WITH COVID-19 SWEEPING ACROSS the world 2020-21 was the most unprecedented andchallenging year since the Second World War. India's lockdown in March-May 2020 severelyimpacted all spheres of economic activity with mobility coming to a nearcomplete haltacross the wide geography and massive population of our country. Consumption andproduction were severely pummelled. As a result the first half of FY21 saw the Indianeconomy fall into a steep pandemic-induced recession. For the year ended March 2021 thegross domestic product (GDP) witnessed a record decline of 7.3 per cent in growth theworst in 40 years. The pandemic-induced recession in FY21 came on the back of an economythat had already started to slow down from the third quarter of 2016-17. GDP growth slidfrom 8.2 per cent in FY17 to 4 per cent by the final quarter of 2019-20. It was just aboutthe time that the pandemic struck pushing India into a 68-day severe lockdown. Theeconomic impact of Covid-19 has been widespread and all-pervasive. It is estimated thatthe pandemic pushed 32 million people out of the middle class. The social impact of theeconomic recession has been devastating as well. Supply chains were disrupted within Indiaand globally leading to increased input costs and delayed delivery schedules in severalsectors. Widespread job losses and falling incomes impacted consumer demand.
The stressed economy naturally affected the Media and Entertainment (M&E) sectorwhich fell by 24 per cent taking revenues back to 2017 levels. Broadly with all forms ofoutdoor entertainment coming to a standstill as people stayed indoors advertising driedup seeing a significant decline in all major segments be it TV Films or Print.Advertising in Television the largest segment in the M&E industry witnessed a 22 percent fall in revenues even though ad volumes reduced only 3 per cent. While the Newssegment continued to lead with 31 per cent of overall TV ad volumes most advertisers werereeling under severe stress due to Covid which constricted their ad spend budgets.Ironically total TV viewership in this crisis-laden environment grew by 9 per cent andthe news genre which is your Company's primary area of operation grew by 27 per cent interms of average time spent over 2019. Although it did not lead to a commensurate increasein revenue the increased viewership has enhanced the brand's salience and willpotentially lead to increased revenues in the foreseeable future.
Digital advertising and OTT on the other hand fared much 'better with massive spikesin digital consumption during the lockdown across geographies. The digital media overtookprint and online gaming the disrupted filmed entertainment segment in 2020. Digital andonline gaming were the only segments that grew last year leading to the overall M&Esector growing from 16 per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2020.
Indians across metros Tier I and Tier II cities rapidly embraced digital mobile andsocial media with the lockdown further accelerating the process. As a result consumptionof digital news has increased significantly during the past year. Users seem to bedeveloping a penchant for the unique offerings brought to the table by digital real-timenews updates interactive articles with videos and images news segregated by categoriesand access to multiple publishers through news aggregators. Between January 2020 and April2020 the time spent on online news increased by 33 per cent in India. The worldwideaverage during the same period was 23 per cent. With people in India spending 68 billionminutes on news sites and apps in November 2020 the engagement was higher by 7 per centcompared to pre-Covid levels.
One of our main priorities in these Covid-ridden times is to keep our staff safe andthe operations running. We enforced strict Corona protocols isolated the reporting staffat different locations and achieved a high degree of Work from Home. I am happy to reportthat we kept all our channels and digital platforms on-air without missing a minutedespite all the adverse conditions we operated in. It is a demonstration of their totalcommitment and dedication to journalism and the Company. I am proud to say that our newscoverage from all our platforms during the pandemic has been outstanding and continues tobe so.
No wonder the network yet again swept the 20th edition of the Indian Television Academy(ITA) Awards with Aaj Tak and India Today TV winning both the Popular News Channel-Hindiand Popular News Channel-English awards respectively etching the Group's undisputedleadership in television news journalism. I am also delighted to share that your broadcastand digital channels have won a total of 76 medals including 31 Golds at theexchange4media News Broadcasting Awards 2020. The awards recognised the Group'sgold-standard news content and applauded its anchors reporters and editorial leadershipfor their sterling coverage of major events in a pandemic-ravaged year. In a legacyspanning over 45 years the Group continues to shine bright as India's most credible andtrusted news source.
As digital penetration in India grows so will the shift to digital news. Your Companyhas continued to expand its digital presence on all platforms be it YouTube TwitterFacebook or the Aaj Tak and Live apps to ensure subscribers and followers stay updated onregional and national news.
The India Today Group climbed to the position of No. 1 video news publisher towards theend of the financial year. Aaj Tak crossed 45 million subscribers and retained itsposition as the world's most subscribed and watched news channel on YouTube. With 170 percent growth the India Today Group's mobile apps were the most trusted news sources duringthe first pandemic lockdown (Mar. 2020-Apr. 2020).
Your Company has also been at the forefront of pioneering new technologies and inoffering differentiated viewing. The re-launch of one of our news channels Rs Tez' withexciting new shows new energy new look and feel strengthened its competitivepositioning. We now cover Crime Sports Politics Defence National Interest andEntertainment. Your Company has also launched 3 new websites in regionallanguagesAaj Tak Bangla India Today Malayalam and Mumbai Tak in Marathi.
The overall financial performance of your Company during FY 2020-21 has beensatisfactory. With the adverse environment of the year the total income was 8.85 per centless than the year before despite the boost of election based revenue of 6.67 per cent ofthe previous year. The profit before tax also declined only by 12.04 per cent to stand atRs 193.31 crores. However the operating profit margin for this year was a healthy 23.47per cent (on a standalone basis).
As the pace of vaccination picks up in India the World Bank has projected an 8.3 percent growth rate for India's GDP in 202122 followed by 7.5 per cent in 2022-23. I amconfident that with our strong brands on all platforms your Company has a bright future.
I want to place on record my sincere appreciation to the Board of Directors for theirguidance and support. I would also like to express my gratitude to all our stakeholdersfor their continued trust in the Company. Last but not least I would like to express myheartfelt thanks to all the employees of the Company.
Stay safe Warm Regards