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Indian love affair

Shuchi Bansal  |  New Delhi 

MEDIA: can't seem to stay away from launches in India - but are they viable?
Here's some hot off the press "" high-end American fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar will hit newsstands in June. The brand will be introduced in India by the India Today group which has already built a formidable portfolio of foreign journals such as Harvard Business Review,
Harper's Bazaar will compete with Conde Nast's fashion brand Vogue to be launched in a few months. Men's periodical Esquire and National Geographic are scouting for Indian partners. The impending launches must be viewed against the backdrop of the arrival of UK's celebrity magazine Hello! and Prevention in India.
Rodale Press's Prevention is said to be the world's largest selling health journal. Paprika Media, the licensee for London-based Time Out also launched in Delhi recently, though it has been in Mumbai since 2004.
Clearly, licensing of foreign magazine titles is on an all-time high. Harper's Bazaar will be India Today's third licence from the US-based publishing house Hearst Corporation after Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Hearst's other women's magazine Marie Claire, licensed to the Outlook Group, was launched last year. 





Harper's Bazaar
(to be launched)
Hearst Corporation India Today Group
Prevention Rodale Press India Today Group
Golf Digest Advance Publications India Today Group
Scientific American Scientific American Inc India Today Group
Harvard Business Review Harvard Business
School Publishing
India Today Group   
Good Housekeeping Hearst Corporation India Today Group
Cosmopolitan Hearst Corporation India Today Group
Time Out Time Out Group Paprika Media
Marie Claire Hearst Corporation Outlook Group
Maxim Dennis Group Transasia
Better Homes& Gardens Meredith Corporation Transasia
Travel + Leisure
(South Asia)
American Express
Top Gear BBC Worldwide Worldwide Media
Hello! Hello Ltd Worldwide Media
OK! Northern & Shell VJM Media
Vogue (to be launched) Conde Nast Conde Nast India
Maheshwar Peri, the Outlook Group publisher, believes the Indian market ain't seen nothin' yet as far as niche magazines go. Agrees India Today CEO Ashish Bagga: "India is a burgeoning market for foreign niche titles."
Experts say the magazine market is moving towards niches as consumer needs are not general. "Any special interest vehicle will overtake a general interest vehicle," observes Ravi Kiran, CEO, Starcom Mediavest.
His belief is that people have specific interests. "Besides, lives and habits are changing. Five years ago how many consumers bought dog food or how many of them drank wine?"
Licensing of international brands is driven by foreign publishers' interest in the Indian market. For starters, growth in their own markets is slow (3-5 per cent) compared to India where print grew at 24 per cent in 2006. The advertising share of print, too, is large at 48 per cent (ADEX figures) versus 40 per cent of television.
Besides, through a licensing agreement, magazine brands can enter India sans risk. In lieu of zero investments, they get a royalty fee for allowing the use of their brand name.
"The loss is all yours while the international partner enjoys a minimum guarantee," points out Peri. industry sources say that this could vary from 6 per cent to a maximum of 15 per cent of the turnover.
Yet, the business is attractive to Indian "Some deals may not be immediately profitable, but overall it is not a bad idea," says Raj Mohan, president, Images Group, which is planning foreign fashion and lifestyle titles.
The business model depends on the genre of the magazine. In the circulation revenue driven model, the cover price of the magazine is high. "Many of my magazines started making money within a few months of the launch," claims Bagga.
Piyush Sharma, CEO, Transasia, who is hoping to launch three new titles this year, says breakeven for such magazines usually takes three years. But stricter budgeting could compress this to 12-18 months.
Fashion, lifestyle and women's magazines, however, are advertising-led. Some of the glossies in this category are priced between Rs 50 and Rs 75, which may not be sufficient to cover the cost of production. But advertising is pouring in. The latest issue of Marie Claire, for instance, has 100 pages of ads in a 234 page magazine.
Sceptics insist that advertising rates are highly discounted, making these magazines unviable. "On a card rate of Rs 1.15 lakh, you could discount about 40 per cent. But the ad volumes are large," says Gopinath Menon, vice president (media) TBWA India.
Back of the envelope calculations suggest that a well-known international women's magazine priced at Rs 50 would lose money (about Rs 2 crore) for a year or two. It could start making money if it upped its cover price or commanded a premium on ad rates.
Experts believe that advertising could only grow. Both Indian and international brands in the apparel, grooming, lifestyle and fragrance category are allocating spends to niche magazines.
"Five years ago, this wasn't the case," says Bagga. Agrees Raj Mohan: "Nearly 2,000 luxury brands will come to India in the next couple of years. And for them, mass like TV and newspapers are not an option."
Mahendra Swarup, CEO, Paprika Media, that brought Time Out to India, says creating a bouquet of magazines makes better economic sense. "You can amortise the cost and get different advertisers for different niches." Distribution becomes easier as hawkers are inclined to push the magazine company that offers them commissions for multiple brands.
Tying up with foreign magazines makes sense as some of the content they offer is difficult to create. "Also, it would be a waste to launch your own brand and then fight with a foreign player in the same genre," says Raj Mohan.
"It is important to see if the brand and content can travel," says Bagga. Besides, it helps if the magazine is available in, say, 30 countries. "Brands coming to India from those countries will look at it as an advertising vehicle," says Peri. Harper's Bazaar, for instance, is published in 18 countries.
However, planners find it hard to convince advertisers on the return on investments as their circulation numbers are minuscule and unaudited. analysts offer that for every magazine that claims a circulation of 80,000-1 lakh copies, the runs are more likely to be in the range of 15,000-25,000 copies.
The other worry is that readership surveys show an overall decline in reader base, both in urban and rural India. According to NRS, the reach of magazines has declined from 75 million in 2005 to 68 million in 2006.
The belief is that only genuine niches will survive and not more than 2-3 brands in each category may flourish. Sums up Swarup: "Their numbers may remain small, but special interest magazines are ready to rule the market."


First Published: Tue, April 10 2007. 00:00 IST