"Clients are reducing ad budgets and want to become doubly effective with their reduced spend": Lokmat Group of Newspapers ,Group General Manager, Jwalant Swaroop
Known for his simple and media-shy attitude, it was difficult to catch Jwalant Swaroop, the Group General Manager of India's largest Marathi newspaper group.
Having propounded the Readers Rating Point concept, which is widely in use by many research organisations worldwide, Swaroop has been managing the space marketing of the Lokmat Group of Newspapers for the last 10 years. He has understood the psyche of the rural consumers to the core and has been advising clients with effective solutions. He believes that for a complex problem there cannot be a complex solution. As a space marketer he finds his ability to think simple solutions to complex issues has helped him create a significant brand wealth for Lokmat among the advertisers across the country. caught up with Swaroop for an interview in Delhi. Excerpts -
You belong to one of the fastest growing publishing houses in Maharashtra. Do you agree that the advertising pace is slowing down? What is your reaction?

True, media spending in press in the current year is lesser than the previous year.

What reasons do you think attribute to this trend?

Media fragmentation is the main reason. Clients have cut down the ad budgets due to low off take. Important categories for press have reduced their spend. However, there are some slow recovery signs.


How long do you think this trend will persist?

It is difficult to predict but I wish it ends soon. The longer it continues, the harder it will be to face, especially for the publications, which are having widespread editions and not many streams of advertising revenue in the company.

"Advertising differentiation is becoming difficult, recall is getting lowered"
How do you view media spending now?

If I compare it with last year, I will say it is improving. The last few months have been better in terms of volume growth. Television advertising though has captured a better advertising share of 46.5 per cent compared to print 43 per cent in an industry size estimated to be of Rs 10, 536 crore (Rs 1053.6 million). Print, particularly, newspapers are fighting back quite aggressively. Advertising in regional publications particularly daily newspapers is bound to increase with the festive time now round the corner. I am sure many sales promotional schemes will be launched and the advertising volumes in the press will certainly move up. Further, last year we did not see many launches happening especially in the categories, which are press heavy - say, colour televisions, home appliances and two wheelers. There are many launches this year. However I guess there will be all round growth in media spend compared to last year. Marketers are now having their strategy for slow down period in place and hence are effectively addressing their communication needs better this year.

Do you think print as a medium is under pressure from television? If yes, how do you think that the print will win back its position?

No. Not really. Well we should now understand that both will coexist and in fact will complement each other. Market realities are getting complex every day and so are the entertainment needs. Circulation of all the front-line dailies is rising, More editions are being put up by the publishers. In fact, regional publishers are now crossing their boundaries to enhance reach and cater the audiences in cities which are more advertising focused. The deliveries in print are improving and I have no reason to feel that the print is under pressure from TV. However, the fight for a better advertising share will continue and to prove the relevance of the medium in a given market will of course be on the sellers of both print and TV.

We understand that in these difficult times Lokmat did very well.

Yes we did better than our competitors. You see Maharashtra has a very clear divide. Cities of Mumbai and Pune can be considered as one market and the Rest of Maharashtra as another. Mumbai and Pune markets are the worst hit. Rest of Maharashtra, which we call as New Maharashtra had no signs of slow down, as the people here do not face similar insecurities as the counter households in Mumbai and Pune. The households in Mumbai and Pune mainly depend on the salaried income as far as the largest chunk of consumers of lower and upper middle class is concerned. The New Maharashtrian has his incomes coming from agriculture largely, besides salary and business. The festive mood in smaller cities is always far more encouraging than the metros or mega metros. Since we control the largest territory in Maharashtra with clear margins we could get better advertising volumes than our competitors. Having strong presence of Lokmat in Mumbai and Pune which are on their way of becoming No. 1 in the respective markets, we were picked up in many media plans for our effectiveness both in qualitative and quantitative terms while assuring advertisers a substantial savings due to low rates compared to the leaders in these two markets. Since Rest of Maharashtra was promising good results to marketers, they were not hesitant in committing large budgets for this market.
Do you think that the scene will get tougher in the next few months?

I guess so. In fact since 1971, the post Pakistan-war period, there has been all around growth in the Indian business and commerce. The Indian political and business environment had been extremely good for the publishing industry. There have been so many newspapers and magazines launched during this period. In the last one decade, we have seen such a huge array of media options revolutionizing the entire entertainment industry in India. For the first time in the last few months the Indian publishers have witnessed something, which we can never dare to dream. Almost all the publishers follow the advertising lead business model. Hence it is important to continuously draw good advertising volumes through innovation with in your company.
How do you think it is possible in the given scenario, specially when the electronic medium too is slowly eating into the print medium's share of ad spend?

It is difficult but not impossible. Clients are reducing their advertising budgets and want to become doubly effective with their reduced advertising spend. Therefore clients are adopting creative approaches to non-traditional media. Every single marketer today wants to maximize its reach. As publishers, we have to see how can we reinvent ourselves in these changed dynamics. Obviously it is prohibitively costly for a marketer to reach out to every single customer in his target group in a given market. Hence as publisher we can ensure that the store/ marketer/advertiser reaches out to its focused audience in an extremely relevant manner. As publishers, we need to create the balance of delivering response for building critical mass through focused audience for the brand.
So, what is the Lokmat group doing in this regard ?

