Hindi dailies gear up for Himachal Pradesh

By Dhaleta Surender Kumar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing
Last updated : May 27, 2008
afaqs! finds out why publishers have suddenly shifted their focus to Himachal Pradesh


April, Dainik Bhaskar launched its Shimla edition, and Amar Ujala is planning a Shimla edition in the next couple of months.

Until now, Hindi newspapers reached Himachal Pradesh (HP) with editions from Dharamshala and Chandigarh. Punjab Kesari was the exception. It sent its Jalandhar edition to HP. While the Dharamshala editions served the lower regions of HP, such as Kangra, Una, Hamirpur, Chamba, Mandi and Kullu, the upper regions of Solan, Shimla, Kinnaur and Sirmaur were served by the Chandigarh editions.

After Divya Himachal, Dainik Bhaskar became the first major Hindi newspaper to have a Shimla edition. According to industry sources, it has a print run of around 25,000 copies. The newspaper's Chandigarh edition, which served the region earlier, had an average circulation of around 18,000 copies, as per ABC figures for July-December 2007.

Sanjeev Kotnala

Sunil Mutreja

Amit Chopra
The leader in HP is Punjab Kesari, which has a circulation of around 95,000 copies on weekdays, and more than 1.1 lakh on Sundays, as per the ABC figures for July-December 2007. It is followed by Amar Ujala, which has a combined circulation of around 80,000 copies (around 40,000 copies each for the Dharamshala and Chandigarh editions). In third place is Divya Himachal, which has a circulation of around 64,000 in HP. Dainik Jagran's Dharamshala edition has a circulation of around 16,000 in the state. Dainik Tribune (the Chandigarh edition) is not in the race at all, with a minuscule circulation of just 1,103 copies.

The state's high literacy rate notwithstanding, there were several reasons why the publications did not launch Shimla editions earlier. Sanjeev Kotnala, associate vice-president and national head, communication, Bhaskar Group, says, "The geographical difficulties in reaching the readers has been one of the major concerns. Infrastructure development in the recent past has eased the situation a bit. So, it's more viable for any publication to start an edition there now."

Sunil Mutreja, president, marketing, Amar Ujala, adds, "With a lot of retail and real estate activity happening in and around Shimla, we think it's the right time to come up with a Shimla edition. There is scope to enter many new households in the region. Also, there is potential to tap government advertisements."

Dainik Bhaskar has entered the state at a cover price of Rs 2 for four days of the week and Rs 3 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Most of the Hindi newspapers, except Dainik Tribune (cover price Rs 2 and Rs 2.50) and Punjab Kesari (cover price Rs 1.50-3), have a cover price of Rs 3.

Mutreja says Dainik Bhaskar is sure to play the cover price game to try and wean away readers. "But we have noticed a strong pull towards the brand (Amar Ujala), so there won't be much effect on our numbers. When the time comes, we'll also try and play with the cover price," he adds.

Kotnala says, "Once we have entered the market as a separate edition, we will spare no efforts to create another success. Be it connecting with advertisers and readers, circulation drives or enhanced reader interaction, we will have it all operating in the market."

Meanwhile, Hindustan, which came up with a Chandigarh edition, also has plans to enter HP in the future. But as of now, the focus is on consolidating itself in Uttar Pradesh. Amit Chopra, head, Hindi business, HT Media, says, "We have just launched the Aligarh and Mathura editions. Next is Dehradun. By July, we should be out with our Allahabad edition. Then, we will look towards HP and Punjab."

First Published : May 27, 2008

© 2008 afaqs!