The CEO of Jagran New Media talks about transforming the company from decades-long streak of losses to a highly profitable entity in less than five years.
Jagran New Media, the digital wing of Jagran Prakashan and one of the biggest regional newspapers in India, is also one of the oldest publications to have a digital presence. Despite being present online for more than 20 years, it was a loss-making entity, until 2017.
Bharat Gupta took over the reins of Jagran New Media in 2017 and by 2020-21, the company had become a profitable entity. Gupta spoke briefly about the company’s journey as well as ambitious growth plans during the fourth edition of Digipub World, hosted by afaqs! recently. The interview was conducted by Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder and CEO, afaqs!
As per Gupta, the aim is to transform the company into a Rs 1,000 crore business by 2028.
“When we started, we had Rs 30 crore in revenue and 27 million users, but were at Rs 17 crore, in terms of losses. In December 2019, we became profitable. We did get scared in mid-pandemic but all the efforts that had been made to shape the organisation in terms of people, structure, technology, started to play. We were profitable throughout 2020 and by March 2021, we crossed Rs 71 crore in revenue, with 12% EBITDA margin. Our next goal is to attain Rs 1,000 crore top-line by March 2028.”
The roadmap to transformation
The company started its transformation by implementing a four-year plan and aimed at becoming profitable by 2020. New Jagran Media did so by diversifying revenue streams, changing content plans and reducing dependence on print content bank. It started out by identifying and transforming a number of the company’s principles.
Digital is not extension of print: There was a prevailing belief that the content generated for print could seamlessly transition to digital platforms. Gupta says that print has always been a day old. That is why the digital audience needs to look at something new every day. He also says that the company aim at growing on the back of India’s ever growing digital penetration.
“The whole model is designed towards penetration growth. The Internet penetration in India is only 50%, with 750 million users. Another 750 million users are yet to come online. India is the fifth largest economy and by 2027, we will be the third largest economy. There is enough headroom to grow the audience, marketing and advertising.”
Transforming content volume and creation: Gupta says a common belief was that churning out copious amounts of content would translate into high user numbers and revenue. However, the quality and relevance of content is crucial for digital success. For this, Jagran New Media has changed its model and wants to expand beyond news into women, education, fact check, health and lifestyle. “Today, 50% of our traffic comes from non-news pieces. The audiences are also not consuming news in a big way. They are consuming a lot of information so when we decided to take that route, we wanted to have dedicated content, product, marketing teams. We are more than 700 members, this is required to produce the right amount of content.”
As per Gupta, there’s a misconception in the organisation that sustainability could be deferred, which led to a potentially unsustainable burn rate. This had to be changed.
Diversifying revenue streams: Earlier, the company relied solely on advertising. Now, it has diversified its revenue streams across verticals like advertising, subscription, syndication and content production. Gupta hinted that there are a couple of newer revenue streams coming up, but did not mention them.
He says diversifying the revenue streams now means that almost 50% of the revenue comes from advertising inventory (it was 90% before 2017). “The other three verticals took over and constituted the other 45% revenue growth.”
“If we wanted to sustain, we could not rely on advertising inventories alone. We needed to develop alternative sources of revenue. We identified that if the medium is expanding and penetrating, then there are new advertisers who would require different kinds of solutions. We pitched ourselves as solution providers, rather than just a platform. And that was the DNA change that started to transpire,” Gupta explains.
You can catch the entire conversation here:
Event partners include MGID, YuktaMedia, Quintype, Chartbeat and Conscent.ai (Bronze Partners) and IndiaDotCom Digital (online partner).