It’s wait ‘n watch for TOI-Matrubhoomi alliance

03 Feb,2012

By A Correspondent


After much speculation, The Times of India has finally made its foray into the Kerala market, forging a strategic alliance with Mathrubhumi to make inroads into this market. While for readers this alliance might be the best deal as just for Rs2 extra they get a copy of Mathrubhumi and the TOI with its many supplements, as a reader quipped: “This is not a bad deal for 2 bucks”.


This exactly is the sentiment that TOI wants to ride upon – the bundling with a regional newspaper which the readers are familiar with and allow them to test something new definitely is a great way to enter a new market dominated by regional players.


Kerala, in that sense, is a unique market with high literacy rates and people who are proud of their culture, willing to try something new but not at the cost of old. Hence, it is primarily seen as a two newspaper-market where one paper is regional, which appeals to the older generation and is more of a habit, and the other is an English newspaper appealing to the younger population.


It is this younger population that TOI is trying to appeal to. The English newspaper market is primarily dominated by The Hindu, The New Indian Express and more recently Deccan Chronicle. The Hindu too has become aggressive and gone all out to protect its turf.


Recently, on January 29, just two days ahead of the TOI launch, The Hindu and The Hindu Business Line launched its Kozhikode edition. This shows that The Hindu understands the might of TOI and has gone aggressive with its 360 degree campaign to reiterate its hold over this market. In fact, it has also taken around 30-35 hoardings to make itself visible while sources inform that TOI has taken up around 80 hoardings across to announce its presence in Kerala.


The divide in Kerala, according to reading preference, is: South to Cochin (till Trivandrum) is where readers prefer Malayala Manorama whereas the area from Cochin to Kasaragoda is dominated by Mathrubhumi. This liking is also based on the political inclination too. Currently, TOI has come out with editions fromKochi, Thiruvananthapuram,Kozhikode, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur, Alappuzha and Kollam, thus being seen all over Kerala.


However, it is learnt that the paper is having teething troubles: The newspaper is not available at many places; the hawkers union’s in Kerala raising ruckus over the availability of the newspapers in some pockets.


Giving his view, Kiron Kurian, Group Manager, MudraMax said: “For TOI the real competition is The Hindu in this market. Their current strategy of tying up with Mathrubhumi, as I see, suggests that as the former caters to Sec A and B audience it will be easier to convert this TG to also adopt TOI as a second newspaper.”


Swarup BR, Founder Stark Group, a Kerala-based 360-degree communication agency feels: “I think largely the TOI offering in Kerala market is nothing phenomenal from what has been seen in the other markets. There would be many people who would want to try out the newspaper and along with their aggressive marketing strategy, it should work out well for them.”


However, for all, it’s ‘wait and watch’ to see how the market evolves. Some feel that a new trend might start with homes having three newspapers, with both Hindu and TOI having their share of readers. Also there could be revised rates to capture more audience.


This TOI- Mathrubhumi alliance, while is advantageous for the former, will also be good for the latter as it might give it the much needed push that it requires to lessen the gap with the leader Malayala Manorama.


Vidya Nandakumar, Business Director, LMG based in Cochin is doubtful that TOI will find it easy to break the monopoly of The Hindu. She said: “In Kerala people are die-hard loyalist and if they like a brand, it is difficult to make them switch. So it would be interesting to see how TOI gets them to convert.” She is of the opinion that probably it would be some pockets where TOI might succeed.


But Mr Swarup countered: “Kerala is a ‘rurban’ economy; hence there is no clear divide between rural and urban. The brand proliferation too is across the market hence it is one big market. The opportunity for a TOI to reach across is immense. The entire state is a captive market, not just few pockets of interests. Yes, The Hindu is a formidable power and people would not be willing to give the newspaper so easily for TOI. So in that sense it would be interesting to see how the market plays itself out. It is possible that a whole new audience will evolve who will be readers of TOI.”


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