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The money is in Indian languages

Dec 11, 2009

We often argue that English is our connect language with the rest of the world. It links us to the world science community and global commerce. It opens up the internet to us. A lot has been said about how a workforce proficient in English helped create an entire sector. That of outsourcing. Ironically, there's another sector that also promises to rise into prominence, but this time on the back of India's regional languages. The media sector. While this trend is also visible in electronic media, it is especially strong in the newspaper segment.

National vs. local
Regional media is attracting a lot of attention. In the past, newspapers focused on national news rather than regional or local news. Not so anymore. Also, established players have moved into newer geogrpahies making the space increasingly competitive. Also, local advertising is becoming increasingly important. The new advertising Rupee comes from sectors like education, hospitality, real estate and jewelry. These sectors purse local advertising campaigns.

The key driver is the rise of the smaller cities. Tier 1 cities (population > 4 m) are not the only market anymore. Tier 2 cities (population of 1 m to 4 m) and Tier 3 cities (population of 0.5m to 1 m) are becoming increasing important. Between 2005 and 2007, the number of households in Tier 1 cities grew by 6.6%, but they grew by 7.4% in Tier 2 cities and 6.9% in Tier 3 cities. In fact, it is estimated that by 2025, the combined population of Tier 2 and 3 cities will equal the population of Tier 1 cities. Indian languages dominate

The rise of regional media has reinforced the dominance of Indian languages as the medium of communication. Of the total registered daily newspapers, 45% are Hindi while 7% are in English. As can be seen in the table, regional languages dominate the list of top 10 dailies. In fact, even among the 10 most read Indian magazines only one is in English.

The top 10 newspapers in India
Rank Publication Readers in (000's)
1 Dainik Jagran 16,072
2 Dainik Bhaskar 12,878
3 Hindustan 9,303
4 Malayala Manorama 8,883
5 Amar Ujala 8,183
6 Daily Thanthi 7,605
7 The Times Of India 6,866
8 Lokmat 6,789
9 Rajasthan Patrika 6,668
10 Ananda Bazar Patrika 6,549
Source: Indian Readership Survey 2009

In the past, the high readership numbers for regional newspapers have not translated into higher revenues. That is rapidly changing. The smaller cities are growing fast. The new advertising Rupee is being generated by the regional economy. And it is increasingly staying within the region. FMCG majors and auto companies are turning towards the smaller centers. Media can hardly be expected to buck the trend. So, all the aspirational qualities of English aside, the money in the media industry is moving towards Indian languages.

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