A.V. Srinivas’ favourite car is the Bugatti Veyron. Not that he has ever driven one, nor does he think he’ll ever be lucky to touch it or even see it on Indian roads anytime soon.
“I read a beautiful piece about the vehicle in BBC Top Gear and instantly fell in love with it,” says the 26-year-old auto enthusiast. He subscribes to three automotive magazines to keep himself updated on the industry, new technologies and new car models.
Srinivas might soon find more to choose from with international motoring magazines—Auto Bild and Motor Trend—looking to launch versions in a market where as many as 50 new models and variants are introduced each year, and advertising spending on vehicles is on the rise.
Auto Bild is said to be partnering the Living Media group, publishers of India Today, while Motor Trend is still firming up specific plans, according to journalists who have received job offers from both magazines.
“Motor Trend is looking to expand in several international markets and India is one among them,” said Jocelyn Johnson, spokesperson for Motor Trend’s publisher Primedia Inc. “We are looking at several niche areas such as fashion, autos, health,” said Living Media chief executive officer Ashish Bagga. “But I can’t comment on specifics.”
There are as many as 10 auto magazines published in the country, such as Overdrive and Autocar, not counting various other publications such as Supplier Business and Autocar Professional, which cater tothe auto parts sector and whose target readership is the industry.
Apart from these English-language publications, Overdrive has a Hindi version and there is a TopGear in Malayalam. Still, readership for these magazines appears to be declining, according to surveys.
The National Readership Survey says the readership for such magazines has halved from one million in 2003 to about half a million in 2006. These figures are, however, hotly contested across the industry.
“Readership is growing with the increasing number of magazines,” said Khushroo Bhadha, publisher of Car India, which was lauched in India in 2005. BBC’s TopGear, too, entered India in 2006.
India’s car market has grown at double-digit rates over the past six years. The growth in these magazines is also largely driven by the increasing advertisement spending by an industry that is one of the top five spenders.
“Advertising is the main source of revenue,” says Bhadha. That isn’t atypical as most of India’s print media, including newspapers, is heavily dependent on advertising—and not circulation—for the bulk of its revenue and almost all of its profits.
Automotive companies spent Rs458 crore on print-media advertising in 2006, up 22% from Rs376 crore a year ago, according to AdEx India, a division of TAM Media Research.
The first magazine on cars was Cars in Action, which was launched in 1981, when about 40,000 cars were produced in the country. The magazine, published from Kolkata, folded after three issues. At the time, the car market in India was dominated by Hindustan Motor’s Ambassador, which now sells only about 14,000 of the 1.3 million cars sold annually in the country.
The first spurt in these magazines happened in the late 1990s with the launch of magazines such as Business Standard Motoring and Overdrive.
This was also the time when a number of global auto majors such as General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. entered the Indian market.
“With rising sales and more models coming into the market, people want to make informed decisions on car purchases,” said Yogendra Pratap, editor of Overdrive, explaining the spurt in such magazines.