Action shifts to Surat as Bhaskar looks to launch edition in March

By , agencyfaqs! | In | January 23, 2004
After Ahmedabad, it is the turn of industrial city Surat to see intense activity in the print sector, as Bhaskar decides to step in with a new edition in March

Divya Bhaskar, the Gujarati paper from the Rs 1,000-crore Dainik Bhaskar group, is set to enter the industrial city of Surat, considered the second-most important market in Gujarat, with a new edition in March. This edition, which is the second after Bhaskar's debut in June last year in the city of Ahmedabad, is scheduled to be launched in the third week of March. "The gameplan," as Girish Agarwal, director, marketing, Dainik Bhaskar, states, "is to cover all of Gujarat by the end of this year with editions from Baroda, Rajkot and Bhavnagar."

The group, characteristically, has unleashed a pre-launch survey covering seven lakh households with the first round completed on January 10, 2004. The second round, which, as Agarwal describes, is essentially, the order booking phase, will be completed by the end of next month. "We should then get a clear picture of our circulation figures," he says.

Incidentally, Bhaskar's claim of clocking 4.86 lakh copies in Ahmedabad, has competition crying foul. The group had commissioned Nielsen ORG in August last year to carry out a study in Ahmedabad; the results of which spoke overwhelmingly in Bhaskar's favour. It was billed as the largest read newspaper with 12.11 lakh readers, followed by Gujarat Samachar at 10.02 lakh readers and Sandesh at 8.31 lakh readers.

Kumar Nirmalendu, senior vice-president, Sandesh (he was earlier with rival Gujarat Samachar as the all -India marketing head), sees no sanctity in an independent study, maintaining that Sandesh and old foe Gujarat Samachar were not invited to participate in the survey. "It only proves their intentions," he says. Dharmesh Vatsa, the incumbent marketing head at Gujarat Samachar, adds, "What they are talking about is like the self-styled study of the Khalistan commando force. I guess one needs propaganda to sell anything."

According to ABC figures, Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh had an average circulation of 3 lakh copies and 2.96 lakh copies (respectively) in Ahmedabad, for the period of January-June 2003. For the ensuing period of July-December 2003, both papers seem apprehensive whether their Ahmedabad editions will be certified at all. That is because post Bhaskar's entry into Ahmedabad both launched a slew of "reader-friendly schemes", which go against ABC's principles of certification. "There is a dialogue on with ABC," says Vatsa of Samachar.

Meanwhile, the situation in Surat seems to be hotting up with the imminent entry of Bhaskar. Unlike in Ahmedabad where Samachar leads, in Surat, it has to contend with two big players - leader Sandesh, which circulates 1.44 lakh copies to Samachar's 1.39 lakh copies. The Surat market also has a local player in Gujarat Mitra, which has a circulation of 88,766 copies (ABC, January-June, 2003).

With a population of close to 30 lakh, Surat is a bustling commercial centre with thriving diamond and textile industries. Almost 10-12 per cent of the population of Surat comprises non-Gujaratis, who also have considerable wealth at their disposal.

Bhaskar intends targeting not only the city of Surat, but also the adjoining areas of Navsari, Valsad and Vapi. The on-going survey has 2.5 lakh households from these areas with the balance emanating from Surat city.

The media house has acquired 80,000 square feet of office space and plans to install three state-of-the-art printing machines in Surat. The group hopes to start operations with a 24-page issue (including supplements), which is a few pages less than an average Ahmedabad edition, which has between 28-30 pages.

Predictably, the group seems upbeat, and, as Agarwal maintains, is charged about the impending launch. "We are hoping to do well in Surat as well," he says. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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