Sunday, June 08, 2008

How Hindustan Times (HT) lost it to Times of India (TOI) in terms of strategy and planning

Just a couple of years back Hindustan Times was the sole English newspaper in Jaipur, as Times of India had shut its shop in the City then. It was time, HT could have strengthened its edition and capitalised on TOI's exit but it chose to follow its competitor and shut the edition.

But after HT left the market, TOI again returned to Jaipur and launched a full-fledged edition. Soon DNA also followed suit. Now this important City in North India has two newspapers increasing their position with every passing day.

And HT that should have been the market leader had it stayed, is simply non-existent and nowhere in the race. Even if Jaipur was not bringing much revenue to HT's coffers, at least the organisation had a paper in Rajasthan, an entire state of nearly 50 million people. But they chose otherwise.

That's the story of HT. It's strategy has been perplexing in the last decade or so. Except the launch of Mumbai edition, it seems to have played in the hands of TOI and keeps playing second fiddle to the Times. It was in the early 90s that Times had suddenly started growing fast and gave HT management sleepless nights.

However, HT opened new editions and stabilised over the years. But the last couple of years it appears to be digging its own grave. Patna, one of the strongest editions of the paper, is in a bad state as the entire editing desk, left the paper due to poor salaries.

Surprisingly, Times that had given management greater authority in the past, has lately strengthened its editorial once again but HT is losing out on both counts. Editorial staff is deserting due to poor salaries and management is unable to take corrective steps.

The Kolkata edition is a failure. In Lucknow, it's not doing good at all. Bhopal and Ranchi are doing well though.
Even the staff in Chandigarh where it is the market leader, is complaining. Earlier, HT shut Raipur and Nagpur editions. And now Times that reached there later, is well established in Nagpur.

Its strategy always remains behind Times. For example when TOI left Jaipur, HT management thought that Times is smarter and if they have left the place it means that there is no market for an English paper in the town, and it also closed its office a bit later. But Times had other plans.

HT seems losing because it has been following TOI and believes that the latter is the true market leader. TOI keeps growing because of HT's failure and lack of any other national paper.

In fact, HT's management has proved a big failure and it has suffered losses repeatedly but fails to learn. With DNA starting its editions from more Cities, it seems that TOI will get a competitor that is strong not just editorially but also in terms of marketing strategy.

Photos: Shobhana Bhartia [HT] (on top) and Samir Jain (TOI)

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