At Lokmat we are already engaged in developing this idea through building various community groups within and outside our readerships. Communities form around a shared purpose. They are made up of people who come together to do something, which they cannot do alone. Communities tend to revolve around a particular interest or common task or hobby; they can be sources of sharing information and become deep reservoirs of customers. These communities form distinct and definite customer bases for the marketers. Through these communities we can provide advertisers a platform in the relevant target group where he wants to invest in building and positioning the brand. The Lokmat Community Initiative is an interesting project we are pursuing in this direction. In this, we have created some highly interactive platforms such as Sakhi Manch a club for ladies, Yuva Manch a club of youth, Balvikas Manch a club for children and Membership of Lokmat Privilege card. This is a value addition to the advertisers within our publication. It caters to the client's requirement, as it is untraditional and creative approach.
"I believe that a space seller in a newspaper is not in the business of selling space of the newspaper but is in the business of selling all the products and brands that are advertised in newspaper's columns. Unless I know how my clients do their business, how can I offer them a solution?"

How do you think it will help the advertisers?

For example, marketers run so many promotional schemes offering similar freebies by different product marketers. At one point of time, it appears that there is a significant rush among marketers to better the freebie offering than the competitor. I did a small survey among my friends to find out who is offering what. I was amazed that none could tell me correctly. Advertising differentiation is becoming difficult as much as the product differentiation has been. Advertising recall is getting lowered, therefore it is required that the target group be reached through an integration of mass, niche and personal advertising to enhance and extend the reach.

While advertising in our publications will offer mass reach to a brand, event sponsorship of our various communities will offer niche to a brand, and the direct mailing to the members of our various databases through SMS, E-mail and Snail-mail, will be a personalized advertising. I think the ability of a publication to create new media surrounding the core product will eventually lead to success. The creation of routes can differ from market to market, which the publication has to explore on its own. However, I am sure of one thing that the advertisers will immensely benefit out of this integration of new media. Since the reach and the recall are enhanced it will obviously result in high motivation for purchase and thus lowering down the cost of advertising .


How do you foresee the growth of your publications?

We have worked very hard in achieving our number one position among the Marathi newspapers. At Lokmat we have endeavored to create the understanding about Marathi audience at the deepest level. This is evident from the success of our Mumbai and Pune editions. In less than two years we have shaken the competitors who have preferred to go on the defensive now. We have always been very alive to the changing needs of our readers. Lokmat research cell is continuously engaged in continuous monitoring. We are now selling nearly one million copies every day.

As far as Maharashtra is concerned we have the deepest penetration with 10 editions of Lokmat Marathi publication, three editions of Lokmat Samachar Hindi publication and two editions of Lokmat Times English publications. Each of these editions is performing very well. Since our effort to increase our association with the people through community building is paying off very well, I think our circulation will soar further. We have recently relaunched all our publications with new look in 27.5inch web size. It has been received very well. We have also gone into editorial restructuring which has improved our content in the direction we have strategically thought of. Both IRS and NRS have rated us to be the sixth largest read newspaper in the country. I believe we will certainly improve our ratings in the coming surveys.

"At Lokmat we have endeavored to create an understanding about Marathi audience at the deepest level "
What do you think has been the secret of Lokmat's spectacular success?

Our people. We have invested in our people at all levels. I personally involve myself in various programmes including the induction programme for our executives and managers. Like most of the regional publishing groups Lokmat is also a family run publishing group but this group offers enormous respect and freedom to the professionals. We always try to create the sense of belonging within our people, which obviously helps them in taking right and effective decisions and contributing their best. This motivates them. Finding success in Mumbai and Pune markets otherwise would have been difficult, as you know these markets were our test fields and I am happy we came out in flying colours.

And what has been your success mantra?

I believe that a space seller in a newspaper is not in the business of selling space of the newspaper but is in the business of selling all the products and brands that are advertised in newspaper's columns. Unless I know how my clients do their business, how can I offer them a solution?

A 100cc advertisement in my newspaper costs Rs. 2,65,000/-. In this amount I can buy at least three photocopiers, one 800cc car, some eight colour TVs, eight Motor Cycles and so on. Hence I am in the business of selling expensive products. The buyers of such an expensive product demand marketing excellence in all respects, be it packaging or pricing. Therefore my outlook to the space marketing has always been different. I have always laid more emphasis in understanding the client's need and offering the solution as required .

We try to work closely with the marketers on the brand so that the brand experience in totality to the consumer is very satisfying. Since we are able to effectively integrate the space marketing and the new mediums that I have talked about earlier I find marketers finding better value by advertising in Lokmat.

Lastly, how does workaholic Jwalant Swaroop relax?

Yes, I love music, Indian classical in particular. I write. My book, Confession of a space seller is in its final stages. It is a compilation of case studies that I have made with the help of my fellow space marketers. Another book is a fiction novel The Autumn Break which is progressing fine and shall soon be completed. I love morning strolls. Two weekly visits to the gym keep me fit. I think exercise and meditation are very important to me for stress control.

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