afaqs!

Jabalpur gets ready for a print war

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | January 25, 2010
After the launch of Patrika's Jabalpur edition in December 2009, the market has seen a lot of action from all the players

Patrika, the Hindi daily of the Rajasthan Patrika group in Madhya Pradesh, launched its third edition in the state in Jabalpur on December 26, 2009.

The newspaper was launched with a cover price Rs 2 and Rs 1.50 on different days of the week. That is, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, the newspaper is sold for Rs 2; on the remaining days, it is sold for Rs 1.50. The Hindi daily also launched a subscription drive of Rs 53 a month.

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Soon after, the leading newspaper in Jabalpur, Dainik Bhaskar (DB), which had a cover price of Rs 3 for three days of the week and Rs 2 for the other four days, went in for a price reduction. The daily brought down its cover price to Rs 2 for six days; while the cover price of its Sunday edition remained unchanged at Rs 3. With this, Dainik Bhaskar's monthly subscription charges came down to Rs 60, close to what Patrika was offering.

However, when asked, executives at Bhaskar Group denied that the reduction in cover price was a reactionary step, though they agreed that the competition in the market was heating up. An executive added that the reduction in cover price was a result of the group purchasing newsprint at a much lower price.

This is not the first time that DB has reduced its cover price in Jabalpur. Earlier, the daily came at a cover price of Rs 2.50 for four days and Rs 3 for the remaining three days of the week. In June 2008 -- six months prior to Patrika's entry in the city -- DB's cover price was reduced to Rs 2 for four days a week; while for the other three days, the price remained unchanged at Rs 3. After Patrika's entry, the prices were reduced further.

This is not all. Dainik Bhaskar also introduced a glossy tabloid, DB Star, for the Jabalpur market, a few days before Patrika's entry. The tabloid is distributed free of cost with the newspaper.

In fact, Patrika also has a supplement, titled Nano, along with the Jabalpur edition.

Another Hindi daily, Nai Dunia has also launched a special subscription drive in Jabalpur, which features free gift vouchers and heavily discounted subscription plans.

The other Hindi dailies in the market are People's Samachar, Haribhoomi and Raj Express. The cover price of these newspapers ranges between Re 1-1.50.

Industry experts are of the opinion that a price war is a usual phenomenon, when there is fear of facing stiff competition in the market.

"Patrika launched the Jabalpur edition with about 90,000 copies. It has also been doing well in other cities of MP. However, I am not seeing any circulation drop in DB. There is a huge potential to be tapped in that market. Therefore, I think the players, rather than focussing on eating into the circulation of each other, should pay attention to increasing the readership base of the district," says R Venkatasubramanian, vice-president, Lintas Media Group.

Ajit Singh, regional marketing manager, Jabalpur, Dainik Bhaskar, retaliates, "Jabalpur is still a monopolistic market and we are way ahead of our competition in terms of circulation."

According to Singh, the ad rates have not declined, which would have implied a reaction to competition. However, media buyers do not voice a similar opinion on the declining ad rates.

On the other hand, officials at Rajasthan Patrika claim that since its launch, the daily has prompted other players in the market to resort to various tactics in order to retain their shares, including increased discounts to the vendors, free gifts and several schemes.

According to the 2001 census, Jabalpur has a population of more than one million, with a fair share of Hindi readers. On a global scale, Jabalpur was the 325th largest city or urban area in the world in 2006 and is estimated to become the 294th largest city in the world by 2020. It is also the first Indian district to receive a comprehensive ISO-9001 certificate in 2007.

Rajasthan Patrika entered Madhya Pradesh in May 2008 with its Bhopal edition and soon launched another edition in Indore. The newspaper dropped 'Rajasthan' from its name when it entered MP last year, and is now known as Patrika.