Mumbai: A new battle front has opened up between the Mumbai-based media company Lokmat Group and Pune-based Sakaal Media Group in the race for primacy in the Marathi newspaper space.
The Lokmat Group, which publishes newspapers in three languages—Lokmat (Marathi), Lokmat Samachar (Hindi) and Lokmat Times (English)—will be launching the Goa edition of Lokmat on 21 April, with an initial print run of 50,000 copies, according to Bharat Kapadia, director, Lokmat Group.
The edition will directly compete with Sakaal’s Gomantak daily that is published out of Goa in Marathi, said Janardan Pandey, business director of media specialist agency Radar of the Mudra Group.
Lokmat, according to Kapadia, will be priced at Re1, versus Gomantak’s Rs3.
Lokmat Group already has 16 editions of its three publications across Maharashtra.
Kapadia said it is the right time to enter Goa, which has a sizeable Marathi-speaking population. The new edition will have more colour pages than any other existing Marathi publication in Goa, he said. Lokmat is looking to target Hindu-dominated pockets of Goa such as Ponda, Bicholim, Sattari, Sanguem, Pernem and Quepem. Kapadia said: “About 65% Hindus mostly read Marathi newspapers.”
Some media buyers, however, say Lokmat’s real target is the Sakaal Media Group, which is its arch-rival in Maharashtra.
Sakaal operates in Maharashtra and Goa, and publishes nine editions of various publications. Its print titles in Maharashtra include Marathi daily Sakaal and English daily Sakaal Times.
Pandey said Sakaal and Lokmat have fought for leadership positions in prime areas in Maharashtra for many years, even though Lokmat is quite clearly the leader.
Lokmat, for instance, recently launched an edition in Pune which is considered a Sakaal stronghold. Similarly, Sakaal launched new editions in Nashik and Kolhapur, which are considered to be strong areas for Lokmat.
According to Indian Readership Survey figures published in November, Lokmat has 19,929,000 readers while the total readership of Sakaal is 11,633,000 readers, said Pandey.
Sakaal has a daily circulation of at least 989,000 copies (Maharashtra and Goa) and Lokmat sells in excess of 1.4 million copies (in only Maharashtra, till date), he added.
Uday Jadhav, chief operating officer, Sakaal, said two of its daily newspapers in Goa, Gomantak in Marathi and Gomantak Times in English, have existed for at least 30 years and it will not be easy for Lokmat to challenge its leadership position in the market. “Lokmat tried to enter the Pune market where we have a stronghold and they have not been able to displace us.” New entrants have not been able to displace the leader in any market, he said, adding that the incumbent always has the first mover advantage.
Still, Sakaal is taking steps to counter Lokmat’s debut in Goa. It has already increased colour pages from two to six in Gomantak and Gomantak Times. The group also plans to step up promotional activities in Goa, said Jadhav.
Some market observers see Lokmat’s launch in Goa as part of a larger strategy to capture the advertising market in Maharashtra. According to Pandey, advertisers that want to be in Maharashtra want to be in Goa as well. The Maharashtra market is highly competitive in advertising revenue. “Just regional publications alone rake in Rs650 crore of ad revenues, and with English publications, ad revenues spiral to more than Rs1,000 crore,” said Pandey.
Separately, the Goa ad market for all daily newspapers is only around Rs50 crore annually, though media buyers say the growth potential is sizeable, given the large migration of people and businesses from Maharashtra to Goa.
Anita Bose, a general manager in media buying company GroupM India Pvt. Ltd, agrees that advertisers usually club Maharashtra and Goa as one region because of the huge Marathi-speaking population across both states.
“If an advertiser is running a campaign in Maharashtra, chances are that he would want to run it in Goa as well. Lokmat’s entry into Goa will enhance its geographical spread and allow it to command greater ad rates and revenues as a group in Maharashtra,” she said.
Overall, Lokmat’s Marathi edition in Goa is expected to spice up a market which already has five Marathi newspapers and four English papers. “The largest Marathi newspaper in Goa so far is Tarun Bharat (with a daily circulation of 41,733 copies), followed by Gomantak (circulation of 28,315 copies). There is a small Konkani paper as well, with a circulation of 4,000 copies. All papers combined (not including Lokmat) would have a daily circulation of two lakh-plus copies,” said Kapadia of Lokmat, while pointing to the readership potential in the market.
Devendra Darda, executive director, Lokmat Group, said Goa is a greatly under-serviced market in terms of the product. The Goan population has significant spending power that can be leveraged, he said, adding that even the advertising market had not lived up to its potential. “Categories such as pharma, tourism and medical tourism, real estate, wineries, educational institutes, political ads etc. are very active in Goa,” Darda said.