By Shine Jacob
Amid the build-up to the Durga Puja celebrations in West Bengal, two powerful media groups, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL) and Anandabazar Patrika (ABP), are readying themselves for the mother of all battles in the Bengali media industry.
While Anandabazar Patrika is scheduled to launch its daily tabloid Ebela in the state on September 17 (Vishwakarma Puja), BCCL, the country’s largest media conglomerate, is set to come up with its broadsheet Ei Samay on October 15 (Mahalaya).
And, as the stage is set for marketing and price battles between the two media conglomerates, it’s raining freebies not just for readers, but vendors as well. “Ebela’s strategy is to fill the maximum capacity of vendors, and it would carry out marketing through them alone. If a vendor gets a six-month order (that is, a cheque from a customer for at least Rs 150, ABP authorities would immediately pay the entire money to the vendor. On the other hand, Ei Samay is paying only Rs 60 of the six-month package of Rs 175, and its official team is directly dealing with customers. ABP is leading the race, with 50 per cent additional bookings. As far as vendors are concerned, Times is way back in the race,” says Ashim Saha, one of the largest newspaper agents in the Sealdah region.
An aggressive ABP group has also opted for combo packages, through which a six-month subscription package of Anandabazar Patrika and Ebela would cost Rs 862 (a discount of Rs 270 for customers). A package of Ebela, Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph for Rs 985 is also being offered. This would save customers Rs 662. BCCL is yet to come out with such combo packages.
Vendors say ABP has asked them to take 20 Ebela newspapers for every 100 Anandabazar Patrika copies they take.
Ebela would be sold at a cover price of Rs 2, while Ei Samay would be priced at Rs 4 on weekdays, and Rs 5 on Saturdays and Sundays, prices akin to those of Anandabazar Patrika. A BCCL official said, “We are not eyeing the small fish Ebela, our target is the big fish Anandabazar Patrika, currently, the second in the state’s broadsheet market.”
BCCL Executive President Rahul Kansal did not reply to an email sent by Business Standard. Dipankar Das Purkayastha, managing director and chief executive of ABP, also did not reply to an email.
Sources said the circulation teams of both the groups were targeting sales of 2,50,000-4,00,000 copies in the first six months.
For their new ventures, the two groups have also launched newspaper and TV campaigns, door-to-door canvassing, hoardings, outdoor events, etc. To attract customers, both are offering classified coupons worth Rs 500, apart from other prizes. Ebela is also scheduled to organise a kite festival a day before its launch.
With an eye on the Bengali youth, both groups have come up with innovative taglines. While Ei Samay has the tagline ‘Aamar shomai ashche’ (My time is coming), Ebela lures readers with the words ‘Ami aamar moto’ (I am like myself).
Anandabazar Patrika has roped in Suman Chattopadhyay, former Ekdin editor, to head the Ei Samay team. ABP Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Dipankar Das Purkayastha did not respond to an email questionnaire from Business Standard.
According to Audit Bureau of Circulation figures, Anandabazar Patrika has a circulation of about 12,50,000, while its closest competitor Bartaman has a circulation of about 5,34,000. Other competitors in the vernacular space are Aajkaal, Sangbad Pratidin, Ganashakti, Sakalbela, Ekdin and NEWZ Bangla.
BCCL is present in other regional markets, too, through Hindi dailies Navbharat Times and Sandhya Times, Marathi daily Maharashtra Times and Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka. Earlier, the group had planned to enter West Bengal through a tie-up with Bartaman. However, this did not materialise.