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Wednesday, Nov 22, 2006

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Ownership change not to impact Reader's Digest operations in India

Purvita Chatterjee

Efforts on to increase offerings from non-magazine business

"Hindi is the largest market and we are still doing research to figure out a suitable business model for our vernacular foray."

Mumbai , Nov. 21

Reader's Digest Association Inc's operations in India are likely to remain unchanged even after its proposed takeover by Ripplewood Holdings. With over 48 editions in 19 languages existing in almost 60 countries across the world, the Reader's Digest is a 50-years-old brand in India. The magazine came under the India Today fold in 2003 after the Tatas sold the license it had got from RDA Inc, US.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr Ashutosh Bishnoi, Publishing Director, Reader's Digest, said, "There is a legal contract between the Living Media Group and Reader's Digest and that will remain unchanged. There is change in ownership for the brand and being a profitable licensee in India, there is no reason why the change in ownership will have any impact on the operations.''

Reader's Digest has a presence in nearly 50 countries and in most markets its proprietors directly own the brand. However, India is one of those rare markets, where the brand exists as a licensee. In the past, there have been differences over royalty issues, especially when the magazine brand operated as a licensee under the Tatas.

Testing new products

The Living Media Group took over the Reader's Digest brand from the Tatas nearly three years ago and today it has a readership circulation of 6 lakh copies. With its subscription-based model, the brand has forayed into the non- publishing business as well with products such as books, toys and music. With intentions of beefing up its offerings in the non-publishing side of the business, the magazine brand will be testing new products.

Adds Mr Bishnoi, "We are testing some new products and these would get included in our catalogue.'' In the past, Reader's Digest has been bringing out condensed versions of classics and binders under specific topics. "We use the database of our existing subscribers to sell the rest of the products," says Mr Bishnoi. Considering that 75 per cent of Reader's Digest's global revenues come from its non-magazine business, in India there are plans to increase its offerings from its non-magazine business.

However, the biggest challenge would be to launch the vernacular edition of the magazine in the near future. "Hindi is the largest market and we are still doing research to figure out a suitable business model for our vernacular foray. Languages have a different growth curve and we are trying to explore the subscription market to figure out where we can launch our vernacular version,'' adds Mr Bishnoi.

Besides, the Web-based magazine planned for the magazine brand would also get launched next year thereby opening up a new revenue stream. With Indian content comprising 30 per cent of the magazine, Reader's Digest expects its subscriber base to go up by 50 per cent.

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