimated that there was a market of about 7 lakh households which did not subscribe to a newspaper. And this was the market that we aimed at," says Girish Agarwal, director, advertising, Dainik Bhaskar Group of Publications.
The team did this not by looking at the market that existed, but by looking at the market that remained untapped. According to the NRS 1997 survey, only 54.1 per cent of Chandigarh subscribed to a daily, with 35.3 per cent subscribing to an English daily, and 26.5 to any Hindi daily. And both these categories overlapped, with some households subscribing to both Hindi and English dailies, bringing the total readership to 54.1 per cent. The rest, and this included people who earned more than Rs10,000 per month, did not subscribe to any daily.
After the Dainik Bhaskar blitz, according to the CRS survey of 2000, the total leadership has gone up to 61.4 per cent, with the share of English dailies at 31.6 per cent. At the same time, Hindi dailies had gone up to 42.3 per cent. And this was even after both The Hindustan Times, and The Times of India, had set up shop in Chandigarh earlier in the year.
Thus, instead of fighting against the Times of India and The Hindustan Times, Dainik Bhaskar tapped into the market of people who did not read any paper. First, marketing teams fanned out across the city, and for more than six months, starting in late 1999, knocked at doors all around Chandigarh. Altogether, they knocked at more than 2 lakh households and collected information of what people wanted.
"What we were looking at was what people looked for in a newspaper. We did not want to do what The Times of India did - decide what the readers preferences were and then publish. We went out to find what the readers wanted," says Agarwal. And reflecting reader tastes, the paper decided to focus on local news.
"A newspaper was like a buffet. There was something that everyone wanted, and then there was something that was unique. A judicious mixture of the two was the key to success," says one Delhi-based journalist of the paper.
Another innovation that the Dainik Bhaskar team did was to incorporate, what one member of the Delhi editorial team calls "people's language" into the paper. Thus, instead of using the standard Hindi that most papers in North India used, Dainik Bhaskar decided to incorporate commonly used English terms in the paper.
At the same time, the marketing team went in for such traditional market expansion measures like cost cutting. The paper was priced at Rs 1when other regional language competitors, like the Punjab Kesari, was priced at Rs 2. And supplements were introduced, one every day of the week, catering to the entire range - women, computers enthusiasts, kids. Advertising shot up, with revenue from advertising
at 84 per cent today. Circulation shot up too. Dainik Bhaskar had a circulation of 166,000 while Amar Ujala had 46,000 and Punjab Kesari 37,000.
At the same time, media analysts say that this shows a broader trend. "What we are seeing is the assertion of the rural folk, to whom barring states like Kerala and Bengal, the outside world was not so important. The success of Dainik Bhaskar reflects the resurgence of the non-English speaking classes in Chandigarh, and the changing face of the city," says Avinash Kumar, a research scholar in Sociology, at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The marketing teams at Dainik Bhaskar have taken this into consideration. And they plan to expand. "There is always a market for a good quality Hindi publication. And that is where we come in," says an optimistic Agarwal. It's a market that is waiting.
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