Though financial supplements are a fairly common trend with mainline English newspapers (Times of India, for instance, has a personal finance supplement called Times Personal that is distributed every Tuesday with the main paper), language readers in Hindi and Marathi are more often than not left in the dark about all matters pertaining to stocks, loans, investment or personal finance, with a token graze either through features, special issues or the standard business page in a daily doing the honours.
Realising there is a large market of class as well as mass readers to be tapped, Sakal, the 70-year old Marathi daily published from six cities in Maharashtra including Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, Nasik, Aurangabad and Solapur has recently launched a four-page, pink supplement called Arthavishwa (world of finance).
Distributed every Monday, Arthavishwa, according to Jasdeep Bedi, director, Sakal, has a "broad target audience" with a simplistic approach to the subject. It attempts to "demystify finance and economics" with topics ranging from investment avenues to insurance, credit cards, consumer finance and home loans. "Articles are done in a unique story format that makes for interesting reading," he claims.
What started as a standard trial run on September 16, 2002, has met with good response, claims Bedi. "Which is why we are sounding off advertisers and media agencies through mailers and presentations, so that they could advertise in the product," reiterates Bedi.
Available to readers in Goa as well, through sister publication, Gomantak (circulation close to 25,000 copies) Bedi claims that the group may consider spinning off the supplement as a separate newspaper altogether. "The option is open. But it could take six months to a year," he states.
Besides Arthavishwa, Sakal has various other supplements during the week including the appointments supplement on Tuesdays and Fridays, an agriculture supplement called Pragati on Wednesdays and Kalaranjan, the entertainment supplement on Thursdays. Saturdays is reserved for Madhura, a small, 16-page booklet dealing with women's issues whereas Sunday has the eight-page Saptrang distributed with the main issue of Sakal.
An average edition of Sakal has a minimum of 12 pages with the ad to edit ratio varying between 35:65 and 50:50. The flagship product in Pune has a circulation of 3.4 lakh copies (bulk of the readers come from this region), Aurangabad has 1.2 lakh copies, Kolhapur has 75,000 copies, Mumbai and Nasik have 60,000 copies each, whereas the Solapur edition, launched last November, has a circulation of around 36,000 copies.
The group is also firming up plans to launch an edition in Nagpur, which should be "happening soon".
For now though, not everybody seems excited about a financial supplement. Rivals for one, would like to take Sakal's claims with a pinch of salt. Ajit Nair, deputy general manager, Lokmat Group, says, "Readers generally do not depend on a regional newspaper for information on finance. They would rather read an ET (Economic Times) or FE (Financial Express) to fulfill their needs."
"Which is precisely what Sakal is addressing," claims Bedi. "People in the cash crop areas have surplus income; but due to lack of English education they are deprived of financial knowledge. Arthavishwa is attempting to plug this loophole by informing readers about personal finance."
Apart from Sakal, Loksatta, the No1 Marathi daily in Mumbai (from the Express Group), has an eight-page financial tabloid called Arthvridant distributed every Monday. Again, circulation is restricted to Mumbai only, which leaves Arthavishwa to tap the rest of Maharashtra. © 2002 agencyfaqs!