In circulation: On to India

Last week, Condé Nast announced that it was launching GQ in India. GQ joins Condé Nast’s Vogue — launched in India last year — and a slew of other English-language consumer magazines, including Child and Maxim. DMNews spoke with a few experts about a quickly growing region in the international magazine publishing sector.

Mike Lovell, director of investor relations, Meredith Corp.
Production of Child India will begin in summer 2008.

Q: What is the appeal of the Indian market for consumer magazines?
A: The Indian economy continues to grow at a relatively fast rate. The nation and the people there are becoming wealthier, the middle class is broadening, and the government, to the best of my understanding, has been taking steps to manage that growth nicely. In aggregate, you’ve got a nation that is growing wealthier and is a better place to do business.

Q: What are the challenges to launching a US-based magazine in India?
A: If you’re looking for a local partner to publish your title, what’s most important for a publisher is your brand. You want to make sure the brand is well cared for, so, consequently, one of the most important things is that your partner [should] have a passion for your brand, understand it and work to add to its value.

Second, look for a company with strong and stable management and a strong financial base. The media business isn’t always smooth, and so we look for companies that can continue to invest in the brand despite maybe short-term economic disruptions that are always inevitable over time. Finally, this may not be important to everybody, but Meredith looks for a partner that has or can get national distribution or distribution of scale. In India, that means making sure that the magazine is not just in Delhi, but in the top 10 or 20 cities.

Alex Kuruvilla, managing director, Condé Nast India
GQ will launch in India in September.

Q: Why launch GQ in India?
A: We have been inundated by requests from our luxury advertisers and readers to launch GQ in India. GQ‘s entry coincides with and reflects the red-hot expansion of the luxury market catering to Indian men who are earning and spending like never before. It’s the right time to create a platform like Vogue for this segment.

Condè Nast has been watching the Indian market with great interest for several years now. The last three to four years have seen unprecedented economic growth in India and this in turn has created an explosion in the numbers of the “affluent.” The regulatory change made recently allowing 100% ownership in the non-news and current affairs category was a huge incentive to set up a wholly owned subsidiary of Condè Nast in India. This completely changes the dynamics of the business for us compared to our competitors who are all licensed brands. It has increased our appetite to invest and given us a more long-term view of the market. Finally, the lifting of FDI in single-brand retail has resulted in the entry of many major luxury and fashion brands.

Q: What markets are you targeting? Any niche demographics you specifically want to reach?
A: GQ India will be available across the top 40 towns in India — covering all traditional outlets and non-traditional outlets. The target reader is affluent and urbane. He is stylish, fashion-inclined and interested in fashion, technology and all things luxury.

Q: Do you think competition will be a challenge?
A: We have never underestimated our competitors, but in this case, I don’t think the competition is very good. The mass-market Indian lifestyle magazines are not our competitors, neither is the lad magazine segment.

Samir Husni, chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi

Q: What is the appeal of the Indian market for US-based consumer magazines?
A: India and China are the growth markets, and they making up the difference for any reduction in paper usage in the US. It’s a very lucrative market. It’s growing, and it’s a market that has all the essentials of being divided exactly like here — there’s the mass market and the upscale market. So many magazines are going international and that’s why I laugh at people who say it’s the end of print. I see all this growth in print media, but you have to think, in countries like India they may be technologically advanced, but at the same time print still is more like a new medium, so the potential of growth over there is very high. Plus, the cost of publishing and launching over there is much cheaper.

Q: What might some of the challenges be?
A: The biggest challenge, of course, is to adapt it to the marketplace, and American publishers are becoming smarter in terms of “Indianizing” the magazines rather than forcing the American edition on those readers. When I pick up GQ from South Africa or wherever, you can tell the flavor of the country. So again, the more the world becomes one single unit and becomes flat, the easier it will be to go across borders.

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