"You have to take the youth seriously and parents even more," says K.C Jacob executive vice-president, Media Transasia India Ltd, the Delhi-based publication house that launched career magazine Educare earlier this month. Media Transasia has been in the publishing business for over two decades now. It has assured-subscription magazines like Swagat, Discover India, India Design and Interior and A&D under its belt. In that sense, Educare is a complete break from the other publications in its portfolio.
Explaining the rationale behind his latest venture, Jacob says, "The world is swarming with opportunities, yet the youth flounders. The reason is obvious. They do not have access to information to help them realise their ambitions. And the result is tragic; they end up compromising. Look at me, I wanted to become a pilot, but never did." But that's about half the story.
Jacob seems to think that often times parents too fail to comprehend the career choices of their children. "If you tell your parents that you want to become a Radio Jockey, they will probably throw a fit! This is because they have not been able to get over the 'my-child-has-to-become-a-doctor-or-an-engineer' fixation." Educare, Jacob feels, can help them get over their anxiety.
The first issue of Educare hit the stands this month. Educare is a monthly magazine targeting the youth (in 13-21 years age bracket), parents and teachers. It is in A-5 size and is priced at Rs 30. Talking about the content of Educare, Inderjit Badhwar, editor-in-chief, Educare, says, "Educare is a storehouse of information on offbeat as well as mainstream professions. It offers advice, solutions and counselling linked directly to the career and education avenues for students battling to find a career path. The style is light and reader-friendly."
As far as competition is concerned, Jacob says, "Educare is positioned in a very niche segment. Students of class 9, 10, 11, 12 and college going students are the targeted readers. No other magazine caters to such a niche audience. Magazines like 'Competition Success Review' is for graduates who are preparing for civil services exams etc. Newspaper supplements like Education Times and Horizon are the closest in terms of potential competition. But then, the newspaper format is not a friendly format for students. Newspapers themselves don't take their supplements seriously - they serve a clear marketing purpose."
So, the idea of Educare is novel, but can the same be said of its format? Doesn't it resemble Reader Digest down to the size and page design? Jacob is unruffled. "We have borrowed the tradition of interspersing articles with fillers, jokes and quotable quotes from Readers Digest because it is very popular with the youth." His reaction is understandable given that Jacob has had an 11-year stint at Readers Digest. "For students, the size of Educare is very appropriate for stacking it or shoving it in their pockets. And the pricing, I feel, is just right. If students can shell out Rs 9 every day on a bottle of Coca-Cola, I am sure they can spend Rs 30 a month on a magazine that will do them good," says Jacob.
But charting the path of Educare was not so easy. The idea of a 'complete career magazine' was conceived sometime in September last year. "Selling the concept to advertisers was quite a challenge," says Jacob. Now, Media Transasia has got The British Council, Dabur, Domino's, Sega Video Games, Kodak, SmithKline Beecham, Du Pont, Bausch & Lomb, Oriflame and a few more on board. The publication is also looking at roping in Parle, Britannia and Amul and consumer durables makers like Samsung.
On January 1, 2001, Media Transasia took out a sample issue to check out the response. A team of senior company executives went to schools and colleges and made presentations to students, teachers and parents as well. "The feedback was encouraging, but we had to rework on the design," adds Jacob. Once the design and the content fell in place, the rest was relatively easy. For the first issue, which hit the stands on April 1, 75,000 copies have been printed and the company expects a sale of 40,000-50,000 copies. The magazine is sold in every state through a chain of 34 distributors.
Currently, Educare has a subscription base of 11,538 and expects the number to go up gradually. Educare is taking a middle path to drive sales of the magazine with the ratio of subscription to newsstand sales being 50:50. However, industry veteran Deepak Shourie, the prime force behind the marketing success of Business Today and Outlook magazines, feels that subscription route is not a viable long-term option for a magazine like Educare. "The emphasis on subscription for a publication like Educare should be less because the readers in this segment do not stay for long - they will outgrow the magazine. They are students and with time they will graduate, go to colleges, and after a while, the magazine will stop serving their purpose." But Educare executives are going ahead and roping in subscribers probably with an eye to luring advertisers.
The company has earmarked an ad spend of Rs 4 crore during the launch phase. The campaign will focus on print and radio now, and six months down, will explore TV. Theme ads - "The teacher who misguided the fashion designer" and "The banker who grounded the fighter" - are part of the campaign slated to break on May 7. The direct marketing plans involve making presentations in schools and sending mailers. The company has set a target of 324 schools in Delhi alone.
The company is going full steam with its consolidation plans. The publication will first consolidate its business in the South since the literacy rate is higher and then it will move on to the rest of the country. However, it does not see itself making money in the coming next two years, though Jacob says, "in that period of time we hope to reach out to our readers across the country".
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