As WAN-IFRA India 2010 approaches (15-16 September in Jaipur), we are talking to a number of industry insiders to get a clearer picture of the publishing situation in that region of the world. Norbert Ohl, CEO of ppi Media, explains how this Germany-based system provider has established a foothold in this growing market and the characteristics of Indian publishing that make it so unique.
WAN-IFRA: ppi has been present in India for quite some time, notably at the Times of India, Hindustan Times... with your experience there, what have you learned about Indian innovation and working practices?
Norbert Ohl: From the top ten Indian media houses, six are ppi Media customers. But this is not the only thing they have in common. They all share an almost unlimited optimism. Whereas everywhere else in the world media companies are facing decreasing revenues, in India the branch is dictated by growth.
Indian publishers are looking towards a bright future and most of them follow the strategy that what is good today can be even better by tomorrow. Trial and error is therefore a popular business strategy. Newly developed magazines and newspapers are launched, monitored and tested on a regular basis. If the numbers are good, they survive, if not, they stop. At the moment this strategy is unimaginable for example in Europe or the USA.
WAN-IFRA: I get the impression that the Indian market is not afraid of investing in the future either ... how would you describe its investment strategies?
Ohl: In India, money is made with print. And the more hyperlocal the newspapers are, the more successful print is. There are two major factors underlying the Indian newspaper market. On the one hand the trend is to go hyperlocal, and on the other hand to automate the advertising workflow.
The hyperlocal strategy aims to increase the number of readers in the entire country. New print sites are therefore put into operation and investments are made in software solutions. From an economical point of view, advertisements are even more important. As copy prices are low, money is made from advertising. Indian media companies therefore need solutions to improve ad selling, ad production and interconnectivity between the sites. To sum up, there is an anecdote which probably gives the best answer to this question. In 2003 Debashish Ghosh attended ppi’s Open Days as a guest speaker. He was asked why TOI decided in favour of ppi Media’s comparably expensive solutions to automate its publishing and ad workflow when manpower is as cheap as it is in India. Ghosh answered that, indeed, reducing manpower costs is a great side effect, but not the reason for their decision in favour of ppi Media. It was another aspect that made the whole investment an incredible success. Before ppi, the closing date for ads placed in more than one local edition of TOI was up to 36 hours before the printing deadline. With ppi solutions, this deadline has been reduced to one hour.
WAN-IFRA: What does it mean to ppi to be present there in terms of market expansion?
Ohl: India is one of ppi Media’s fastest growing and most important markets. And it all started with a coincidence. The Times of India was looking for the best solution for a state-of-the-art newspaper production. It found ppi. This highly professional cooperation has existed until now and was one of the door openers to a huge market – Asia! At the moment we are in negotiation with various media houses on the continent and are highly optimistic that we will be awarded a number of contracts.
We will feature a Best-Practice report in our November/December edition on the Times of India, which relies heavily on ppi's solutions.