Interview with Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, Publishing, The Times of India
Ravi Dhariwal is CEO of The Times of India.
IFRA: What is your vision of the future of newspapers, and how does your company need to change to produce and sell newspapers in the future?
Ravi Dhariwal: Newspaper readership will either increase or remain static. In India, newspaper readership will definitely increase because of our demographics (a significant percentage of the population still do not have access to the Internet or mobile phones).
There can be no substitute for the newspaper in such environment.
However, we will provide our paper through many distribution forms such as the mobile and Internet. Readership will thus be widespread.
The Times of India will continue to be our core product. It will be available on the mobile, Internet, radio and television.
IFRA: What is your company’s strategy for growth?
Ravi Dhariwal: The Times of India will continue to expand and be relevant to the needs of emerging India. Our Lead India (a television initiative launched on India’s 60th Independence Day in search of a leader for the country) and Teach India (a social initiative that brings together children who need education and people who can contribute time towards teaching them) campaigns are examples.
We are easily understandable and relevant, and much younger than many of our competitors as well. We make youngsters successful. We will now look at publishing regional language editions of The Economic Times and The Times of India.
We also think that in future, newspapers will lead our growth and TOI editions will double. We expect our circulation to double as well.
IFRA: How do you intend to double your circulation and editions and over what period of time?
Ravi Dhariwal: Just in the past year we have set up four new editions in the country (one in Chennai, one in Goa, one in Jaipur and one in Nagpur). We intend to set up many new more editions in the next five years in other cities of the country.
At the same time, India is in a period of natural growth that helps newspapers to develop. Therefore, we think that Times of India will grow steadily and that in a period of five years we will see a circulation figure that doubles the one we have now (more than 600,000 issues daily).
IFRA: Your company, Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd, has invested recently in the U.K. buying Virgin Radio for more than US$ 100 million dollars. How is this decision to be understood in your general strategy for growth? Are you interested in making more investments abroad or will you concentrate in India?
Ravi Dhariwal: We are a multimedia company, and we are the No. 1 FM radio broadcaster. We have a growing television business, as well as an outdoor business and Internet business.
As you see, we are present in many areas, and we look for good business opportunities in this context no matter where they appear. But definitely we will remain concentrated in India, particularly in print.
IFRA: How do you think the flagship of the company, The Times of India, will develop in future years?
Ravi Dhariwal: We do not treat The Times of India as a simple newspaper but as a brand. As I mentioned, I foresee a continuous growth for the newspaper in the future years. But we also have The Times of India over the Internet, which is very popular, I must say.
At the same time, we are considering launching editions of the newspaper in other languages, and we have already started a Times of India for mobile phones. So, we will see our newspaper distributed in different platforms. So even today, we do not regard The Times of India as a pure newspaper, but as content that is distributed through different technological platforms.
We do not think that all these platforms will compete with each other but complement each other, and we are confident that we will see grow in all of them.
IFRA: What role does technology play in all this?
Ravi Dhariwal: Technology, of course, plays a very important role. It makes communication easier and enables distribution of content in many forms.
We are adapting to new technologies, to be able to distribute content in different platforms, but we are also adapting our production means for the printed paper – investment in new presses and new software will therefore increase. We keep an eye on everything new and adapt our business to it.
IFRA: Indian newspapers still have major growth potential and are not suffering a crisis like newspapers face in other countries. Where do you see the biggest possibilities for newspapers?
Ravi Dhariwal: I think all types of newspapers – no matter if they are metro papers, or in a regional language, or free-
Newspapers are very inexpensive here, and people like to consume them as they present the news in a way the audience likes to read. I’m very optimistic about the future of newspapers in India.
IFRA: What levels of management are involved in the critical strategic-
Ravi Dhariwal: Our shareholders and senior directors.
This interview was conducted by IFRA Magazine's Sashi Nair and Deputy Editor Mari Pascual
Page first published: 29.08.2008