A year after introducing advertisers to the hitherto ignored market of Haryana, Dainik Bhaskar is consolidating its strength by launching another district edition - Faridabad. Priced at Rs 2, the Faridabad edition is expected on June 17. This will be the Bhopal-based group's 19th newspaper edition and the third Haryana edition. It had entered Haryana last June with the launch of the Panipat and Hisar editions. A year later, Dainik Bhaskar sells a whopping 188,000 copies in Haryana (ABC certified) and is a clear leader. Rival Punjab Kesri sells around 160,000 copies in the region. A gung-ho Girish Agarwal (director, advertising) is aiming for a similar presence in Faridabad - from day one!
Agarwal expects to start with sales of 55,000 copies from the first day of launch. It is a tall claim from Bhaskar considering the size of the Faridabad newspaper market. Over 1 lakh copies find their way into Faridabad households, says Agarwal, of which Hindi editions comprise 60,000-65,000. Faridabad city subscribes to 65,000 copies, of which nearly 35,000 are Hindi. The prominent brands among these are Hindustan Times and Hindustan, The Times of India, Punjab Kesri and Dainik Jagran.
"But there is no Faridabad newspaper," points out Agarwal. That is where he hopes to excel. "Faridabad is the largest town of Haryana, the only one with a population of 10 lakh plus. It is the largest industrial hub of Haryana. In the last four to five years a big chunk of consumers has emerged which belongs to Delhi. It is different from Gurgaon in that people move in and out of Gurgaon and associate themselves largely with Delhi. But those in Faridabad are localites and share a belonging to the place. Sadly no one reports on their area." The Faridabad edition will cater not just to the city but also surrounding towns of Ballabhgarh, Hodal and Palval.
In a way, it is much the same opportunity that Bhaskar spotted in Haryana as a whole early last year. Fresh from its victory in Rajasthan (where it trounced leader Rajasthan Patrika with daily sales of 633,600 copies, according to ABC), MP's dominant brand was researching Chandigarh last year when its team stumbled upon Haryana. "It was a huge state that all of us were underestimating," recalls Agarwal. Gradually, the Haryana project became bigger than Chandigarh. Agarwal began selling the spiel to advertisers. "Everyone thought Haryana is a state you pass on the highway," he says. He backed it with statistics: Haryana is the fifth largest in per capita income, third in terms of average number of consumer durables per household and ninth in terms of FMCG consumption. But all it received in terms of media interest was a spillover from Delhi and Punjab papers.
So, a month after launching the Chandigarh edition on May 7, Bhaskar launched the Panipat and Hisar editions. Today, the two editions have 14 sub-editions between the two. These comprise of 10 common pages and a four-page local pullout. While the Chandigarh edition sells a claimed 115,000 copies across Chandigarh, Panchkula, Mohali and Himachal, the Haryana editions have blossomed magnificently. The Panipat edition has touched sales of 130,000 copies (including trade discount copies, according to the ABC, July-Dec 2000) while Hisar edition sells 58,000 copies.
Bhaskar's strategy of extensive customer contacts is one of the key reasons why it has been gaining ground, even in areas where the likes of The Times have failed. It tried successfully in Rajasthan. Times began issuing free copies of Navbharat Times along with TOI soon after Bhaskar captured Chandigarh last year. Hindustan Times followed up with Hindustan, according to a report in The Week.
Agarwal's team followed the 'survey' approach in Haryana last year and is doing the same in Faridabad. A team of 600 people from Bhaskar reached out to 6 lakh households in Haryana last year, according to a company release. This happened in two phases, explains Agarwal. In the first, the trained team is made to understand the needs of the people and come up with customer expectations. That, he says, is what differentiates one edition from another. "Panipat to Faridabad is barely two hours; so I could have circulated my Panipat edition, but we are designing a paper specifically for that area. There is a different culture to that place. Not even a single copy of any of my Haryana editions goes to Gurgaon, for that matter," he explains.
After the initial feel is in and worked upon, the team returns to the same households to show what it is coming out with and to book orders through guarantee bonds. The booking may involve some rebates on long-term subscriptions, though Agarwal denies it. Speaking to agencyfaqs!, he confirmed that he had booked 24,000 customer orders till May 21. "There are still over 20 days to go," he mused.
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