Submitted by admin on Mon, 08/21/2017 - 13:26

Rishi Darda, Editorial Director & Joint Managing Director of the Lokmat Group, stakes claim to top readership for Lokmat among Marathi dailies in the Pune market. He also says that the company’s goal is to generate 35% of its revenues from non-Print businesses in the next three years


In the corporate offices of the Lokmat Group in Mumbai, the buzz is all about growth and high morale. Rishi Darda, Editorial Director & Joint Managing Director of the Lokmat Group, is upbeat that the market has bounced back after demonetization and growth is back on track. He says, “Growth has upped the morale of my team members, but the big buzz for us, of course, is that we are No. 1 now in Pune. It’s a market where we have been spending a lot of time, money and energy. And it was a big battleground. The incumbent was No. 1 only in that market, while we were No. 1 in most of the rest.”


Darda’s statement about capturing the Pune market and emerging as the No.1 Marathi daily, is, however, not borne out by the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures, which pegs Lokmat at No. 2 in the pecking order of Marathi dailies, with an overall circulation of 941,695 for the period July-December 2016. ABC also does not have clear numbers with regard to Lokmat’s current circulation in Pune, and has put out a ‘Not Received’ label in the relevant column. According to ABC, the latest average qualifying circulation figures of Marathi publications (Pune edition) are Agrowon -26,692, Daily Sakal - 5,98,189, Lokmat – Not Received, Loksatta -63,144, Mumbai Choufer -10,361, Pudhari - 1,92,912 and Punya Nagri-42,229. As for readership, current Indian Readership Survey (IRS) data, as we know, is not available and the next IRS report is expected only in 2017 end.



Darda’s contention is that the ABC report does not take into consideration both qualified and non-qualified copies. “Our total circulation is 16 lakh, out of which the qualified copies that ABC shows is close to 10 lakh. Nearly 40% of our copies are not shown in ABC, which differentiates between qualified and non-qualified copies. If you take the 16 lakh figure, there is a huge gap between us and the No. 2. Our numbers are higher in all these markets, and if you look at AdEx data of 2016, we have been able to get better advertising than Sakal in the last one year. But the question is, how many advertisers actually look at ABC before finalizing a campaign? Most of them look at readership. And that’s why we have been tracking our readership numbers a lot more. If you compare IRS 2012 and 2014 numbers, our market-share had increased from 37% to 45%, talking of just Lokmat and Sakal.

Unfortunately, post 2014, there was no IRS. We finally had to go to the market with some numbers in the absence of IRS 2016, and therefore commissioned a survey by Hansa Research. Our numbers have come out very good. Hansa is an agency which every media organization, including our competitors, have used at some point, so we believe those are credible numbers,” he states.

Based on the findings of the Hansa Research report, Lokmat put out a media campaign claiming top position in Pune city last year. Phase 1 of the campaign was launched in July 2016, with the iconic Puneri pagdi as its imagery. Phase 2 of the campaign, targeting all age groups and social profiles, especially women and youth, was launched later in the year. Both campaigns publicized the readership figures - Lokmat – 10,70,000; Sakal – 9,47,000 - in a big way, quoting numbers from the Hansa Research report.

This was preceded by the ‘Ata Bas’ (Enough is Enough) campaign, in which Lokmat picked up important civic issues such as water, traffic and education and actually worked with the administration and citizens on activities aimed at making Pune a better city. “In 2013, we realized that there was a vacuum in Pune, and nobody really understood the needs of Pune citizens. So we came up with the ‘Ata Bas’ campaign,” Darda explains.

Commenting on Lokmat’s Print business overall, Darda says the Hindi daily Lokmat Samachar (present in Nagpur, Aurangabad and Akola) is doing well though a few other editions which weren’t doing well have been shut down. He adds that the English Lokmat Times (present in Nagpur, Nasik and Aurangabad) has been showing continuous growth. In all markets, there is also an aggressive push to Digital. “This year’s target is going to be 200% plus growth on Digital,” Darda says, adding that there is traction from overseas audiences, and about 25% of the audience on Digital already comes from international markets.


“At Lokmat, we have striven for over 90% efficiency in operations, processes and production, resulting in seamless experience of the newspaper in any part of Maharashtra. With focused investments in new technology, with newer machine installations, we are all geared up for enhanced capacity and new readers. All editions need to adhere to strict norms of printing and production, which include minimal wastage and high quality reproduction, giving utmost value to advertisers and clients. Very soon, our latest state-of-the art printing Press across all locations will be converted into green units with energy efficient use of power via solar energy. Beyond this, our focus on employee performance and retention continues along with market-wise focus to gain market leadership.”


