Can TOI win the Kerala race?

27 Sep,2011

 

 

By Tuhina Anand

 

The Times of India has been giving the last-minute push to its entry into the Kerala market. Speculation was that the TOI would enter the market by early October – the launch date now seems to be October 24.  Mr Rahul Kansal, Chief Marketing Officer, Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd agreed that the TOI is looking to enter the market around this time but refused to name a date, saying that things do get delayed due to various reasons and hence he would prefer to refrain from specifics.

 

The TOI in Kerala would have four main editions, he said, including Cochin, Trivandrum, Malabar and Cochin Upcountry, but in total the paper would be printed from 10 centres and would devote space to carry hyper local content.  So in that sense there will be 10 editions. However, Mr Kansal refused to divulge details about the number of print copies initially planned.

 

He also said that TOI has entered into an alliance with the Mathrubhumi Group, which will aid TOI in providing logistics support. It is also possible, say sources, that there could be a combo offer available to Mathrubhumi readers.

 

Mr Kansal said, “I think we are entering the Kerala market at an opportune time as it has a large literate population and English newspapers is largely a virgin market, with the presence of The Hindu as the dominant player.”

 

The Kerala market is an interesting and unique market with literacy rate of close to 94 per cent and is dominated by Malayali dailies including Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Deshabhimani, Madhyamam, and Kerala Kumudam.  The English newspapers other than the Hindu include The New Indian Express and the recently-launched Deccan Chronicle. Advertisers include real estate players, but jewellery advertisers lead the pack.Players like Muthoot Finance and Manappuram Finance also have gone all out in the media lately with their gold loan schemes, and gained prominence.

 

An observer of the market feels that there is a huge opportunity for an English newsppaper like the TOI in Kerala, especially with the young readers. The New Indian Express used to have a strong foothold which has declined over the years and The Hindu has following but is stronger near the Tamil Nadu border, hence there is a space for a strong English player. But it is also a tough market with the literacy rate being high, and readers well informed. So the strategy of entering the market with some sort of alliance with Mathrubhumi makes sense as by leveraging the strength of a vernacular paper, TOI could make impressive inroads. Also the challenge would be to tap the huge retail market like jewellery and textiles, where again it would help to have a regional partner. In terms of content too, the market thrives on regional content even more so than other parts of India, so even though TOI would have a strict template, its plan of having 10 centres of printing with four main editions, carrying localised content from other six markets, may prove to be smart strategy.

 

Picture Credit : Fotocorp

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