'We have helped in the democratisation of the business news market space' : CNBC Awaaz editor-in-chief Sanjay pugalia

Five years and counting big. CNBC Awaaz dominates the Hindi business news segment, leaving counterpart Zee Business behind, and even marching ahead of elder sibling CNBC TV18 in terms of audience reach.

CNBC Awaaz has become more interactive along the way and has shaped up as a well-defined channel with a clear focus on utility news. It treats news with the aim of helping viewers take informed positions on investments.

The fundamental challenge that CNBC Awaaz faces is in scaling up revenues. The cost restructuring will, however, help the channel in improving its profitability.

In an interview with‘s Gaurav Laghate, CNBC Awaaz editor-in-chief Sanajay Pugalia talks about the channel‘s growth in the last five years and the path ahead in terms of content that would guide viewers in the verticals of stock, tax planning, commodity and SMEs.




CNBC Awaaz has completed 5 years. How has the Hindi business news market shaped up?

Five years back there was no Hindi business news channel. Today, with just two channels in this segment, there are close to 38 million Hindi business news viewers and we command a 70 per cent market share in this.

If you take the total viewership of the business news channels, it was close to 10 million five years back. Within two years of our launch, the pie grew to 30 million. Today, the combined viewership base for English and Hindi business news stands at almost 55 million.



How come the Hindi viewership base is higher from just two channels while the revenue is much lower?

On a mass basis, our appeal is larger then even CNBC TV18. Our viewers include small investors, consumers and businessmen. So in a way we have helped in the democratisation of the business news market space.

On the revenue front, even some English business news channels can‘t command the kind of advertising rates we do. But yes, it is also true that the dynamics of the market is that English business channels get higher rates.



So is it true that Hindi business news channels do not have a scalable model?

There is a myth that Hindi is not so upmarket. But if you do an affluent audience profiling, we are as good as that of CNBC TV18. And if you see our viewership pattern, most of them come from Mumbai and Delhi, followed by Gujarat and Maharashtra.

It is pertinent to note that the initial five years were a build-up stage. We will see much faster growth from now on.



What made you edge out Zee Business when both were launched around the same time?

The focus of our channel is in outlining the utility of news. There might be 10 important stories in a day, but how many are affecting our viewers? We decode such news in a manner that helps them understand the implications.

We will be covering other news as well, but our main emphasis will be user-centric. We focus on helping our viewer make the right investments to increase their wealth. Take real estate as an example. Our focus stories will be on the ground realities the sector faces rather than talking about how to improve the policies on real estate. Our object will be how to help viewers decide on which property to buy and we will suggest the rates and other things there.



Going forward, do you see space for more channel launches in this segment?

Business news viewership will definitely increase with time. With more and more people getting capital to invest and more awareness spreading on personal finance management, this market segment is set to grow.

Our estimate is that out of every 100 new consumers, two-thirds will come from the Hindi speaking belt, so you can imagine the future that the Hindi business news genre has.

I would say there is scope for new channels, but the success will depend on the strength of the network and how much credibility they can build. It won‘t be easy for new players.



Recently TV18 went through a cost restructuring and 12 per cent permanent jobs were cut. How effective has the move been in achieving profitability?

Cost rationalization is a necessity for any business. But you will not see any change in the editorial content. I can‘t share the absolute numbers, but very few editorial jobs have been cut.



‘The focus of our channel is in outlining the utility of news. There might be 10 important stories in a day, but how many are affecting our viewers? We decode such news in a manner that helps them understand the implications‘



So do you mean to say there was flab?

No. There were different growth plans during the bull run. We were focusing on extended news gathering. Now the market scenario has changed. We also have sensed that the news gathering needs are different. You see, the market dynamics are changing very fast and we have to change our FPC as per viewer‘s needs.

So we have reduced the number of shows but consolidated the information in them. We have also increased the coverage on commodity, personal finance, stocks and property.



How has the channel evolved over time?

Along with time, we have become more interactive; we promote direct involvement and grievance redressals. The treatment towards the stories has changed - and we are now positioned as an innovative business news channel.

We are catering to the specific needs of our viewers. I get more then 6000 SMSes and emails daily. And we try to reply to most of the queries. We are not just a business news channel; we run more like a campaign or a movement.



So what will the future focus be?

As I said earlier, the focus will predominantly be on the markets, SMEs, commodity and tax planning.

We will also continue to reach to our consumers on-ground with our activations and award properties.

The way India is progressing, there will be lot more new and young entrepreneurs. Our one-year focus is to organize more of financial literacy campaigns, help SMEs to grow, and cover miraculous entrepreneurial stories from different places.



And what about hard news?

I am not missing out on news. News hour shows are sacrosanct. But we need to have other strong offerings.



Hindi general news channels are into sensationalising content for gaining TRPs. Do you also see such a need for the business news segment?

I do not think there is any need to sensationalise. I am not against presenting news in an interesting and stylish way, but there is no need or room to sensationalise. 

 So how will you define your channel?

To sum it up in one sentence, we help viewers in spotting opportunities to prosper.

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