Executive Director, Lokmat

“Ganesh Utsav being a main festival for our readers, we are embarking on two big properties – creating on ground connect with a Ganpati Mandal completely managed by women and members of Sakhi Manch, known as Ti-Cha Ganpati, which has become popular in the last couple of years. Also, in line with our focus on digital and online content, during Ganesh Utsav, we are looking to launch a video with an interesting social message on our digital platforms. We had done such a video for Independence Day too.”

Editorial Director & Joint MD, Lokmat Group



Q] What are the challenges you foresee in the working of the Lokmat Group in the next couple of years?

We have been investing a lot in the newer markets. We have invested about Rs 130 crore in Pune alone. Hopefully, returns should come in line with our investments. We are also investing in new non-Print mediums, so how would those returns start coming in? Those are areas of risk.


Q] How has the profile of the Lokmat reader evolved?

The profile of the reader has always shown an upward growth. We have a huge percentage of readers in Sec A and Sec B, and a good number of readers even in Sec C and Sec D. The aim is to move towards a younger population and the women genre.


Q] Are you planning to launch Lokmat in any other language soon?

In the short term, no. Mumbai and Pune are equivalent to two or three States put together. And that’s a huge market for us to capture. We finished Pune. Mumbai would be the next.


Q] What is your key word for building brand Lokmat and defining it?

‘Patrakarita parmo dharma’ - that’s the tagline we created a year back. Staying true to your readers is very important. We are regional only by language, not by our vision. By vision, by our standards, by the infrastructure that we provide to our team members, our offices, our presses, they match any of the national brands. We have just decided to be in a certain language.


Q] With Paperboat Brandworks on board, what is your communication approach?

We have partnered with both Red Tree and Paperboat; the creative brief is very clear - Maharashtra needs to be synonymous with Lokmat. We are coming up with a very big campaign specifically on ‘Swachh Maharashtra’. It pained me to see that Maharashtra was not among the top 10 States in the cleanliness table. We will go out and partner with the authorities to hopefully bring Maharashtra within the top 10.


Q] Tell us something we do not know about Rishi Darda, the person.

I’m working on my interviewing skills - and look at starting a series of my own where I would go out and interview successful entrepreneurs. At an internal event to recognize our top employees, I interviewed my Dad and Uncle, and got them to dance on stage!


Q] What keeps you awake at night?

I suffer from insomnia. Now that we are in the digital age, even at 3 am a story can break, and you could send it out. So, in general, I am alert and sleep very little. I’ve just improved to not disturbing my team members at night!


Q] Do you think the media is free in India?

I don’t believe in unbiased media - media needs to have a certain bias. That’s what differentiates the policy of one over the other.


Q] What is the one work mantra that you abide by?

I am very honest and transparent. I just can’t sugarcoat things.



Other than Print, the Lokmat Group has two major focus areas - one is to provide solutions in experiential marketing, events and activations through a specialized unit called Taplight, and the second is a digital solutions unit, Clickstart. “Now, the revenue percentage split between the Print and non-Print businesses would be about 90-10, but the idea is to take non-Print revenue up to about 35% in the next three years,” says Darda, outlining the Group’s plans. “For both Taplight and Clickstart, we have had entrepreneurs come and set up shop and look at how those units could work even independent of the newspaper. They need to work completely in silos and still be profitable. For Taplight, we aim to reach Rs 100 crore in the next three years. We are already working with very big brands in India, in the last mile journey to reach the consumer. Under Taplight, we have created IPs such as Lokmat Maharashtrian of the Year, Lokmat Women Summit, Maharashtra’s Most Stylish, etc., and also monetized them. We have also given good value to our advertisers. For Clickstart, the mandate is to be the largest digital house in Maharashtra. Digital opens up many opportunities - while we are there in Television through IBN Lokmat, we are getting very aggressive and focusing a lot on video content. We will also look at investing in promising companies or acquiring them.”

The Group has also spotted opportunities in entertainment and sports, and runs CNX Masti, an entertainment portal in Marathi. It has recently roped in veteran sports journalist Ayaz Memon to sharpen the sports offering, especially in the digital medium. 




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