Profile: R Rajmohan: Building brands on belief

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | March 26, 2010
Rajmohan states that the one guiding principle that has served him well over the years is to have faith in the brand one is selling and avoid succumbing to discount selling

Open magazine's (the RPG-owned weekly news magazine) new publisher, R Rajmohan, is busy putting together plans to take the "premium niche" product to a new level.

Rajmohan's last stint was "semi-entrepreneurial" when, prior to joining the RPG Group, he was president and publisher with Images Consumer Media Group. It offered him hands-on experience in handling human resources, closer involvement with finances and the day-to-day nitty-gritty of running an organisation. He considers the experience valuable.

With more than 20 years of experience in the print industry, Rajmohan states that the one guiding principle that has served him well over the years is to have faith in the brand one is selling and avoid succumbing to discount selling.

His association with the media industry began way back in 1987, when he landed at The Times of India (TOI) office in Delhi, as a last-minute replacement for a friend, who had an interview for the job of a management trainee at the newspaper.

As part of the advertising team -- at a time when TOI was a distant No. 2 and the market leader was Hindustan Times (HT) -- selling was a tough task. "TOI was considered a good product, but it did not have the required numbers to get marketers' support. It was a challenging and interesting experience."

During the initial years, S D Pillai, the then general manager, Response, TOI was a great source of encouragement, as Pillai reposed great faith in the abilities of the younger lot.

Three years later, Rajmohan joined Living Media as assistant manager, ad sales for India Today. He was also entrusted with the responsibility of handling the magazine's language titles.

The launch of new magazines, including IT Plus (now Travel Plus) and Cosmopolitan was the high point of his eight-year stint at the group. Also, Mohini Bhullar, the then executive director, marketing, India Today was an "aggressive boss", from whom he learnt to have full faith in one's brand.

In 1997, Rajmohan joined HT as manager advertising, handling both the English and Hindi dailies. Interestingly, now it was TOI that had an edge over HT, in terms of imagery and market position, riding high on its packaging and appeal to the youth. Ashish Bagga was the marketing head at HT. Rajmohan enjoyed his involvement with the reader and marketing promotions, in addition to his prime responsibility of selling space.

After two years with HT, Rajmohan moved to the Outlook Group as general manager advertising (in charge of North and East); within a year, he rose to become vice-president. The magazine was three years old in 1999 and Rajmohan and his team were up against the already-established India Today. During his eight years there, the launch of Outlook Traveller was a big event, as the title proved to be the first serious consumer magazine in the travel segment.

Rajmohan says, "Outlook came as a challenger to India Today and it changed India Today's outlook towards the market and the planner. This change benefited both advertisers and planners. Also, despite cut-throat competition between the two brands over content and market share, they (Outlook) still rose above these things to revise the cover price of the magazine from Rs 10 to Rs 25."

It was during his stint at Outlook that he met Sandipan Deb, the then managing editor (now the editor of Open). Rajmohan points out that his admiration for Deb as an individual and writer dates back further, as he was a regular reader of A&M magazine, where Deb was executive editor. He feels that close association between an editor and a publisher is always a good sign for a title.

According to him, the key to survive in any business and to sustain success is to constantly adapt to the ever-changing media landscape, especially because the selling and media business has undergone a huge change over the last two decades.

(Profile is a regular column which peeps into the career path of senior advertising, media and marketing professionals, who are currently in news.)

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