TOI readers affluent, not middle class. Mind it.

2 February 2012

R. Sukumar, the editor of the business daily Mint, wrote an article recently on the Hindu-Times of India ad war, saying:

The Times of India has, over the past few years, become a good read … perhaps, driven by the realization that Page 1 of the country’s most-read English newspaper needs to reflect the sentiments of the English-speaking middle class…”

The Times of India, whose business daily The Economic Times competes with Mint in some markets, has taken offence—serious offence!—at this “slur” of its readers being middle-class.

In an unbylined piece on its website, a Times News Network (TNN) correspondent writes:

“TOI has a readership of 7.4 million…. [If] you compare it with the total size of the Indian population, which is approximately 1.2 billion… TOI‘s readers actually constitute 0.6% of the Indian population.¬†And logically speaking, they obviously know English, which is still the language of the elite in India.

“The Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated that India’s middle-class—defined as those able to spend $2 and $20 a day in 2005 purchasing power parity dollars had expanded to about 420 million. By this definition, TOI readers are not only just 0.6% of India’s overall population, they also constitute barely 1.8% of its middle class.

“Interestingly, the report defined those who could spend more than $20 a day as affluent. India has approximately 26 million of them. It’s a safe bet that most of TOI’s readers would fall into this category. So, if at all a word has to be used to describe TOI readers, it should be “affluent”.

“Though perhaps it might be more accurate to dub them the creamiest of layers. Because when you compare their incomes and spending power with the Indian average, it is clear that they form the very peak of the pyramid.

“In any case, it’s the rare top industrialist/CEO/bureaucrat/politician who does not read TOI. Indeed, if you did a dipstick survey, you might struggle to find even one. TOI readers may be relatively small in numbers, but they wield disproportionate economic and political clout.

“They are decision makers, influencers, movers and shakers. Which is why it’s unfair to collectively club them under the omnibus term “middle class”.

Also read: How Times Hindu aimed at Hindu Times but shot DNA

External reading: A battle for the hearts and souls of readers

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5 Responses to “TOI readers affluent, not middle class. Mind it.”


  1. When in Rome do as Romans do. It applies to reading habits too. In Mumbai known as Bombay at the time I read TOI. But I have been reared in childhood at home in Kerala reading Hindu and Indian express. Midway through my life I started reading the central Indian Hitavada for more than a decade on transfer to Vidarbha.
    Back home in retirement in Gods own country I read Hindu. The advantage now is i get to glean through all these papers online. Nothing much changes really what paper you read with an open mind.

  2. Nirav Says:

    Hi. Your link “How Times aimed at Hindu but shot DNA” should have read “How Hindu aimed at The Times but shot DNA”.

  3. Nirav Says:

    This number-crunching is so wrong at so many places; it’s unbelievable that it was allowed to get published. But then, it’s the TOI.

    Just a “dipstick”, my uncle doesn’t read the TOI. He stays in what is geographically referred to as the “Hindi belt”, is the best known professional in his field in the entire state. He reads hindi newspapers, and the ET, but not TOI, though.

    I am a professional from Mumbai. From an income perspective, I am definitely in the top 5% of Indian population, and I don’t read the TOI.

  4. bc Says:

    In the frontpage ad in today’s ToI Chennai edition: We congratulate the competition for finally waking up to the Times of India.

    Four years ago, Chennai woke up to the Times of India. Finally, our competition has, too. We’ve enjoyed their new campaign reacting to our success in Chennai. We now look forward to them emulating our approach to connecting with readers, led by a new editor and CEO who’ve cut their teeth at the Times of India. We wish them good morning and good luck.

  5. Vishnu Says:

    Whatever be the numbers, the quality of language published in most of the English dailies in India is simply pathetic. From the front page to the sports page, and even on the editorial page, there are mistakes galore. These dailies refuse to self-correct or publish errata even after readers point the mistakes out. The media is the first to demand accountability from politicians. But will they admit their own mistakes? Never!


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