More than a hundred thousand people recently heard the Lokmat Group’s clarion call to pay homage to the national anthem, creating a Guinness World Record. Rishi Darda, joint MD and Editorial Director of Lokmat Media Limited, talks to IMPACT about the event, the group’s core philosophy and a carefully picked team being the differentiator for the brand
On the morning of January 26, readers of Lokmat woke up to find a unique copy of the newspaper on their doorstep. The top half of the front page had a photograph that recorded the previous day’s Guinness World Record-setting event of more than a hundred thousand people standing still and singing the National Anthem together. However, the photo was in fact just half a photograph – the other half spread across the back page completed the picture, making it a 16-column spread, and both the front and back pages worked seamlessly together to be a unified ‘front’ page.
Innovation and connecting to people have been at the core of Lokmat Media Limited’s philosophy, as envisaged by founder Jawaharlal Darda in 1973: “Jithe ST, Tithe Lokmat” (Let Lokmat reach every corner where ST buses reach). Rishi Darda, joint MD and Editorial Director of the group, endorses this connect, and gives full credit to his team. “We’ve got a good team, a very talented editorial team, who continuously brainstorm, especially when there are big events like this or elections or the World Cup... these teams come together and brainstorm with the design team. How you present it is becoming more and more important ... they came up with this and it was greatly appreciated all over Maharashtra...,” Darda informs. The idea was to celebrate 30 years of Lokmat’s presence in Aurangabad and also 100 years of the National Anthem (Jana Gana Mana was sung for the first time at The Indian Association Building in Kolkata during the annual conference of the Indian National Congress on December 27, 1911). “We wanted to create something that would be huge, as we have a strong brand in Aurangabad – we wanted to bring together people and show our presence in the city...it was very well taken, we had very smart marketing around it,” says Darda. And what did the mega event achieve for the brand? “It showed the connect we have with the people... connect is not built over a day or over a month ... it takes a long time... you need to create goodwill in the city and state to get a presence of this sort ... for anybody, it would be a dream to bring in so many people together - any brand would like to see this kind of a connect,” Darda says.
According to him, there were about 100,000 people in the crowd, and at least 30,000 to 40,000 standing outside. “We’ve got pictures which show people standing even 2 km away – people standing and singing the national anthem – that’s how the whole thing was marketed – at 9.30 am, wherever you are, you can stand up and sing the national anthem... we had IBN Lokmat, Star Majha, Radio Mirchi covering it live,” Darda adds. “Bringing in people on a holiday is easy, but on a Wednesday, a working day, with schools and offices open, to bring in so many people - that’s a feat - gives us a lot of encouragement for the kind of goodwill that we have in the city or in the state. For all our partners, it creates a lot of confidence, and for every person in the team.”
In spite of this connect, does he expect the new generation to grow up and read language newspapers, especially considering how people prefer sending their children to English medium schools? What if tomorrow 75% or more of the readers can’t even read Marathi? “It’s not primarily the language, but the content that appeals to a reader. Growth has been coming from the regional media in the last few years. The point is being relevant to the present. If you can be relevant, there is no reason why people won’t read you. If you continuously come up with newer things and innovate… my belief is that if your content talks of excellence, if it is relevant, if you can give readers what any of the best newspapers of the world are giving, then there is no reason why the language medium needs to be worried. Anyway it’s a tough call to take as nothing is going to change overnight. It’s possible that five years down the line, if that is indeed the scenario, newspapers automatically would change or adapt for the new set of readers,” Darda explains.
On core philosophy of the brand
We look at enriching the lives of everyone we are associated with... I believe Lokmat is a superbrand in itself, and we want to create subsets and a lot more superbrands around it.
On a differentiator for Lokmat
How the product is differentiated from others is in terms of resources. The teams that we have are the differentiator... we have always looked for excellence in our teams... the kind of people that we have, it would be difficult for anybody else to bring those many names or that kind of quality of people together. They are continuously striving for innovation, integrity and striving to bring out the best product that they can everyday. That itself is the differentiator, and the way they have picked up the brand values… we are perhaps the only newspaper house in India to have a continuous training programme going on inhouse… there is a 45-day programme which almost every editorial member goes through. Experts from every field come in to teach them everything from subbing, proof-reading, reporting to photography. They then take up projects in the state, outside the state, even outside India. That is what would be the differentiator.
On non-editorial activities/initiatives of the group
We’ve completed two years of Maharashtrian of the Year Award, it’s a completely editorial-driven initiative. It’s a very respectable and credible award with an eminent jury comprising names like Anna Hazare, Gulzaar, Rajdeep Sardesai, and Vengsarkar. We take pride in finding people who have never been in the limelight. It’s easier to find people who have always been seen on TV from Mumbai or other cities. But to find a person like Paromita Goswami who has been working in the hinterlands of Nagpur and Vidarbha, in the Naxalite areas… to find a person of that sort, you need the connect that only Lokmat has. It comes from our strong network of reporters, who bring that kind of knowledge to the job.
On a story around Lokmat, a defining moment or anecdote
As of now, the defining moment is the Guinness World Record. When you see your teams working round the clock, without anybody looking at the watch, without asking whether it is his or her responsibility, that’s where you get your strength. We had representatives of the Guinness World Records come down the day before the event, and tell us what we need to work on. Our teams took up from there and worked round the clock to get everything ready by 6-6.30 in the morning… those were the moments… we take pride in the way we’ve been able to empower our teams. We derive a lot of strength from them.
On plans going forward and growth
A lot of business plans have been drawn up, but it would be too early to put them in print. Suffice it to say that we are looking at growing aggressively. There will be a lot of growth for the regional media. We are looking at branding exercises and growing the sector overall in terms of editorial, marketing and circulation. The challenge is to become more relevant for audiences, find how we deliver sustained excellence in building bonds with readers, keep ahead of the competition and monetize other ideas.
How the record helps
Every marketer looks at Reach, Audience and Experiential Ideas for their brands from print houses. Particularly the target group is very critical to them. According to Lokmat, the GWR has proved that the house can deliver on their brand objectives.
• The deep connect that Lokmat has with readers…to be able to mobilize the masses…
• The symbiotic relationship that it shares with lakhs of people to participate even on a working day… credibility and respect
• The numbers justify the monies that any marketer wants to spend... cost efficiency