Lokmat to take on Sakaal in Goa with a Marathi edition

Lokmat is looking to target Hindu-dominated pockets of Goa such as
Ponda, Bicholim, Sattari, Sanguem, Pernem and Quepem

Anushree Chandran

Mumbai: A new battle front has opened up between the Mumbai-based
media company Lokmat Group and Pune-based Sakaal Media Group in the
race for primacy in the Marathi newspaper space.

The Lokmat Group, which publishes newspapers in three languages—Lokmat
(Marathi), Lokmat Samachar (Hindi) and Lokmat Times (English)—will be
launching the Goa edition of Lokmat on 21 April, with an initial print
run of 50,000 copies, according to Bharat Kapadia, director, Lokmat
Group.

The edition will directly compete with Sakaal’s Gomantak daily that is
published out of Goa in Marathi, said Janardan Pandey, business
director of media specialist agency Radar of the Mudra Group.

Lokmat, according to Kapadia, will be priced at Re1, versus Gomantak’s Rs 3.

Lokmat Group already has 16 editions of its three publications across
Maharashtra.

Kapadia said it is the right time to enter Goa, which has a sizeable
Marathi-speaking population. The new edition will have more colour
pages than any other existing Marathi publication in Goa, he said.
Lokmat is looking to target Hindu-dominated pockets of Goa such as
Ponda, Bicholim, Sattari, Sanguem, Pernem and Quepem. Kapadia said:
“About 65% Hindus mostly read Marathi newspapers.”

Some media buyers, however, say Lokmat’s real target is the Sakaal
Media Group, which is its arch-rival in Maharashtra.

Sakaal operates in Maharashtra and Goa, and publishes nine editions of
various publications. Its print titles in Maharashtra include Marathi
daily Sakaal and English daily Sakaal Times.

Pandey said Sakaal and Lokmat have fought for leadership positions in
prime areas in Maharashtra for many years, even though Lokmat is quite
clearly the leader.

Lokmat, for instance, recently launched an edition in Pune which is
considered a Sakaal stronghold. Similarly, Sakaal launched new
editions in Nashik and Kolhapur, which are considered to be strong
areas for Lokmat.

According to Indian Readership Survey figures published in November,
Lokmat has 19,929,000 readers while the total readership of Sakaal is
11,633,000 readers, said Pandey.

Sakaal has a daily circulation of at least 989,000 copies (Maharashtra
and Goa) and Lokmat sells in excess of 1.4 million copies (in only
Maharashtra, till date), he added.

Uday Jadhav, chief operating officer, Sakaal, said two of its daily
newspapers in Goa, Gomantak in Marathi and Gomantak Times in English,
have existed for at least 30 years and it will not be easy for Lokmat
to challenge its leadership position in the market. “Lokmat tried to
enter the Pune market where we have a stronghold and they have not
been able to displace us.” New entrants have not been able to displace
the leader in any market, he said, adding that the incumbent always
has the first mover advantage.

Still, Sakaal is taking steps to counter Lokmat’s debut in Goa. It has
already increased colour pages from two to six in Gomantak and
Gomantak Times. The group also plans to step up promotional activities
in Goa, said Jadhav.

Some market observers see Lokmat’s launch in Goa as part of a larger
strategy to capture the advertising market in Maharashtra. According
to Pandey, advertisers that want to be in Maharashtra want to be in
Goa as well. The Maharashtra market is highly competitive in
advertising revenue. “Just regional publications alone rake in Rs650
crore of ad revenues, and with English publications, ad revenues
spiral to more than Rs1,000 crore,” said Pandey.

Separately, the Goa ad market for all daily newspapers is only around
Rs50 crore annually, though media buyers say the growth potential is
sizeable, given the large migration of people and businesses from
Maharashtra to Goa.

Anita Bose, a general manager in media buying company GroupM India
Pvt. Ltd, agrees that advertisers usually club Maharashtra and Goa as
one region because of the huge Marathi-speaking population across both
states.

“If an advertiser is running a campaign in Maharashtra, chances are
that he would want to run it in Goa as well. Lokmat’s entry into Goa
will enhance its geographical spread and allow it to command greater
ad rates and revenues as a group in Maharashtra,” she said.

Overall, Lokmat’s Marathi edition in Goa is expected to spice up a
market which already has five Marathi newspapers and four English
papers. “The largest Marathi newspaper in Goa so far is Tarun Bharat
(with a daily circulation of 41,733 copies), followed by Gomantak
(circulation of 28,315 copies). There is a small Konkani paper as
well, with a circulation of 4,000 copies. All papers combined (not
including Lokmat) would have a daily circulation of two lakh-plus
copies,” said Kapadia of Lokmat, while pointing to the readership
potential in the market.

Devendra Darda, executive director, Lokmat Group, said Goa is a
greatly under-serviced market in terms of the product. The Goan
population has significant spending power that can be leveraged, he
said, adding that even the advertising market had not lived up to its
potential. “Categories such as pharma, tourism and medical tourism,
real estate, wineries, educational institutes, political ads etc. are
very active in Goa,” Darda said.

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