Bennett, Coleman and Co Ltd (BCCL), the publisher of The Times of India, launched its Bengali newspaper Ei Samay on Monday, the first day of the Puja season, kicking off a marketing and circulation battle with Anandabazar Patrika (ABP), the market leader in the state.
According to trade sources, the Times group printed 185,000 copies of Ei Samay on the first day, of which about 150,000 were sold.
“The positive point with the Times newspaper is that it has an assured subscription base of 100,000. As far as the first day is concerned, Ei Samay has performed well,” said Binod Gupta, secretary of the Paschimbanga Sambad Patra Bikreta Samiti, a workers’ union affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Echoing him, Manoj Tiwary of the Trinamool Congress-affiliated Esplanade Sangbadpatra Bikreta association, said: “Around 15,000 Ei Samay copies came to my area, all of them were sold.”
While the Times debut has a good subscription base, the new product from the ABP stable, E Bela, is not too far behind. E Bela was launched on September 17.
Industry sources claimed E Bela on an average prints 110,000 copies, and has a subscription base of 62,000. While the reach of E Bela is limited to the city, the Times group is making Ei Samay available in the outskirts, reaching up to Sealdah, Krishnanagar, Howrah and Uluberia.
However, with its pricing strategy, Ei Samay has made it clear that it is competing with Anandabazar Patrika, which has a circulation of about 1.2 million.
E Bela is selling at a cover price of Rs 2 and with Anandabazar Patrika, it is sold at Rs 1. On the other hand, Ei Samay is priced at Rs 4 on week days and Rs 5 on Saturdays and Sundays, similar to that of Anandabazar Patrika.
Interestingly, when The Times of India was launched in West Bengal, it was circulated for free by the group for seven days in a row, but this time around, the group appears to have reserved the spend for marketing and advertising.
Ei Samay has launched its campaign in the visual media starring Bangla bands, apart from traditional advertising routes. There is a lot on-ground advertising, too, with the Pujas just round the corner.
“While during the initial booking E Bela was leading the race, Times picked up later in terms of subscription,” said Ashim Saha, one of the largest newspaper agents in the Sealdah region.
For E Bela, in the six months subscription, the vendor gets the entire amount of Rs 150 from ABP, but Ei Samay is paying only Rs 60, out of the six months package of Rs 175.
“More than Anandabazar Patrika or E Bela, the Times newspaper is going to hurt Bartaman (second in terms of circulation with 534,000 copies). A lot of people have asked for replacing it with Ei Samay,” Gupta added.
Sources confirmed that the circulation teams of both E Bela and Ei Samay are targetting sales of about 250,000 to 400,000 copies in the first six months.
For readers, it’s a deluge of content.
“It’s as if surplus news is available in regional language. The first day’s edition was good from Ei Samay, while E Bela is equally good from a content point of view. However, both are separate products, one a tabloid and another broadsheet,” said writer Mani Shankar Mukherjee, popularly known as Shankar.
However, Dipankar Das Purkayastha, managing director and chief executive officer of ABP Ltd was not available for comment. He did not answer to repeated calls and text message from Business Standard.