Alokananda Chakraborty

It's not going to be easy for Outlook Hindi

Despite an open market, distribution will be the key to its survival, maintain analysts

The Rajan Raheja-promoted Hathway Investments Private Ltd, with publications such as Outlook, Outlook Traveller and Intelligent Investor, is set to launch the Hindi edition of its flagship newsweekly and current affairs magazine, Outlook in September. According to Maheshwar Peri, publisher, Outlook, the Hindi edition will be "totally different and not a literal translation of the English edition". It will focus exclusively on the Hindi reader, drawing heavily in terms of content from states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. The magazine will be a 64-page issue, priced at Rs 15.

Incidentally, Alok Mehta, editor of Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, has been appointed editor of the magazine with the chief editor being Vinod Mehta, also editor-in-chief of the magazine's English edition. Peri says Outlook Hindi's dependence on the English edition will be minimum with just about 20 to 30 per cent of the content drawing from the English version. Says Mehta, "There is a vacuum for good Hindi magazines because most are not easily available in the market today. Our priority will be to try and strike a balance between day-to-day political issues on one hand and social issues on the other. In fact, our emphasis will be on the society much like the Time magazine."

The group has set an ambitious target of 2 lakh copies in circulation within the first year, with the bulk of it coming from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Interestingly, analysts say, with distribution not being among the group's strengths, how it achieves this figure in so short a time is anybody's guess.

Peri, on his part, is optimistic. "The English edition of Outlook achieved a 2-lakh circulation figure in its fifth year of operation; we don't want that to happen with the Hindi edition. Let me tell you that at this point in time, I have 350 agents sitting on my head, with the capacity to push the magazine in mofussil towns and villages. And more than 200 of these agents were not with Outlook English. They are a new bunch altogether."

All said, Outlook Hindi's task would be uphill. Out of the 43 Hindi magazines surveyed by the NRS 2002, most have registered negative growth rates with the exception of Saras Salil (1.06 crore), India Today - Hindi (51.27 lakh), Nirogdham (34.58 lakh), Meri Saheli (33.85 lakh) and Vyapar (2.35 lakh). In fact, top Hindi publisher Mitra Prakashan, with titles such as Manohar Kahaniyan (64 lakh, NRS 1999), Sathya Katha (47 lakh, NRS 1999), Manorama (23 lakh, NRS 1999) and Maya (22 lakh, NRS 1999), have had to close down.

"Outlook obviously is banking on the fact that there isn't a quality magazine that appeals to SEC AB readers," says a marketing executive in a Delhi-based Hindi daily. Concurs a senior media analyst, "Most Hindi magazines are downmarket. Take Saras Salil for example, which has done well, but is really not up there. Besides, it is common knowledge that the Hindi edition of India Today is a literal translation of the English magazine. All of this is bound to hurt the sensibilities of the discerning Hindi reader."

Thus, with the market for a good Hindi news magazine waiting to be tapped - notwithstanding the onslaught of dailies - Outlook, Hindi, does have a strong chance. Analysts point to the demographics of the Hindi market - which is completely different from the English market - to prove their point. "A huge chunk of the Hindi market comprises entrepreneurs with big purchasing power - at times more than their English counterparts. Hence they feel the need to keep up with the goings-on in the country, the region and the world at large," says a media planner in a Top 10 agency. Says Jameel Gulrays, an independent media consultant, "Being businessmen, they would obviously want to know every such issue that would impact or affect their business." Agrees John Furtado, general manager, media, TBWAAnthem, "The potential of the Hindi market is huge, that's where the all money is."

Rightly so. Over the last two years the total readership base in India has grown from 16.3 crore to 18 crore, a jump of 1.7 crore, out of which Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar alone has contributed 50 lakh. But the question is can a Hindi magazine duplicate such performance?

"Possible. Provided they are able to get their act together in distribution," says Furtado. "I will go back to Dainik Bhaskar, though it is a daily. There was a time when Bhaskar was primarily Madhya Pradesh-centric, but once they tied-up with newsagents in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, their market size simply grew. Chandigarh is another example. That market was considered the bastion of English daily Tribune. Today Dainik Bhaskar has created a market for itself there." Adds a Mumbai-based media analyst, "Distributors are key. They make you or break you. In my opinion, the appointment of all-India distributors should take care of their (Outlook Hindi's) circulation and, therefore, its readership." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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