Chennai: Kasturi & Sons, publishers of The Hindu newspaper, on Monday launched a Tamil daily under the same title and logo.
Priced at Rs.4, the Tamil paper put on its front page a story on Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa launching a mineral water called Amma Mineral Water for Rs.10 that is produced by a state-owned firm. The report was accompanied by a photograph of the chief minister, who is called amma (mother) by her party members and admirers.
The company’s 135-year-old English newspaper, which costs Rs.3 on weekdays and Rs.4 on weekends, meanwhile, carried a lead story on Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav facing the people’s anger in riot-torn Muzaffarnagar on its front page.
The 44-page inaugural edition of the Tamil paper had 10 full-page advertisements from companies such as Bajaj Electricals, SRM University, Puravankara, Chennai Silks, Nalli Jewellery, NAC Jewellery, Olympia Grand Days and Poorvika Mobiles.
The Tamil paper also carried a single business page that contained translations of reports from its financial daily, The Hindu Business Line.
The newspaper started with a print run of 525,000 copies. Thousands of copies of the new daily could not be distributed because of protests by newspaper hawkers that the commission offered wasn’t sufficient. For The Hindu, Kasturi & Sons pays 20% commission per copy. Executives in the company said the hawkers were asking for 40% commission to distribute the Tamil paper.
“It does not smell like a Tamil newspaper nor does it have local news. It looks more like a translated newspaper and does not have gossip,” said Rohin Marc, a Chennai-based media consultant, offering his first impression of the paper.
“At first glance, it reads more like The Hindu, although the paper quality is not as good as that of its English counterpart,” said Vijay Bobby, general manager at rival Dinakaran. “We will have to see the newspaper after a week, when it settles on advertisement and content.”
Publishing a newspaper is a long-term business and it remains to be seen whether The Hindu’s Tamil avatar will compete with Dinakaran, Bobby said.
Dinakaran has 14 pages plus a supplement of four pages, while Dinathanthi, another popular daily, has 24-28 pages.
“We will be different from the existing newspapers...and readers will know it is from Kasturi & Sons family,” said Arun Anant, chief executive officer of Kasturi & Sons.
Asked about the difficulties in reaching the copies to readers, Anant said it was only at four or five places where agents sought increased commission to distribute the paper and had abandoned the copies.
Readers in Nungambakkam, Thygaraya Nagar, Kodambakkam, Mylapore, Anna Nagar, West Mambalam and Aminjikarai did not receive the new paper.
“We have been discussing with Kasturi & Sons to raise the commission paid to agents for over a month,” a distributing agent for The Hindu said, requesting anonymity. “However, they did not heed to our request. That is why we did not lift the newspaper today.”
“There has been no communication to the dealers nor was the launch organised in a planned manner,” he added. “We will not pick up the copies.”
Tamil newspapers such as Dinathanthi, Dinakaran and Dinamalar pay an agent a commission of 80 paise for each copy sold.
This commission was fixed six years ago. Since then there has been no change but costs have gone up, said the agent cited earlier.
“We will play by the existing market norms and not hike commission unless other dailies also do it,” said Anant.
Almost 40% of Tamil newspapers are sold at newsstands while the remaining are sold via subscription. In case of English newspapers, the skew towards newsstands is 15%.