Ready for the digital revolution: Vivek Khanna

07 Feb,2012

By Akash Raha

 

Vivek Khanna, Publisher and Business Head of Mint, HT Media Limited

Vivek Khanna joined HT Media in 2008 after working for more than 16 years, of which 11 were spent with Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) where he led strategic and marketing initiatives – segmentation, positioning, advertising, and new product development. In his last assignment he was Director Marketing with Aviva, responsible for the company’s product and marketing strategy. He is a post-graduate in management from IIM-Ahmedabad and an economics graduate from the University of Delhi. In conversation with MxMIndia, Mr Khanna talks about Mint’s brand of accessible business news, new markets, and the digital wave, among other things. Excerpts:

 

Q: Since its inception five years ago Mint has become a success story of its own. What has the journey been like, and what are some of the learnings that you would like to share?

When we started off five years ago we identified a clear need gap amongst readers, which none of the existing business papers were satisfying. And that is how the entire positioning of Mint got developed, looking at the need gap and then asking how we could address it. We worked towards developing a product that would address the need gap; plus we said that we would get the best minds in the business – and we got editors and journalists from around the world and created a totally differentiated and unique product. I think the single biggest learning that we have is that as long as we are able to sustain this quality that we have been known for, we will continue to grow and do well. The journey so far has been very good, basically because of the fact that we have a product that is totally unique and well differentiated, and has been able to sustain and maintain itself from day one.

 

Q: There are many reasons attributed to Mint’s success – the Berliner format, the content, and good marketing. What do you think is the main reason Mint has worked with both readers and advertisers?

What clicks is with the readers first is the product. It is the quality of the product over the last five years that has helped us grow significantly since our launch. The advertisers are paying for the fact that we reach out to a certain number of very high-profile target audiences across the country. That’s really the key thing. Our product is something that this target audience likes, and therefore they are reading it on the regular basis. No one will keep picking up a product each day if it’s not good… Hence the fundamental thing behind our success is really our content.

 

Q: Mint started off with emphasis on making business news easier for the masses. Is this still the ethos now and for the future?

The Mint proposition is ‘clarity in business news’. We didn’t say we will be for the elite or for the masses. We just said that we will provide clarity to business news and that is what we continue to do – by analyzing and discussing a particular topic at length and presenting it in a manner that is easy to read as well as supported with facts, and therefore we have a certain credibility in the market. That focus has been there since the beginning, and it should continue.

 

Q: What is the nature of Mint’s tie-up with The Wall Street Journal – content sharing or more?

I can’t discuss what constitutes our tie-up with WSJ, as it is confidential information.

 

Q: Following the Hindi and Gujarati editions of The Economic Times, do you see Mint also coming out with regional avatars?

Well, as we speak, I have heard about some of these regional avatars getting pulled out from the marketplace. We will get to know over the next couple of days if that news is true or not. As far as we are concerned we have a certain growth path which is planned, we will continue to go on as per that planned growth plan. I can tell you that in the very near future, in the next 3-6 months, we don’t have a plan for any language business daily.

 

Q: Regional media in India is still growing. How does the proposition of Mint in a Hindi or regional language avatar look to you?

There is a increasing trend in smaller towns and among readers of Hindi and regional language. As the economy of some of these smaller towns continues to grow there is the tendency and the desire for people to be abreast with what is happening in the business environment. So if we feel that we have a certain role to play and we can provide those readers with news that will help them, then we will certainly evaluate it. But like I said, as of now there are no such plans.

 

Q: Going forward how do you see the audience and revenue breakup for your digital editions? Specifically the web, tablets and smart phones?

It is almost impossible to say that… You have different experiences in different markets. We have some western economies where people have moved predominantly towards digital and have dropped significantly. On the other hand we have a market like Singapore which has an 86 percent internet penetration, and 70 percent of the people there own a smart phone, and still there is no drop in circulation of leading products like The Straits Times. So we are talking about very different markets and very different experiences. I think in India the printed form still has some way to go. However, digital is going to emerge over a period of time. Now whether it is going to be five, 10 or 15 years is very difficult to say. What we have to do is, be prepared when it comes. Therefore, we have launched some apps and some more are going to come. So there is a whole plan to be ready for the so-called digital revolution in newspaper, when it comes.

 

Q: What are the plans to break into newer markets?

We are in fact evaluating a few markets. When we feel that the time is right for us to enter, we will do so. We still have some way to go in a few of the existing markets… So the focus remains in growing in the existing markets as well as looking at the right time to enter in some of the newer markets.

 

Q: What are some of the marketing initiatives that the paper has planned and in which cities?

We have two big initiatives coming up which are around the budget and around our luxury conference (in March), which is an annual event.

 

Q: Since you are a listed company, will you be give us some numbers as to how Mint has been doing over the years?

I can’t disclose that information.

 

Q: What are some of the upcoming trends that you observe in the print industry?

What is happening is that there is a clear trend, in terms of increase in readership, in some of the language publications that we have been seeing. Clearly, as the literacy level is rising, people’s urge to learn more and read more too is increasing. In times to come, this phenomenon will grow further with penetration of technology and spread of education in India. The other trend that we can observe is the proliferation and spread of digital media.

 

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