Over a decade has passed since the Chitralekha Group launched a magazine. Known for Chitralekha (Gujarati and Marathi weekly), Jee (film magazine, in Gujarati and Marathi) and G (English film monthly), the Mumbai-based Group is launching its first women's magazine - Priyadarshini - next month.
Interestingly, the magazine aims to sell nearly 2,70,000 copies from Day One, thereby making it India's No 3 women's magazine, and the No 1 in Gujarati by a huge margin. Among women's magazines, Vanitha, a Malayalam fortnightly from the Malayala Manorama Group is India's No 1 women's magazine as per ABC (July-December 2000) with a circulation of 3,82,027. The Hindi monthly, Grihashobha, sells 3,33,651 copies, according to the ABC (July-December 2000), making it the No 2 women's magazine. The next highest numbers are recorded for Rani Weekly, a Tamil magazine (1,89,177). In comparison, Femina sells 1,28,348 copies. Stree, the highest-selling Gujarati women's magazine, manages only 51,425 copies.
Priyadarshini will manage its numbers riding on the Group's flagship, Chitralekha Gujarati. The over-half-a-century-old magazine sells 2,70,000 copies each week in a market, which is not particularly known to be a publisher's delight. With its high networth business community, Gujaratis make for an attractive target audience. Not many media vehicles though, including television channels, have succeed in capturing this potential. Considering Chitralekha's strengths, the Group will introduce Priyadarshini as a 16-pager stitched and delivered with the flagship weekly. Correspondingly, the cover price of Chitralekha Gujarati will take a jump to Rs 10 (from Rs 8).
If you think that is more a pullout section than a magazine, Bharat Kapadia, managing editor and associate publisher, is quick to point out he is eager to launch it as a standalone magazine as soon as he can. "We want to establish this first as a different identity within the magazine," he says. "The colour, feel, design will be very different from Chitralekha. We will have a separate art director, a new person as overall editorial in-charge. We will feature some very interesting freelancers. But we will play it by the ear. When it is established, we will decide on how to go ahead with it."
While the original carrier gives his new magazine a headstart, from the advertising perspective, it cuts the gestation period to virtually zero. Most publishers launch a product and then wait for it to grow over time. In Priyadarshini's case, gradual growth may be only marginal. It also cuts down additional expenditure on building a new brand. But perhaps most importantly from an advertiser's perspective, it negates quantitative option-making between the Group's two Gujarati media vehicles, thus forcing the advertiser to consider both based on the respective editorial environments.
That is, the combined 80-odd pages (Chitralekha's 56 and Priyadarshini's 16-20 pages) should see the same advertisers place a greater volume of insertions given the novel editorial environment. "We had a two-page section in Chitralekha called Priyadarshini which was started in 1999," explains Kapadia. "But being a two-page feature, we had to be extremely careful about what we picked and how we could treat it. We were not able to give as much as we wanted to." At the same time, he draws on the increasing westernisation creeping into Gujarati living rooms, and the increasing awareness and interest levels of women.
The same issues could have been given space within Chitralekha too, which, being a general-interest weekly, covers almost everything under the sun. But the treatment would have been different. "Chitralekha's editorial style is very different from what we want Priyadarshini to be. Had we extended Priyadarshini as a section within Chitralekha, it would have been governed by Chitralekha's editorial style which takes topicality and a lot of male readership into consideration." Priyadarshini (under the umbrella of Chitralekha) will feature stories of successful women (Kapadia cites the case of a legal woman arms dealer in Rajkot, for instance), besides regular sections on fitness and health, beauty, food, fashion etc.
Since the magazine sells for virtually Rs 2, the Group is taking care not to add too many additional costs. Overheads will jump only slightly, since the team shares the parent's infrastructure. The editorial style though, is totally different. "There is no overlapping at all between the two," affirms Kapadia. "My brief to the edit is, 'if Chitralekha is a family, this is the new trendy bahu moving in'," he says. "And she comes with her own set of attitudes and values." The positioning, as he puts it cleverly: 'trendy-tional'. So besides the increased paper and printing costs, manpower costs increase only to the extent of a new art director, an overall edit in-charge and freelancers. "We will feature some very interesting freelancers," promises Kapadia.
That cost should be more than offset by the volume increases in insertions that Kapadia and his team are looking forward to. "We have been fortunate to get every kind of advertiser in Chitralekha Gujarati - from Mercedes-Benz to pins for kerosene stoves," says Kapadia. "What this will do is give the right editorial environment for women-targeted advertising. So while the advertisers will remain much the same, the volume of insertions will increase." Considering the current bad phase in advertising for most publications, Chitralekha Gujarati is doing well drawing nearly 10 pages of ads (in 56 pages) every issue. He is aiming for 20 pages of ads for a total of 80 pages with Priyadarshini. If the circulation of the combined pack jumps beyond 10 per cent, Kapadia hints that he may look at an increase in ad rates.
This comes three months after another unique sales-increasing initiative by the Group in Maharashtra. Chitralekha Marathi had struck an alliance with the Sunday edition of a Marathi morninger, Deshdoot, in late April to double its circulation in five weeks. Both have recorded heartening growth, though the lean patch of advertising has been harsh on the bottomline.
Priyadarshini may not face so much of an advertising problem, as that of independence. Whether it can emerge out of the shadows of such a strong parent will be Kapadia's acid test. It is debatable, for instance, whether Bombay Times can sell on its own steam, devoid of the Times' resources.
Kapadia avers that he is aware of the challenge. Because if Priyadarshini begins life on crutches, learning to walk without them may prove very difficult in the long run.
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