The following are edited excerpts of the address to the editorial employees of Vijaya Karnataka, Vijay Times, and The Times of India-Kannada by Ravi Dhariwal, executive director, Bennett, Coleman & Co and the newly appointed chief executive officer, Times Publishing, on Wednesday, January 31 in Bangalore:
We believe in the future of VPL (Vijayanand Printers Limited). We believed that VK would always be the No. 1 paper in Karnataka. The lead VK has over Praja Vani would increase. VK is a long-lasting property. In the last few months our lead over PV has increased. In the last five months, VK has increased by 40,000 copies. We are totally convinced that VK will be No 1 and will continue to be the market leader. Nothing has dissuaded us from doing anything other than improving it.
We were always very worried about Usha Kirana. In the publishing business it is extremely important to be profitable. You need to add pages, people, machinery and adopt technology at a high cost. If you are a loss-making company where will money come from? Without profit you cannot prosper.
English languages papers are more profitable than vernacular. The price of the newspaper is only a fraction of making a paper. A 24-page paper like VT costs anywhere between Rs 7 and Rs 9 to produce. We collect 50 praise by selling it. We have to be depend upon advertisements for revenue. Only the No. 1 and No. 2 newspapers make money while others lose.
Usha Kirana was very low in circulation and it was sustaining heavy loss. It is not easy to make money in language papers. We took a hard decision that we should close down UK. We believed that instead of UK, if we publish a mirror version of The Times of India in Kannada we thought it would become the No. 3 Kannada language paper. If we can make ToI-Kannada into a nice, Bangalore-centric Kannada paper which also reflects the world view, it would be successful.
When we discussed it with the UK editor, we were very excited. The paper is made somewhere else, translated into Kannada, 30 percent are original stories. The results are very good, though it is in the market only a few days. Readers are happy. No reservations about it. Our print order on January 30 was 60,000 copies. H D Deve Gowda and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy were happy about the ToI-Kannada paper.
I congratulate you for the success of this new Kannada paper. This decision had a huge impact on the profitability of VPL. The company was losing Rs 12 crore a year. Vijay Sankeshwar and Anand Sankeshwar said, “We are finding it difficult to run, please take over VPL.” When we took over, we thought that it would achieve zero-loss within one year and the company had to stand on its own legs and not on ToI.
When we took over, VT was seen as a poor man’s English product. The VT staff tried to make it better. It made progress when a new editor came in. It showed constant improvement. We were able to get to a lakh of copies in Bangalore. Despite that, a poor man’s English paper will
not work in Bangalore.There was a disconnect between the language and what VT stood for. VT was losing Rs 1.5 crore a month, UK 50 lakhs while VK was making profit.
About four months ago we proposed to the editor to change name and make it as Bangalore Mirror as we are certain to launch it soon. VT should have moved in that direction. The editor said he would make changes. He was not able to make changes as we wanted. I congratulate the editorial staff of the paper, but it could not become No 2. Unless we become No 2 it will not be possible to make money.
You should make Bangalore Mirror vibrant, make it young, make it more successful and make it a paper for English speaking people rather than a poor man’s English paper. Pack it with Bangalore-centric stories, sprinkling of National, international stories, lot of sport of entertainment IT and glamour activity. If you say yes, it will be a successful paper.
You may have received a lot of information. We have no intention of closing VT, but we want to make it No 2 in different name. We did not intend to kill it. We intend to be No. 1 and No. 2 in Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore. If you go well with Bangalore Mirror we can achieve it soon. This is a challenge to VT staff . I had discussions with the editor but he did not want to be a part of this change. I am requesting you to join us in this journey. Once we succeed, we will be No 2.
We need to integrate our advertisement and sales all over the country. Only 16 percent has improved in advertisement. I want VPL to be much more profitable.
Production centres to be more centralised and modernised with much more IT connectivity. We can understand how it will move. We must build brands, make it more profitable and invest the returns to improve the newspaper.
You are apprehensive what would happen to the staff. It is our intent to keep as many as you as possible. We also need more people in VK, ToI Kannada. We will transfer from one to another. A coordinator will come and make this transformation happen under the leadership of
Vishweswara Bhat who will be in charge during the transformation.
Whether you play your part in VK, ToI Kannada or Bangalore Mirror is left to you depending upon your merit. Come with your head, heart and passion to work. If it is not there, this is not a place for you to work.
As an outsider I have an absolute belief in this company. We believe in VK and its leadership, it is a great great product. No where in the world within two years has a paper become a leader in its place.
I sincerely hope it will go from success to success. ToI Kannada is a great start. Initial signs of ToI Kannada is very good. We will spare no efforts to make Bangalore Mirror a good paper. We will make it work. Come with full passion, dedication and a positive attitude.
Reporter Narayan Ammachchi: Sir, Our major apprehension is that Bangalore Mirror will not be allowed to compete with ToI.
Dhariwal: The two products will be totally different. ToI is known for its national, international and sports coverage.It represents the world view. Civil society is bigger than state. We have no agenda, no politics. ToI has a lofty editorial policy. It believes in Mahaveera‘s policy. It talks from youth to a youth, adult to adult. ToI presents stories in its own way.
Bangalore Mirror will be for young people. It will be for the IT employee with Rs 20 K to 30 K monthly income. He is not interested in politics. He gives importance to what is happening in city and not in the nation. Bangalore Mirror will have one nation, one internatinal page and lots of sports, Bollywood stories, entertainment, city-centric, fashion and IT stories. It is a very different productfrom ToI. It will not be fighting with ToI but will be complimentary to ToI.
In Bombay they read ToI at home. Read Mumbai Mirror on way to office. Total circulation of all other papers in Mumbai including DNA and others is not much, compared to Mumbai Mirror.