Submitted by admin on Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:05

Vijay Darda, Lokmat Group Chairman shares his vision for the organization, going ahead, and what it takes to keep a brand relevant for 100 years



Maharashtra’s leading media group, Lokmat, enters its centenary year on December 15, 2017. To mark the occasion, the Group is all set to enter the Delhi market with the launch of a new edition in the National Capital Region. Recognizing the emerging power of the digital platform, the Group is also set to expand by launching news websites in various Indian languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and a few South Indian languages.
As the big day nears, Vijay Darda, Chairman, Lokmat Group, recalls the days when the newspaper was first launched in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra by his father, Late Shri Jawaharlal Darda, on December 15, 1918, and how the paper got its name from the fiery speeches of freedom-fighter Lokmanya Tilak. Besides its glorious past, Darda also shares his vision for the Group, going ahead, and what it takes to keep a brand relevant for 100 years. Excerpts from a free-wheeling conversation:

Q] Lokmat is entering its centenary year on December 15, 2017. How did you ensure that the brand remained relevant over the years?
To survive 100 years is a big thing for anyone, whether it is an organization or a person. We are very excited about it. I think the key to our success is the fact that we always took a stand for the people. We raised their issues and gave them a voice. It is very important to understand the inception of the brand ‘Lokmat’. My father, Late Jawahar Lal Darda, started the paper as part of the Independence movement. The word ‘Lokmat’ came from the speeches of freedom-fighter Lokmanya Tilak, who during one of his visits to Yavatmal, had repeatedly used the word. I recall how we used to keep copies of the newspaper secretly at Railway platforms or pavements with a box next to them. People would pick a copy and drop the money in the box. The newspaper was banned many times by the British government, but after every ban, we launched a bolder and more fearless paper. So, with that kind of legacy, we are now entering 100 years of being the voice of the people. We believe in a people’s movement.

Q] Entering the centenary year is indeed a remarkable sign of success for any brand or company. What are your big plans for this special year?
 On the day we enter our 100th year, we are launching the Delhi edition of Lokmat for Marathi readers in the National Capital Region (NCR). We live by the principle of ‘Jeethe Marathi, Teethe Lokmat (Wherever you find Maharashtrians, you will find Lokmat)’. The launch is expected to be attended by the who’s who of Delhi including several Cabinet ministers and the Delhi Chief Minister. We have already hired a team and everything is in place. Besides, there are plans to celebrate throughout the year, and our celebration will be with our readers. We want to take our celebrations to taluka (district) level. We want to celebrate with gram panchayats with the same reverence with which we will celebrate with bigwigs.

Q] How do you look at the emergence of Digital media, and how bright is the future of the Print medium in this scenario?
No one can deny the growth of the Digital medium. We have worked extensively on our Digital strategy and now we are planning to grow digitally. We want to go national through different languages. It will be part of www.lokmat.com. We plan to launch news websites in various languages such as Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and the South Indian languages. Talking about Print, I feel the future of regional Print is very bright, but I can’t say the same for English. Regional has its roots in villages and small districts, which are becoming more and more aware about their surroundings and are interested in news.

Q] What has been your business strategy over the years?
 Our strategy has been very simple - you generate a good product and business will follow. The focal point should be your readers. We have always kept our readers in mind and business has followed, on its own. In Pune recently, we called all developers/ builders and told them that if you do not get results, we will return your advertising money. The response was 80% in our paper, whereas our competitors could give only 20%. Moreover, a Hansa report has proved that we are No.1 in Maharashtra. We are waiting for the IRS report, but we are confident that we are the undisputed No. 1.

Q] Are there any other group initiatives that you would like to talk about?
There are a lot of things the group has been associated with in the last many years. One of the things close to my heart is our special Diwali magazine called DeepUtsav. It’s a one of its kind product coming from Maharashtra and leading writers like Gulzar Sahab and Shobhaa De have edited it and contributed to its growth. Within a few years of its launch, it broke all records. We sold 2.5 lakh copies. Then we have a platform called Sakhi for women, which is extremely popular. We have more than three lakh women as paid members. It is the biggest platform for women in the country. One of the leading IT colleges in Maharashtra is in Yavatmal, which was started by my father four decades ago. Our country’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, was impressed with my father’s vision for a district which was otherwise only known for its tribal community and landless labourers.

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