Sumantha Rathore

Retirement sells in Andhra Pradesh

Telugu dailies in Andhra Pradesh generate ad revenues over Rs 15 crore from retirement ads.

If you flip through a Telugu daily in the month of June, you will notice special kind of ads in which friends, colleagues, and students bid farewell to their senior colleagues and teachers on the occasion of their retirement from their services. Called retirement ads, this category is very unique to the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP).

This phenomenon gains momentum during June when the maximum number of people retire, with a spillover in July. However, it is equally common in other months as well. Those who did not have a proper date of birth while joining the government service, retire in the month of June in Andhra Pradesh.

As per market estimates, the top three Telugu newspapers in the state clock around Rs 3 crore in the month of June, while during the other months, the figure would be close to half. So annually, these newspapers put together clock around Rs 15 crore from such retirement ads. This is more than 60 per cent of the total revenue that Telugu dailies garner as personal ads.

In comparison, the classified advertising category ( which includes matrimonial and real-estate ads) in the state, is only Rs 5 crore which means the retirement ads category is just three times the size of classifieds.

When it all began

This trend had a humble start, with Eenadu gathering thanksgiving advertisements by teachers and headmasters in 1994. The daily managed to fetch Rs 20,000 for the newspaper that year.

Retirement sells in Andhra Pradesh
The phenomenon picked up the very next year in 1995, and the category contributed Rs 5 lakh to its topline for Eenadu. Though the approach was different from its present form, those who were about to retire thanked all those who had helped them during their professional journey, while others advertised because they were looking forward to their second innings.

But now, the newspapers approach well-wishers (students and colleagues) of those who are about to retire from various departments of the government, to send their good wishes for the second phase of their lives. Retirement ads are now gathered from family members, colleagues, well-wishers, students, contractors, and suppliers, among others.

This category was subsequently picked up by Andhra Jyothi in 2001, and recently by newcomer Sakshi, in 2008. The category got a shot in the arm with the launch of hyper local editions by Eenadu and Sakshi. Over the last five years, it has grown about 50 per cent in revenue.

Talking about the category, KRP Reddy, director, marketing, Sakshi, says, "The category has now spread to other government departments such as police department, PWD, irrigation, revenue, excise officials, engineers of R&B, and Panchayat Pramukh, among others." He adds that ten years back they used to be small ticket sized ads in black-and-white, while now, they are colour ads replete with the photograph of those about to retire, along with their spouses.

Interestingly, it is still the good wishes for teachers by their students and ex-students that constitute around 40 per cent of the total ads across papers.

This is how it works

Retirement sells in Andhra Pradesh
Retirement sells in Andhra Pradesh
Reddy informs that a publication like Sakshi gets a comprehensive list of those retiring from various government departments six months in advance. The same practice is followed by other publications as well. This list is then divided district wise and sent to respective centres, and from there, the sales team follows up a month prior to the date of retirement, with family members and well-wishers.

Most of the leading publications in Andhra Pradesh bring out two sections of the newspaper every day -- the main edition (a broad sheet) which is common across the state and a tabloid-sized supplement, which has two sections -- one for the entire district, and the other for a single constituency. This means that an advertiser has the choice of advertising in entire Andhra Pradesh (in the main edition), or in one district (in the tabloid), or within a specific region within the district.

The constituency being the smallest unit, the average ad rate in the constituency pullout varies from Rs 40 to Rs 75 per sq cm, whereas the rates for a district edition stands anywhere between Rs 80 and Rs 550. And, retirement ads across multiple editions cost around Rs 2,000 per sq cm. Most of the volume comes from district ads, where the ad rates are in the range of Rs 110 to Rs 550 per sq cm.

It is not easy for the publications to get these Rs 10 crore, and have to undertake various promotions in order to get the share of the advertisements. And, to lure in more personal advertisers, publications offer discounts. Sakshi offers a discount of 15 per cent for this category.

Purandhar Rao, general manager, advertisement, Andhra Jyothi, who was one of the key members in starting the concept at Eenadu reflects, "We took the personal ad category to the next level with this concept. And, it paid dividends. In fact, my billing in Andhra Jyothi for the category went up from Rs 4 lakh in 2001, to Rs 50 lakh recently."

But interestingly, the category which is so popular in AP has not entered the other South Indian states -- Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Karnataka. It would be interesting to see if this phenomenon can make a mark in the other states as well.