Big Bengal battle brews between TOI's 'Eyi Shomoy' & ABP's 'Eyi Bela'‎

The regional market for newspapers continues to grow stronger by the day despite the onslaught of Television and the Internet. Readership surveys indicate that the readers base is expanding in the various language dominated markets of the country. This has now prompted the country’s largest media house, the Bennett Coleman & Co, more popularly known as the Times group to launch a morning daily titled Eyi Shomoy in the Kolkata market which will be directly pitched against the regional strongman, Ananda Bazar Patrika of the ABP group. Not to be outdone, the ABP group is also launching an eveninger tabloid called Eyi Bela around same time, this September. It will target a different set of readers at the different price point and with advertising rates that are more affordable to smaller advertisers. 
Traditionally the West Bengal market has been a strong and a rich content driven market where the readers are strongly opinionated and have a rich edit culture. It will be interesting to see how the Times group addresses these readers and counters the ABP. A strong fight is on the cards given the Times group’s strong brand and financial muscle. ABP too it is felt will not let go without a fight as Eyi Shomoy will directly target its readers base. Speaking to Adgully, Janardhan Pandey, Associate Vice President, DDB Mudra Group, said, “It depends how aggressive TOI is going to be ... I expect that ABP will guard its territory wildly. Also any media house will take an entry from BCCL group very seriously no matter how dominant they may be in that market.” 
Adds, Deep  Banerji, Independent Marketing & Training Consultant,, “There is going to be some 'tough' battle between Eyi Shomoy (TOI) and E Bela (ABP) on one side and the scores of smaller brands on the other side. Both these brands from the biggies will segment the market even further and are expected to curve out a niche for themselves. In the short to medium term he feels that ABP as a brand will not be impacted by Eyi Shomoy. Nevertheless the biggies will steadily eat into the market being created by the smaller players.” 
The world is changing. Younger generations are more world citizens than their parents were. It is easier to make them adapt to change, as they have realised very young that change is the only constant in their life. On a slightly different note, Sudha Natrajan, Co-founder, TMC Corp, says “TOI has a lot of salvos up their sleeve which they can let loose. They have managed to make a dent into even The Hindu, in an equally loyal and traditional market of Tamil Nadu. It is important for TOI to have a significant presence in every market. WB can be spoken to only with a language solution. This is their big foray into the language market after a long time.” 
With a circulation of 12-13 lakhs and a readership of around 60 lakhs, ABP has virtually ruled that market so far. But with changing society fabric, consumer taste and preferences coupled with high expectations that they have developed, there does exists a gap. Now it depends who occupies it. The existing leader or a new entrant. “It’s a function of right time and approach.
It will be a very aggressive battle, of two very respected giants. This is a market where the existing leader has not taken it cool, they have to keep themselves fairly contemporary,” adds Sudha. 
On a more conservative note, ABP is like life blood of the Bengali reader and there is a possibility that TOI group may find it tough to capture a significant part of the turf. In many ways, it could be a battle between ABP’s local cultural strength versus BCCL’s marketing strength. 
The Times Group has roped in Mumbai-based agency Tailor to manage the entire launch campaign. Further to begin with the Times group has indicated a six months subscription price of Rs 175 which has been countered by ABP with a more attractive price of Rs 150 for six months. However opines Pandey, “the value for money concept doesn't apply in case of readers of newspaper as the cover prices are highly subsidized. What actually matters is the value that they derive for their time/efforts invested while referring and reading the pages of a newspaper. We all know how precious is our time and that too in the early morning in today's hectic life. So whoever offers better ROI will have the majority reading them. With competition, there will be comparison.” As for advertising rates, “ABP pricing will be stressed with the launch. TOI would price their product very aggressively,” adds Pandey. 
While the opinions about the emergence and the likely winner of this big fight rages on, there are critics who are very clear about the outcome of this war. Says a senior media consultant on conditions of anonymity, “for the Times group is will be a wasted effort. They don’t even know the market well. It is a strong edit driven market. They have failed elsewhere too, Pune is a classic example where they launched Maharashtra Times but have failed to erode completely into Sakaal’s market share. ABP has strong loyalty and unless Times changes its strategy they are bound to fail. A circulation of two lakhs against a circulation of 12-13 lakhs of ABP will make little difference to the latter, though it may cannabilise smaller newspapers.  Financial strength of  the Times Group does not make any difference. People are moving from print to digital that can make a difference. The people of Kolkata being very opinionated will not easily accept Eyi Shomoy. Therefore against ABP it has got no chance. As for advertisers, they will support  Times group as there is no situation like a monopolistic situation with ABP. 
However market sources say it is too early to predict anything as one has to first know the product. Will the readers gain? Will the advertisers benefit? What will be the circulation? All that remains to be seen in the next few months maybe couple of years. Before that it will be too early to pass the judgement. So while ABP is a strong regional brand, the Times group has all that it takes to take on any market but it’s always subject to getting it right with the taste & preferences of those pampered consumers and how the existing and already accepted ruler respond to it.

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