NEW DELHI: The Aroon Purie-controlled India Today Group (ITG) , leading Indian magazine publishing company and publisher of India Today, has announced a new licensing agreement with the Reader's Digest in India under which the Indian group will now publish the magazine.
The size of the deal was not disclosed in an official statement released by ITG, but industry sources indicated that it was in the region of Rs 200 million.
Under this arrangement, Reader's Digest expects a deeper and wider access to the Indian market through the ITG's multilingual publishing and multi channel media interests in magazines, books, television, radio and printing, the official statement issued by ITG says.
The licensing agreement replaces the one with the Tatas-controlled RDI Print & Publishing Private Ltd., Inc, which had published Reader's Digest for the past 25 years. In all, Reader's Digest has been in India for more than 40 years. It currently is published only in English and has a circulation of 500,000 copies.
"We are delighted to partner with Reader's Digest, one of the world's most popular and respected publications," the statement, quoting ITG CEO Aroon Purie, said, adding, " We look forward to continuing the Digest's editorial traditions and introducing it to a wider audience in India, including eventually expanding the franchise in additional Indian languages."
According to Michael Brennan, Reader's Digest vice-president for Asia-Pacific and Latin America: "We are proud of the Reader's Digest edition in India and grateful for the careful stewardship of RDI Print & Publishing over the past 25 years. We are excited about the potential of working with the ITG and exploring the multiple marketing channels that this company has developed in India."
ITG's flagship, India Today, is the most-read publication in India in any language, with a readership of 14.36 million across all editions. Editions are published in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, as well as English. The company also publishes business and technology magazines, an afternoon tabloid newspaper for Delhi and a lifestyle magazine.
It has advertising offices throughout the country and relies on a dedicated newsstand distribution network, which is India's largest. ITG is the licensed publisher of Hearst's Cosmopolitan, Golf Digest of Advance Publications and Chartered Accountant.
The company is also the marketing and distribution representative for Time and Fortune magazines in India. It also has a book club and a music division. In television, its associate company, TV Today Network Ltd., operates two 24-hour news channels - leading Hindi news channel Aaj Tak and the still to find its feet English news channel Headlines Today.
Also part of the group is Thomson Press India Ltd., the largest commercial printing company in India, an integrated database marketing company and online services. And, it even runs one of the premier schools in the Capital.
Living Media also has a joint venture with Harper Collins in India for book publishing. In short, Living Media is the most well diversified media group in the country and it is also the largest magazine publishing and distribution company in India.
The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. (RDA), is a global publisher. Since 1999, RDA had been trying to buy out the Tatas and the proposal to have a 100 per cent owned company here to publish the Reader's Digest in India had been taken up by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) several times over the years.
In March 1999, India's information and broadcasting ministry under Pramod Mahajan had decided not to support a proposal of RDA to acquire the publishing assets of Tata group-promoted Readers Digest India Print & Publishing Pvt. Ltd (RDIPPL) as it did not "conform to the existing media policy".
Titan Industries and some other Tata group promote RDIPPL companies, which have a majority stake in the company. Other Indian promoters hold the remaining shares.
Apart from publishing assets, RDIPPL also has other financial and investment assets. RDA had proposed in the past to invest about $ 5 million to acquire up to 100 per cent equity in RDIPPL's wholly owned subsidiary Readers Digest Association Pvt. Ltd (RDAPL).
In India, Readers Digest, post 1977, has been published by RDIPPL under a License granted by Readers Digest Association Inc, which is the proprietor of the name and trademark Readers Digest.
Till 1979, RDAPL was the company that used to publish Readers Digest in India. RDIPPL was formed in the same year and it subsequently turned RDAPL into its wholly owned subsidiary.