Will Hindustan Times plan work? I doubt it.

Hindustan Times, a leading newspaper in the India, has a appointment supplement called Powerjobs which it distributes along with its main paper. Powerjobs supplement from, at least an outsiders perspective, is not doing well even though HT folks have told me that they are making some money from it. The leading appointment supplement is Times of India’s (TOI) Ascent against which the appointment supplements of every other newspaper competes. According to me, the market position of Powerjobs is getting from bad to worse. I don’t remember the last time any of our clients advertised in this paper even though we release appointment advertisements in TOI-Ascent on a regular basis (By the way, I run an advertising agency).

There is a high turnover of sales executives handling Powerjobs sales. Why? Because Powerjobs is hard to sell. Everytime a new executive joins, he calls on us and wants to know why our clients are not advertising in Powerjobs. I have been telling them that they cannot compete with the leader Ascent because they are not doing any thing different, that is, there is no differentiation. The positioning is not clear. Since Ascent is a leader by a very wide margin, our clients are not even thinking about Powerjobs. You see our clients are paying 3 times the price that HT charges while advertising in Ascent but they still prefer Ascent. Ascent offers no discounts but you can get discounts at HT Powerjobs. I have been telling HT folks that they need to find a gap in the marketplace and position them accordingly. By the way, I have also suggested a gap but then who takes free advise? Nobody.

A few days back, another new Powerjobs executive came to meet me. He told me that HT has big plans for the revival of Powerjobs which he outlined as follows:

(a) A new website Shine.com is being launched to support the appointment supplement of HT.

(b) The brand Powerjobs will appear along with the brand Shine.com. At first, Shine.com will be small and Powerjobs will be big. Slowly and steadily, Shine.com will become big and Powerjobs will become smaller. At some point of time, Powerjobs will disappear completely.

I realized that I had seen an advertisement campaign for Shine.com but could not figure out what the brand stood for. I was told that this was because the advt campaign was a teaser campaign and HT wanted to generate curiosity among its target market.

Now do you think this plan of HT will work? Let me tell you what I think. At the outset, let me make it clear that the above plan will not get HT Powerjobs anywhere. Why? Simply because the reason why Powerjobs is not doing well is not because it does not have web support. Its not doing well because it does have any positioning at all. Its just a me-too product trying to win (I would say just survive) against a very strongly entrenched leader. Secondly, what was the need to change the brand if you are not establishing a different positioning for the new brand. In any case, Powerjobs was and is still a better name than Shine.com. Third, what is this about slowly and slowly switching over to a new brand? Are they hedging their risk, that is, if Shine.com doesn’t work we can continue with both or just stick to Powerjobs As far as brands are concerned, if its a new brand then it should not be linked with an older brand especially if the older brand was not successful. Also, wouldn’t 2 brand names appearing side by side be confusing? I think it will be.

Let me also explain the gap I had proposed that HT tap especially in large cities/metros like Delhi and Mumbai. Let me first identify some trends that I have noticed. One, today newspaper advertising is getting very expensive. Second, companies are looking for employees who live close by and prospective employees are looking for employers who are located near their residence or at least where it is easy to reach. When you consider these two trends, it becomes obvious that:

(a) Companies would prefer to advertise in their area of location rather than the whole of NCR to acquire manpower. Why would a company in Noida want its advertisement to appear in Gurgaon?

(b) Also, its a waste of money for a company located in Gurgaon to advertise in HT or TOI because they are paying for atleast 60-70% of the newspaper circulation in areas from which it does not want to hire nor expects potential employees located in such areas to apply for a job.

So what is the gap that I am proposing? The above suggests that HT should take out separate editions for regions of Delhi NCR. For instance, East Delhi, South Delhi, North Delhi, West Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. They already have editions of their supplement HT Live for these region. As such distribution will also not be a problem. In any case, even with this system, they can still take the advt of a company that wants to advertise in the whole of Delhi. Such a strategy will entice advertisers as they will be able to reduce their cost of advertising. It will also save them processing time as they will get less but more appropriate resumes. Most of all, it will establish a distinct positioning in the minds of advertisers and readers. The message that HT can give to advertisers and readers is, “If you are looking for employees from specific areas, advertise with us and if you are looking for employees from all over Delhi, you can advertise with TOI-Ascent.” Apart from this, HT can also expect its circulation to increase. Imagine the difference it can make in a city like Mumbai where the distances are even larger.

In successful positioning, you have to give up something to get something. HT should give up “All Delhi recruitment” which is already with TOI-Ascent and adopt “Local area recruitment.”

If there is anyone out there who has a better understanding of HT’s strategy or someone who can logically explain how this plan of HT will succeed, I would be interested to hear about it. In case you like my plan, lets hear about. I also hope somebody from HT is reading.

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Comments

I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

Reply

sue hi!

thanks for the words of encouragement.

avinash

Reply

Hey nice job man, i really like ur ideas. would u like to throw some ideas for The New Indian Express (for career supplement). i wll be thankful 2 u

Reply

Hi!

I am responding to pranav’s comment. For any newspaper supplement to be successful, the pre-condition is that the main paper has to be successful or have a good circulation. There is a difference between the competitive market position of Indian Express and New Indian Express. New Indian Express covers South pretty well in terms of editions but not in terms of circulation. Primarily its circulation in the major metro cities is very weak as compared to the other cities in the south. Similar to Indian Express (NIE) in Delhi and Mumbai, New Indian Express is at the bottom of the ladder in Metros like Chennai. It was at the bottom (approx 50,000 circulation) when Hindu was the only other paper. Then Deccan Chronicle came in and NIE slipped to 3rd position. After Times of India (TOI) was launched, it slipped to 4th position.

For NIE express, the oppotunities lies in building a strong competitive position in the non-metros/rural areas of South. They need to forget about Metros completely as nothing can be done. However, in the smaller cities they still have a chance. They need to position themselves as the paper for the smaller towns and cities.

As far as career supplement of NIE goes, its destiny is linked to the main paper. I am sorry to say, NIE and its career supplement are in for tough times unless it can build strength in the smaller cities/rural areas. I think career supplement can play a good role in building NIE’s strength in smaller towns/rural areas as education is increasingly becoming a very important part of these areas. For instance, a great of the student population in Delhi is from the outlying areas.

Avinash Narula

While on the subject

Reply

Since June 27, I have been observing the appointment supplement of HT, that is Shine. It has been coming out with 6 pages out of which 1.5 pages are devoted to its own Shine Advt, about 2 pages to client’s advt and the balance to editorial. This week they came out with just four pages because they removed their advertisement this time. I think only 1.5 pages were client’s advt and the balance editorial. The decline is evident.

I think HT management needs to do get their act together otherwise I expect the situation to get worse.

I sincerely hope somebody in HT is reading.

Reply

Hi guys!

Let me give you an update of what is happening with HT Powerjobs turned Shine. The number of pages is not increasing. There are hardly any advts. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, this strategy of HT will not work. I am afraid that it may end up closing the supplement.

Don’t believe me. Check it out yourself.

Avinash Narula

Reply

Thanks for the words of encouragement.I think HT management needs to do get their act together otherwise I expect the situation to get worse.

________
suresh

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