Gujarat heats up as publications devise competitive strategies

By , agencyfaqs! | In | April 01, 2004
As Divya Bhaskar toys with the idea of an international edition, rivals Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar have plans to consolidate their position

The recently released Indian Readership Survey (IRS) may have brought cheer to the Bhaskar Group in Gujarat, with the Ahmedabad readership of its Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar pegged at 9.84 lakh, ahead of rivals Gujarat Samachar (9.39 lakh) and Sandesh (6.96 lakh). However, characteristically, Divya Bhaskar's achievement appears to have fuelled a desire within the Group to up the ante and take the state by storm.

On March 27, 2004, the Group launched a new edition from Surat (the second for Divya Bhaskar, after Ahmedabad), with a confirmed circulation of 3.02 lakh copies, reveals Girish Agarwal, director, marketing, Dainik Bhaskar. And in the pipeline are editions from Baroda and Rajkot by September and December this year. The Group is also seriously considering launching an international edition of Divya Bhaskar from the United States by the middle of this year.

According to Agarwal, the reason for setting sights abroad is the existence of a sizeable Gujarati-speaking NRI population in America, which is keen on keeping itself abreast of developments in India. Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar, for the record, already have editions out of the US - to be precise, out of Chicago and New York, respectively. For the planned international edition, the familiar strategy of a pre-launch order booking survey will commence next month, with clarity on circulation figures emerging post exercise, says Agarwal.

Meanwhile, Sandesh, which achieved an overall readership of 43.14 lakh in the current round of IRS, has plans to launch a sixth edition from Mumbai, bringing its total tally of editions on par with that of old foe, Gujarat Samachar. According to Kumar Nirmalendu, senior vice-president, Sandesh, the Mumbai edition of the Gujarati paper will hit the stands in the next few months, "filling a vital gap".

Nirmalendu further points out that Gujarat Samachar - which enjoys an overall readership of 43.75 lakh in the current round of IRS, which translates into a lead of 61,000 copies over Sandesh - is actually behind Sandesh in the cities of Baroda, Surat and Rajkot. Samachar clocked figures of 3.63 lakh, 3.76 lakh and 1.77 lakh to Sandesh's 3.98 lakh, 4.11 lakh and 2.10 lakh in Baroda, Surat and Rajkot. "Figures for Bhavnagar are yet to be made available," Nirmalendu adds tellingly.

Although Samachar may have faced a setback in terms of readership, the publishing group has no plans of slowing down as far as its forthcoming ventures are concerned - one of which includes the launch of a 24-hour news channel in the next three months. Foraying into the television space has been on the cards for some time, and, according to Shreyansh Shah, director and chief editor, Gujarat Samachar, the television venture will complete the presence of the media house, which already has a print and Internet edition of Gujarat Samachar. "The channel will be free-to-air and bilingual," he says. "Broadcast in Gujarati and Hindi, its footprint will be available across India, and possible names for the channel are either GSTV, short for Gujarat Samachar Television, or Aas Pass." © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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