Four days back, Dainik Bhaskar, the Bhopal-based, 19-edition newspaper chain, relaunched its Bilaspur edition in Chhatisgarh. It replaced the old printing machinery, improved the production quality of the paper and added a four-page colour supplement on the city. But not before its survey team visited a claimed 20,000 households in Bilaspur city and converted over 9,000 of them to subscribe to the 'new' paper. They were pulled in by a seven-month price-saving subscription offer. "On the first day, that is June 3, we sold 16,800 copies," claims Girish Agarwal, director, advertising.
Just to put that in perspective, Bilaspur has been anything but an interest market for Dainik Bhaskar. Till date, it sold a bare 7,500 copies of the edition in the city, compared to market leader Nava Bharat's sales of 16,993 copies. With the city and surrounding areas combined, the Bilaspur editions of the two newspapers sell 27,512 copies and 63,000 copies respectively (ABC, July-Dec 2000). "On day three (June 5), we sold 17,000 plus copies in Bilaspur city," claims Agarwal. What it means is, if Agarwal is correct and can keep steady, his brand may be posing a serious challenge to Nava Bharat in Chhatisgarh for the first time.
View this in the context of the earlier relaunch of Dainik Bhaskar's Raipur edition almost a month after the announcement Chhatisgarh as a new state. The entire process - new machinery, colour pullout, better production quality - was initiated at Raipur, the new state's capital, beginning December 2, 2000. "Except that we did not launch a price-saving scheme then," says Agarwal. Henry D'Souza, group general manager, Nava Bharat, confirms that Bhaskar did indeed launch a scheme in Raipur too.
The reason Agarwal cites for the absence of a scheme in Raipur stems from the sales of the edition. Both newspapers fight almost neck and neck in the city. According to ABC (July-Dec 2000), Dainik Bhaskar sells 22,351 copies and Nava Bharat 22,935 copies. Of course, the Raipur region as a whole is dominantly Nava Bharat's territory. It sells 1 lakh plus copies of the Raipur edition, compared to Bhaskar's sales of 76,666 copies. "In Raipur, Nava Bharat has a stranglehold," says D'Souza.
It is this stranglehold that Bhaskar is out to weaken, beginning with the main cities of Raipur and Bilaspur. "Like with Bilaspur, the response to the Raipur launch has also been good," says Agarwal. "The figures have not been certified but according to unofficial reports, sales are at 26,000 copies." If Agarwal's estimates are right, besides the 20-odd per cent of new readers who have come on to Bhaskar's Bilaspur edition, a substantial chunk contributing to the claimed 126 per cent growth are Nava Bharat readers.
D'Souza is completely unfazed by Bhaskar's claims and its new-found aggression in Chhatisgarh. "We have consistently been doing ground-level activities in Raipur, like we just completed a film-festival," he says. "Bhaskar has begun some Uphaar Yojana schemes but it hasn't dampened any of our growth," he asserts. "In fact, it's quite strange that Bhaskar seems to realise the importance of a place which it would routinely de-sell in favour of an Indore-Bhopal-centric Madhya Pradesh," muses D'Souza.
Sure, he's right on that one. And Agarwal makes no bones about it. "It is a totally new focus on Chhatisgarh," he admits. The realisation struck during the survey in Bilaspur. "When we asked about the paper, we realised that the brand had a very strong equity, but people asked us, 'How come you don't look at us in Bilaspur?'" recalls Agarwal. "They perceived the brand to be lacking substance and focus on the city."
"Our focus was drawn ever since Chhatisgarh was announced as a separate state in November last year," he admits. He elaborates on how a state status elevates a region in a marketer's viewpoint: "One, if I have a client, he would never have an office in Raipur earlier. He would just look at it from an MP division perspective. Two, with government machinery in, spending power would rise and the state economy would come into the picture." Agarwal is clear that even within Chhatisgarh, his focus remains on the cities of Bilaspur and Raipur currently, and not the surrounding suburbs. There are other important divisions of Chhatisgarh like Durg, Rajnandgaon and Korba but they are being catered to by the same editions.
© 2001 agencyfaqs!First Published : June 07, 2001