Viveat Susan Pinto

Battleground Mumbai: TOI dons war-paint to take on new competition

TOI has added more colour pages, improved layout and presentation. It has also beefed up its city and international news coverage

Rivals may be closing in on her, but the grand Old Lady of Boribunder is in no mood to let any claimant having a go at her throne.

In the face of impending competition from adversaries looking to launch English newspapers in Mumbai, Bennett, Coleman & Co (BCCL), publishers of The Times of India, is busy strengthening the content of its best-selling product.

The beefing up, in fact, is starting from the very top. Sources say, Dina Vakil – the current resident editor of The Times of India, Mumbai – is making way for Derek D’Sa, who until recently was the resident editor of The Times of India’s Kolkata edition.

Vakil is likely to stay on as a consulting editor; she has already spent close to a decade heading the editorial team in Mumbai.

Before joining BCCL, D’Sa was the resident editor of The Indian Express, Pune. D’Sa, informed sources point out, has been stationed at TOI’s Mumbai office for the last two weeks.

The top-level change apart, in order to make The Times of India more colourful and thus, more attractive to the TG, BCCL has increased the number of colour pages and also improved the overall presentation of the newspaper.

TOI – it may be recalled – has had an unpleasant experience in dabbling with colour in the past. A couple of years back, it had announced the launch of an all-colour Delhi edition, but the much-publicised edition had turned into a predictable black-and-white (with some intermittent colour) within months. TOI would certainly want to avoid a fiasco this time ’round.

For the summer of 2005, apart from colour and design, The Times of India is improving the coverage of the city and international news with the launch of a six-page Times City and a four-page Times International. These were introduced a few weeks ago in the paper.

Even The Sunday Times of India has seen the introduction of new sections such as the one-page ‘Culture Curry’ and ‘Book Mark’, apart from a general enhancement in terms of layout and presentation.

While billboards and bus shelters around town scream ‘Times City’, The Economic Times, the ‘pink’ paper of BCCL, too is being supported with an aggressive outdoor and print ad campaign.

As far as people movements go, the buzz is that Avirook Sen, associate editor, Hindustan Times & editor, Sunday HT & HT City will be the resident editor of HT, Mumbai.

Speculation is rife that Ravi Srinivasan, resident editor, The Times of India, Pune, is heading towards Mumbai to take up a position in HT, though when contacted, he declines to indicate anything. “I am not ruling out the possibility of coming to Mumbai,” he says. “But it could be for any paper – new or existing!” Srinivasan is an old-Mumbai hand. Earlier in his career, he has been the deputy resident editor of The Times of India, Mumbai and the resident editor of The Indian Express, Mumbai.

Industry sources also said Bipul Guha, art director, Hindustan Times, is heading towards Mumbai to helm the design functions at DNA. Guha and his team were involved in the recent re-designing of HT, Delhi.

Consumer surveys by both HT and DNA are on in full swing in the city, and if the grapevine is to be believed, then HT is looking to set up its editorial office in Mahim rather than Dadar, where its marketing/corporate office is located. DNA will be headquartered at Lower Parel.

The afternoon tabloid Mid Day, meanwhile, has also increased its decibel levels in the city with the launch of a television quiz in its entertainment paper Hit List that goes with the main edition everyday. Actor Arshad Warsi, who is the presenter of the quiz, has been used in a multimedia campaign spanning print, outdoor and radio. On offer are gifts such as Plasma TV sets, DVD players, motorbikes etc to increase sampling.

Of the new crop of papers to be launched, Bombay Mirror from BCCL is likely to be a tabloid of 40 pages, though executives and journalists from the company refuse to talk about it for obvious reasons.

The paper may be launched by the end of this month, followed by the Hindustan Times by July-August, and DNA in August-September. © 2005 agencyfaqs!

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