When circulation of your flagship brand is in the region of 9.4 lakh copies (according to ABC for the period of January-June 2002, plus CA-certified figures for the Kolhapur edition of Lokmat) and readership a whopping 78 lakh (as per round 8 of IRS 2002 as well as NRS 2002), complacency could well creep in. But for the Maharashtra-based Lokmat group of publications "managing leadership" has been its primary call. "We are not in the business of brand rivalries," avers Jwalant Swaroop, group general manager - Lokmat. "We are in the business of fighting markets."
What began as an initiative to tackle the economic slowdown then at its peak in 2001 has according to Swaroop "delivered handsome returns". "Percentage-wise we have registered growth in double digits," he claims. When pushed further he admits growth figures would be "around 30 to 40 per cent". "The challenge at hand was to not only restructure the advertising department but reengineer our marketing and sales strategy so as to maximise returns and increase volumes," he states.
Incidentally, the circulation of Lokmat two years ago was 9.2 lakh copies (as per ABC for the period of January-June 2001, plus CA-certified figures for the Kolhapur edition) while readership was 73.8 lakh, according to round 7 of IRS 2001. Rival Sakal was running at 5.7 lakh copies (as per ABC for the period of January-June 2001) and readership according to NRS 2001 was 43.8 lakh. Currently, taking into account six editions (the previous figures were for five editions including Mumbai, Pune, Nasik, Aurangabad and Kolhapur) for Sakal, the circulation according to ABC for the period of January-June 2002 is 6.0 lakh (including the Solapur edition), while readership according to NRS 2002, is 45.6 lakh.
"We did suffer a burn when the slowdown hit us in 2000," declares Swaroop. "Pulling ourselves up was mandatory to beat the recession," he adds. With advertisers spending less in print, the task for Lokmat was to "open up markets" and provide focused reach to advertisers through innovative packages and attractive pricing, all aimed at getting a chunk of the revenue and growing the client's business at the same time.
"Most advertisers tend to focus their attention on Mumbai and spend bulk of their monies there. The result is a stagnation of sales since regions outside of Mumbai remain unexplored and untapped. Our focus was to divert their attention from the metropolis and concentrate on the rest of Maharashtra, which we describe as New Maharashtra."
As part of this strategy, New Maharashtra was divided into four regions - Vidarbha (eastern part of Maharashtra comprising 11 districts), Marathwada (central areas of Maharashtra comprising eight districts including Latur, Nanded, Parbhani, Hingoli, Beed, Aurangabad, Jalna and Dharashiv), Khandesh (northern tip of Maharashtra including Dhule, Nandurbar and Jalgaon) and Western Maharashtra (Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Solapur and Ahmednagar). Further inroads were made by dividing the four regions into cities. "A client may want to target the Pune or Aurangabad markets only, this structure gives them the option to do just that. Above all, pricing is such that it serves to enhance their savings as well."
Parallely, the sales team was positioned as solution providers rather than mere space marketing executives. "We are not into space marketing," clarifies Swaroop. "We are in the business of delivering markets and consumers, which moves away from conventional methods of selling because an executive then talks less about Lokmat and more about the product category (advertiser's brand) and the potential it has in Maharashtra."
On last count, the group comprising flagship brand Lokmat (Marathi daily), Lokmat Samachar (Hindi daily) and Lokmat Times (English newspaper, which has a strategic tie-up with the Asian Age) had 14 editions in all. The process of launching new editions though, which incidentally is characteristic of the group, has been temporarily halted. "If you are looking at geographical reach then increasing the number of editions helps. However, for greater depth and penetration increasing circulation is a better idea."
Abetting this process of expansion or for that matter providing a better insight or understanding of the marketplace is the task of the Lokmat Research Cell headed by Pralay Pratap Nanda. Though established a decade ago, its operations have been streamlined and organised in recent years and according to Swaroop is the main driving force behind the company. "We would like to be known as a research-led organisation," he says. The cell analyses press trends and space consumption patterns in Maharashtra across publications. "We concentrate on 15 different categories, 350 products and 3,500 brands," asserts Nanda. The information gathered is disseminated across the group's 23 centres on a timely basis. "Rates give you an idea of billings and billings tell you about volumes," says Swaroop. "And our aim is to maximise volumes," he adds. © 2003 agencyfaqs!