'TOI' ties up with Tata Sky for marketing in Delhi

NEW DELHI: While the long awaited JV between Hindustan Times and Times of India may not have surprised anyone, another marketing exercise by TOI could: it is a so-far unannounced tie-up between TOI and Tata Sky for the marketing of its DTH service in Delhi-NCR.

The deal is that Tata Sky is going to sell and collect the monthly subscription fees from their customers through the circulation department of TOI, now termed as Report and Market Development, or RMD department.

Sources in TOI refused to comment. But while it is being said that a deal was signed earlier this month, Tata Sky CEO Vikram Kaushik told indiantelevision.com: "There is a lot of discussion with not just TOI but beyond that also, but nothing has been finalised as yet."

Tata Sky has been running a business module so far that involves selling its dishes and STBs through shops selling mobile phones and electronics equipment, especially TV sets. But that does not seem enough.

They receive a large volume of orders and requests over the telephones which operate through BPOs. "If they have to land their own sellers to service all the new demands, it will be hugely costly and eat into their slender margins of selling boxes, especially due to the competition," a source told indiantelevision.com, adding that each box is a one-time sale only.

Which is why, Tata Sky, these sources reveal, has said that TOI's newspaper vendors can be used to get feedback from those who called. The plan is that since TOI has a massive network of newspaper sellers, they could be coordinated through the paper's RMD people. "The callers' addresses are going to be passed on to the vendors who would make actual contact with the interested persons, thus saving Tata Sky the effort, time and cost.

Similarly, Tata Sky has reportedly told the paper's bosses that it alone has 200,000 DTH homes in the entire Delhi-NCR region, a lot of them being in the group housing societies in outlying areas of the NCR, like Gurgaon, Rohini, Ghaziabad and so forth.

Tata Sky has proposed that the vendors also be used to collect the monthly charges for the card, which is a prepaid one.

"They wanted to avoid the 'cablewallah' experience, where the cable operator's grounds-man comes for the monthly rental and is sent back to come on another day. In any case, just as in the case of first-contact before a person buys a Tata Sky set, for collecting the monthly charges as well, the same inexpensive network of unskilled newspaper vending staff could be used.

In fact, Tata Sky has convinced TOI that even if a fraction of the total monthly charge for each card is retained by TOI as collection fee, that is a substantial amount per month with Tata Sky having 200,000 users and the number growing. The system would be smooth and make business sense to both the paper and the DTH operator.

It is not clear that this system would be tried in the other cities where TOI is read. It is believed that even in places where there is no TOI edition, but the company has bought other local papers, this system could be tried later.

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