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TOI to strengthen its South India presence; to enter Kerala

Times Group has entered into a strategic tie-up with Mathrubhumi, as per which TOI will use the latter's printing facility and distribution network.

The Times of India (TOI) is planning to get aggressive in South India. After Tamil Nadu, the English daily is eyeing the Kerala market. The first edition of TOI in Kerala is expected to be launched by mid-2011.

For this, BCCL (Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd) has entered into a strategic tie-up with Mathrubhumi, the No. 2 Malayalam daily (IRS 2010 Q2). As per this tie-up, Mathrubhumi will provide its printing facilities and its distribution network to TOI. However, the memorandum of understanding between the two parties is yet to be formally announced.

The tie-up will also be extended to combo pricing for both ad sales and subscriptions. In a bid to reach the readers well on time, TOI editions will be printed from all the printing facilities of Mathrubhumi in Kerala.

Rahul Kansal, CMO, BCCL, confirms this development. Elaborating further about the launch, Chinen Das, South head, BCCL says, "TOI will have four editions in Kerala, catering to the four regions in the state -- Malabar, Kochi, Travancore and Kottayam."

According to a 2005-2006 national survey, Kerala's literacy rate of 90.92 per cent is among the highest in Indian states. Besides, with a female literacy rate of 87.86 per cent (according to the 2001 census), Kerala leads the other states in women's education.

Divya Radhakrishnan, president, TME, is of the view that "The scope of print publications is very high in Kerala and Malayalam dailies are a testimony to that. They have done very well since ages. And now, with the younger generation coming in, they would want English dailies. So, it's time that English dailies start looking at this market seriously."

She adds, "TOI will have an advantage in Kerala; because though The Hindu and New Indian Express are there, they can't match TOI, which is known for its marketing strategies."

Apart from this, BCCL is all set to launch two more editions from Tamil Nadu -- Coimbatore and Madurai. The Coimbatore edition will be launched in January 2011 with an estimated initial print run of 70,000 copies. The Madurai edition will be launched in March.

The total readership of English dailies in Kerala, as per IRS 2010 Q2, stands at 8.84 lakh. Here, The Times of India will face competition from The Hindu, which is published from two regions (Kochi and Trivandrum), and has a readership of 2.46 lakh and 2.32 lakh, respectively. The other English daily, The New Indian Express with Kochi, Kozhikode and Trivandrum editions, has a total readership of 3.67 lakh in the state.

Talking about how the tie-up will benefit Mathrubhumi, Sandeep Lakhina, chief operating officer - South Asia, Starcom Worldwide, says, "Mathrubhumi will get the advantage of an old and trusted name like TOI at the national level. Also it will have access to the vast client base and the selling ability of BCCL. Similarly, Mathrubhumi will help them in other areas. Basically, knowledge will be shared between the two entities."

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