In an attempt to tap growing demand for financial news, especially that related to the stock markets, at least six Indian media companies plan to launch newspapers in Hindi and other languages such as Gujarati.
The list of companies includes Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (BCCL), Business Standard Ltd, Amar Ujala and Jagran Prakashan Ltd and Television18 India Ltd (the last two have partnered to launch a local language business daily).
Numbers show the vernacular business news market is underserved. Currently, only 0.4% of the country’s population reads business papers of any kind. According to the Indian Readership Survey (a survey on readership carried out buy Media Readers Users Council, a not-for-profit entity that has representatives from advertisers, advertising agencies and media companies), 38% of the population reads at least one publication. There are more than 10 national newspapers and magazines in the business space, including Mint, published by HT Media Ltd, The Economic Times, published by BCCL, the Business Standard, and the Business Today, published by Living Media India Ltd. However, there is no national local-language business daily or magazine.
Daily dose: A newspaper hawker with an array of publications at Connaught Place, New Delhi. Currently, only 0.4% of the country’s population reads business papers of any kind. (Photo: Rajeev Dabral/Mint)
While the Business Standard and The Economic Times are planning Hindi editions of their English papers, Amar Ujala and the Jagran-TV18 joint venture will launch new dailies.
“There is no Hindi business daily...despite the rising consumerism in towns beyond the top metros. Besides, there is a rising interest in stock markets even among people in the hinterland. Our new papers will serve this demand,” said Sanjay Gupta, chief executive, Jagran Prakashan. The Jagran-TV18 combine also plans to launch business papers in languages other than Hindi. According to a senior executive at Jagran, the company is already in talks with the Andhra Pradesh-based Vaartha group to explore the possibility of a Telugu business daily.
Amar Ujala, which had launched a business daily, Karobar, in 1994 and discontinued it in 1999, is again planning to enter the market by the end of this year. “We realize that the market now is more vibrant. There is a large amount of surplus income in smaller markets. These people are not only consuming more, they are also looking for options to invest as well. This population will lap up a business daily if made available in their own language,” said Sunil Mutreja, marketing head, Amar Ujala.
There are some local language business publications but most of them have limited circulation and readership because they are either focused almost exclusively on commodities or stocks or available only in one part of the country. One such newspaper, Vyapar Kesari, published by New Delhi-based National News Service Online Pvt. Ltd, caters to people interested in commodities. “We started our Hindi business daily way back in 1983, but due to our limited resources, we have not been able to expand much. We remain a subscription-based product and our copies are usually mailed to subscribers,” said K.S. Gupta, chairman, National News Service Online. Vyaapar is another such paper, published in Gujarati and Hindi by Janmabhoomi Group of Newspapers, that primarily caters to readers in Rajkot (Gujarat) and Mumbai. Another Hindi business paper, Nafa Nuksan, is circulated only in Rajasthan.
According to data on trading patterns released in February 2007 by market regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the number of investors from cities such as Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Indore, Jaipur, Patna and Ludhiana grew more than three-fold between 2002 and 2006. The data indicates the overall share of the top four metros in stock trading fell to 81% in 2006 from 86% in 2002. “There are around 8 milliion people trading in shares from across the country. A substantial number of these is from tier I and II towns,” said Gautam Bhardwaj, director, Invest India Economic Foundation, a research firm based in Noida.
Buoyed by these numbers, BCCL last year launched The Economic Times in Gujarati and is planning a Hindi edition now. “We have been debating for a Hindi business daily for quite some time and (it) is still an ongoing process. Our Gujarati business daily, though, is doing well and has exceeded our expectations,” said a senior BCCL executive, who did not wish to be identified.
Even Business Standard, which publishes an eponymous English business daily, is considering a similar move. “We are evaluating the Hindi business daily space but nothing is there in the immediate pipeline,” said Akila Urankar, president, Business Standard. However, according to students at the New Delhi-based Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Business Standard recently held a test to hire reporters for its Hindi daily.
Some people say readership for local language business publications is still low and stand-alone papers for this segment may be a bit early now. “Business readership in non-English markets is definitely growing. We, in fact, were the first ones to have launched two dedicated business papers in our Hindi daily in pink colour two years ago. But right now, we don’t think the market is ready for a stand-alone (Hindi business) paper,” said Amit Chopra, business head, Hindustan, the Hindi daily published, like Mint is, by HT Media. “Most households in non-En- glish markets buy only one newspaper and we feel that affordability is still an issue with such households,” he added.