Marathi newspapers wage a price war

BY kulkarni| IN Regional Media | 05/01/2004
While Lokmat and Sakal first played the price-game at Sangli, Sakal has reduced price recently in Kolhapur and Lokmat may soon follow the same strategy in Kolhapur.

 Prabhakar Kulkarni in Kohlapur

The tough competition among newspapers has triggered various schemes to attract more readers to effect a  spurt in circulation. While various supplements and comprehensive coverage of local issues have contributed  to routine demand, special schemes to beat the locally published and highly circulated dailies have resulted
in a reduction in prices, in some cases dropping to only one rupee for a ten to sixteen page  newspaper.

The Pune-based Sakal and Aurangabad-based Lokmat have entered into the arena, not merely to compete against each other, but also  with the highly circulated local daily Pudhari, which has a circulation of over two akhs. Both Sakal and Lokmat have highest circulation and advertisement revenue at their base places,  namely Pune and Aurangabad respectively. But they have now begun to expand  by establishing their press and infrastructure in  the Sangli-Kolhapur area. They could not overtake the local daily Pudhari, despite their efforts over the last few years and hence they have resorted to a new strategy to reduce their price to only one  rupee. While  Lokmat and Sakal first played the price-game at Sangli, Sakal has reduced price recently in   Kolhapur and  Lokmat may soon follow the same strategy in Kolhapur.  

Pudhari has severely criticized the price-reduction strategy. Its editor and owner Pratapsinha Jadhav says that reducing a newspaper’s price, with the excuse of doing it in the readers interest is not only unfair but against the  very ethics and norms collectively agreed to  by the  newspapers’ associations at the national and regional level. 

 Again if the price  is to be reduced  for the readers’ convenience, why not do so at Pune, where Sakal has the highest sales, asks Mr. Jadhav, who also  comments that with Sakal being owned by a prominent politician’s relatives, its ricereduction is politically motivated. Vijaya Patil, managerial chief of Sakal group however denies the allegation  that this is politically motivated price war. She says that Sakal has no political connotations as alleged and  this is just competition and not price-war. Sakal is better-produced both in quality of printing and content and hence by reducing price, more readers would get introduced to a quality-newspaper, which they may prefer to any other daily, she adds.  Such competition is inevitable says Ms. Patil.

The price-reduction has however been  severely criticized by newspapers vendors and stall-owners. Their association has protested against both Sakal and Lokmat with the assertion that price-reduction should not affect their commission, (35% of newspaper price) as it is now done due to reduction of price to the lowest level.  They have collectively demanded by holding a meeting that their minimum commission based on a price of Rs. 2.50 for four days and Rs.3  for three days in a week should be paid by newspaper management,  whether the newspaper is actually sold at Rs. 1or free of cost. Vendors do not want reduction in their commission along with a reduction in price. Unless their commission is not assured on  a regular price-base, they have threatened to refuse accepting newspapers for sales. They have also objected to mass sales technique by keeping newspapers in retail shops and milk-distribution centres, thereby competing against authorized vendors and stall-owners.

Competitors and vendors may see themselves as losers in this price war, but the reader can only stand to benefit if he gets a better paper at lower cost.

contact: Prabhakar Kulkarni,

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