New Delhi: Kolkata-based RPG group, a diversified business conglomerate with annual sales of some Rs14,000 crore and interests in power, transmission, technology, retail and entertainment, is joining the rush into print media.
RPG Publications Pvt. Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Saregama India Ltd, the RPG group’s music company, plans to launch six magazine titles by 2010.
Taking charge: Sandipan Deb, who has spent nearly 15 years in various newsrooms, will be heading the magazines project (Photo: Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint)
Leading the magazine project is Sandipan Deb, who spent about 15 years in various newsrooms—A&M, Business Today and Outlook magazines and most recently The Financial Express.
An engineering graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur as well as an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, Deb also spent a short stint at advertising agency Lintas as well as in the financial services division of ITC Ltd. Mint asked Deb about his plans. Edited excerpts:
Magazine stands today have hundreds of titles vying for space with local and foreign titles catering to every fathomable niche. What is the space you are trying to fill?
We plan to launch six magazines over the next three years out of which two will probably be foreign titles. Work has started on the first magazine, which will hit the stands by October. This will be our flagship title and will feature the best writing and photography, there will be enough space for long-form journalism, and we are positioning it as a weekly features magazine. While we won’t slavishly follow news, we will be contemporary and relevant.
We have to be very careful with this first one because that will set the tone for all our efforts. So we are doing everything possible to bring out a winner because from my experience in the publishing business, a title cannot be relaunched. If a toothpaste or a soap fails in the market, it can be relaunched with a new flavour, packaging, or whatever. That doesn’t work in the case of a publication. There are no second chances.
Give us a clearer picture. Who is your target audience? And which international title will you most resemble?
If I have to put it in terms of other titles, I’d say it’ll be a cross between the Time magazine and The New Yorker. The brief is to bring out a weekly free-thinking magazine. Our target audience is the discerning reader, who is well travelled and well-read, who enjoys reading the best global publications, and has the time and taste for good reading.
Tell us something about the business strategy? What will be the initial print run? Which cities are you targeting?
Well, most of these things are decisions on which the publisher will have a lot of say. We hope to name the publisher by the end of this week.
One year from launch, we hope to have a circulation of around 70,000, and that’s a conservative estimate. We will be in all major cities. But the size, pricing, distribution strategy, etc. are still shaping up and will be finalized only when the publisher is on board. Given the rising newsprint prices, these are critical decisions.
When will the remaining titles roll-out?
This calendar year, it’s just one. Next year, we will launch three magazines and two the year after. Four of these will be our own titles and two will probably be foreign titles. We have some idea of what these titles are going to focus on, but they are still flexible.
Who are the editorial staffers who will assist you in the venture?
Some of the senior members of the team have already joined and some are still joining. Manu Joseph, who was features editor at The Times of India (ToI), C.P. Surendran, who was Pune resident editor at ToI, and Soma Wadhwa, who was formerly associate editor at Hindustan Times, are already on board.