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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bhaskar's Bihar-Jharkhand ambitions

Courtsey: afaqs.com

Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar plans to enter new markets to strengthen the brand and expand its reach. It is poised to enter Bihar and Jharkhand, rolling out editions in the two states in the next six-eight months.

As per R2 of IRS 2009, Dainik Bhaskar, the No. 2 publication of the country, has recorded a marginal decline in total readership for the second consecutive round. In the latest round, the Hindi daily lost about 5.9 lakh readers, while in R1, it had lost about 2.8 lakh readers. However, the daily had added about 33 lakh readers in R1 and R2, 2008, and has shown a growth in readership in both these rounds of IRS. Currently, its total readership stands at 3.3 crore.

According to sources, the project is in the planning phase at the moment. The group is negotiating the land deals and simultaneously studying the market. It is also learnt that the project will be taken to the next level after the launch of its IPO, which is expected to come out next month. Earlier, the group had completed the entire project of the Ahmedabad launch in three months, right from the land acquisition phase to the product launch.

On an average, setting up a printing unit takes about three months.

According to sources close to the development, the project is expected to roll out in another six-eight months. In order to make a dent in the market, it is learnt that the newspaper will undertake an aggressive marketing strategy at the time of the launch of the edition.

When afaqs! contacted officials at the Bhaskar group, they declined to comment on the development.

It is expected that Bhaskar will roll out multiple editions from Bihar, including Muzaffarpur, Patna and Bhagalpur, whereas in Jharkhand, the shortlisted cities are Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad. The roll out is expected to be in a phased manner, with the first print locations coming up in the capital cities, Patna and Ranchi.

The group is expected to have printing locations in Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad for the Jharkhand editions. For Bihar, it is expected to have print locations in Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Patna. Even in Punjab, the paper has print locations in all the three cities – Chandigarh, Jalandhar and Amritsar.

As per the industry insiders, the paper should be ready to roll out in June or July, a few months prior to the scheduled election in Bihar, to enable it to reap in the benefits by the time the elections take place.

During the recent launches (the last launch being in Punjab), Dainik Bhaskar has been relying on direct marketing methods to establish its leadership position from day one, a strategy which the group is looking at replicating in the new market as well.

The last market where the Dainik Bhaskar Group launched its flagship brand, Dainik Bhaskar, was Punjab in 2006. As per estimates, for its Chandigarh edition, too (the first edition in the state), the group had invested a huge sum in the property, which was located in the city centre, as opposed to its original plan for a property located in Panchkula which available for less than one-fourth of the actual spent. The purpose was to be in the eye of the public and be perceived as a Chandigarh newspaper.

The newspaper had also taken note of customer suggestions and requirements while deciding the structure of the paper. Bhaskar had focussed on designing the newspaper by involving the customers, understanding their requirements, collecting their suggestions and then designing the final product accordingly.

Other prominent Hindi language publications present in the two states are Hindustan, Dainik Jagran and Prabhat Khabar. Hindustan and Dainik Jagran have three editions each in Bihar, including Patna, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur. Dainik Jagran entered Jharkhand in February 2003 with three simultaneous launches including Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad. Prabhat Khabar has editions in Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Patna, Dhanbad and Deoghar.

Amongst the top 20 states in Bihar and Jharkhand, readership growth has been faster than the literacy growth. Interestingly, these two states were ranked the lowest in newspaper penetration - below 50 per cent.

In Bihar, the literate population increased by 5.6 per cent, while readership, too, went up by 19.5 per cent. Similarly, Jharkhand has increased literacy rates by more than 10 per cent, while its total readership moved up by 13 per cent.

Of late, publishers have become aggressive in these markets and as a result, new editions are being launched and sampling of newspapers has also increased. Bihar and Jharkhand have been the fastest growing markets for Dainik Jagran.

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