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TOI has actively contributed towards making India a better place: Kaustuv Chatterjee

The Times of India has consistently showcased great Indian success stories and actively contributed to making India a better place, through its marquee initiatives such as Teach India, Lead India, Lost Votes, and many more. This time, ‘The Times of a Better India’ has gone the extra mile and talked about the ecosystems that make those success stories possible – the institutions & organisations, the individuals & the factors that drove them, the social trends, the societal influences and even the policy changes that facilitated positive change.

The initiative invites readers to join the conversation, give their viewpoints on key questions, ask them to share their own experiences, and give them an opportunity to discover interesting stories and win prizes via interactive contests.

In conversation with Adgully, Kaustuv Chatterjee, Director - TOI, Language Brands & NPI, at Bennett, Coleman and Co Ltd, speaks at length about their ‘The Times of Better India’ campaign, the stories that they plan to share with this initiative, how print continues to be a strong medium in India, and more.

What is ‘The Times of a Better India’ all about and what was the idea behind launching the campaign?

The last 2-3 years have been tough. The pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, the depressing economic news from across the world has left all of us with a sense of gloom and doom. But what goes unnoticed are the efforts of individuals, institutions and organisations who have been working hard and ensuring that every decade in our country has been better than the previous ones. The Times of India wanted to turn the spotlight to positivity and highlight that despite the recent events, the journey of progress of our country and, hence, of us individuals can’t be stopped. This is the time of big opportunities, and the campaign urges us to find our rightful place in it.

We have also seen the rise of polarised debates, the echo chambers of social media, the biases all around us. The need of the hour is to put forth verified, correct and credible information. The Times of India stands as a voice of reason in this backdrop, and it is an opportunity for the brand to further cement its thought leadership position as the trusted and credible source of news and information for the country. The Times of India has been the harbinger of positive change in the country. Our campaigns like Lead India, Teach India and Aman Ki Asha have always stood for the same and this editorial-brand initiative ‘The Times of a Better India’ hopes to carry it forward.

‘The Times of a Better India’ is exploring the continuum of change and positive development that India has witnessed since Independence, where every decade has built upon the progress of its preceding one. The campaign is bringing to its readers inspiring stories, heart-warming narratives, and deep insights, cutting across a range of themes – from space research to sporting glory, from infrastructural changes to environmental sustainability and much more. It is delving into the change drivers of the past, their impact on the present and a status-check of what the future may hold. Critically, the campaign is also asking questions whether the success of certain sectors is indeed taking the country forward and what more could be done.

The initiative is inviting readers to join the conversation, give their viewpoints on key questions, ask them to share their own experiences and give them an opportunity to discover interesting stories and win prizes via interactive contests. The stories are also being taken into digital platforms, reaching out to lapsed or non-readers via content videos, animated stories, influencer videos and more.

Which agency is behind this campaign, and what was the campaign brief given to them?

The film and print ads have been conceptualised by Wunderman Thompson. The brief that we shared was that the story of India has been one of steady progress – decade after decade and the campaign should appeal to every Indian. We spent a lot of time with the agency debating and deciding on the direction of the campaign.

Things started falling into place when they hit upon this quote – “today is the best time to be an Indian”.  The realisation how people are making the best of the chances that abound and how they are achieving what previous generations could not have hoped to, triggered the campaign.

To appeal to every India, the film and print ads represent different types of people and sections of society. We wanted to convey that ‘The Times of a Better India’ isn’t just about cosmopolitan India or social activists. All the people in the ad are representative of something that is going on today. Once the idea was in place, the biggest challenge was selecting what to talk about and how. This was the biggest part of the process of putting the campaign together.

What are the stories that you plan to tell your audience with this initiative?

‘The Times of a Better India’ is bringing to its readers inspiring stories, heart-warming narratives, and deep insights, cutting across a range of themes, about institutions, organisations, and individuals.

To give you some examples, while the ISRO story is often talked about, not many are aware about the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) — hailed as “the largest sociological experiment in the world” during 1975-76 — that benefited around 2 lakh people, covering 2,400 villages. The credit of training 50,000 science teachers in primary schools in one year goes to SITE. 

Other examples include the story of a temple restorer in South Bengal who prays in mosque, how Chekutty Dolls became a symbol of hope and resilience for the weaving community in Kerala, about new-age railway stations that boast airport-like facilities, how SPIC MACAY inspired thousands to join the classical musical journey of India, about a Malayalam film industry’s initiative in safeguarding women through Women in Cinema Collective and many more.

And at the heart of this initiative, like in all our efforts of the past, are our readers. For more than anything else, ‘The Times of a Better India’ is a celebration of the fortitude, ambitions, and dreams of the average Indian, who is quick to recognise and use every foothold to rise higher.

What kind of responses have you received for ‘The Times of a Better India’ campaign overall?

‘The Times of a Better India’ campaign has seen a massive response. Till now, we have seen around 20 million total engagement, 13 million video views and 4.7 billion+ hashtag. More than 1.6 lakh entries have been received for the contest. The campaign will go on for another few weeks and we foresee a lot more people participating and sharing their own narrative as well.

How will this campaign stand out from TOI’s previous campaign?

The Times of India has actively contributed towards making India a better place. Be it campaigns for citizen empowerment like Lead India, Lost Votes and Trust of India, campaigns for Social Equality like Sindoor Khela and Out & Proud, campaigns for better health like Mask India and Times Organ Donation Drive, campaigns for education like Teach India and Times Scholars, or for environment like TOI Green drive, Make India Water Positive etc. The Times of India has always championed causes that are important to our country.

‘The Times of a Better India’ is, in a way, an extension of these campaigns to the extent that it is putting forth a different perspective to our readers. It is less action oriented and works more as an educative campaign that aims at sensitizing readers about the opportunities, beyond the polarising debates and the rhetoric that have become commonplace.

Which factors still make print a strong medium in India?

Print provides verified and credible news, much more than other media platforms. In 20 minutes, the reader gets all the important news that they need throughout the day rather than being bombarded and overwhelmed with updates throughout the day. Print also provides the most balanced news with multiple viewpoints, which helps reduce polarisation in society. The low cost of newspapers in India combined with doorstep delivery guarantee a long life for the newspapers in India.

Could you share your thoughts on the past two years for the industry, as it has been like a rollercoaster ride for Print and there have been a lot of changes that this industry has faced?

The last 2 years of COVID were very challenging. Specifically, delivery of newspapers during the initial days of lockdown was a challenge and there was a temporary drop in advertising revenue due to the initial adverse impact of COVID on economic activity. Thankfully, print has staged a strong recovery both in circulation and advertising revenue as the lockdowns have eased and economic activity has rebounded strongly.

What are the new campaigns or initiatives that you plan to execute in the coming months?

One of the other initiatives which The Times of India has launched apart from ‘The Times of a Better India’ is the launch of TOI Epaper+. This provides 4 different things – e-Paper which is the mobile view of TOI editions, Times Special which includes long form, enriching, engaging, explanatory, deep-dive content in text, audio & video format across 8-9 genres, cartoons section including cartoons of RK Laxman, Dilbert and Sandeep Adhwaryu duly categorised/ bucketed to start with and, many more cartoonists will be added, and finally Games, including Crossword, Sudoku, Word Row, Word Flower, Word Search, which will be updated daily. More value-added services will be added in due course.

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