Far from being a distant township, Navi Mumbai is surely transforming into an economic hub with booming industries like real estate, BPO, IT and others. However, very few are aware that the satellite city also attracts the local newspaper, which is sustaining despite of facing stiff competition from the bigger publications.
Popular English local new papers
Numerous local weekly newspapers (English) start from Navi Mumbai. But, only few manage to come out regularly. “The most popular local tabloid in the city is Vashi Times followed by TwinCity Times and then comes In New Bombay, which has recently changed its brand name to Newsband and 21st Century Commercial,” says Navi Mumbai Newspaper Vendors Association, president, P R Bhatt.
Newspapers like ‘Vashi Times’ and ‘Twincity Times’ are more than two decades old and have already made their mark among the residents. Besides these two, others are relatively new. Reasons are various behind the popularity of the local newspapers. Assistant editor of Vashi Times S Fernando elucidates, “The area specific newspapers came much before the supplements of the big publications and have got their own loyal readership. Moreover, the local papers manage to get the local news, which many a times gets ignored by the bigger newspapers.”
Low-cost advertisements rates is another factor that drive people towards the small-time newspapers. Creative director of city based Transnet advertising Bhushan Katker reveals, “People prefer to give the advertisements in the local newspapers as the ad rates are relatively lower than the national or regional papers, where a small tabloid charges around Rs 40 per column centimetre, bigger newspapers take about Rs 260 for the same ad.” Amardeep Singh from Ronak advertising says, “In spite of fact that the local newspapers have been in the market for long, they have not increased the ad rates and to the customers delight, they tend to come up with many money saving schemes and offer that attract advertisements.”
Circulation and sales
Most of the local papers are circulated through out Navi Mumbai. However, where all the popular papers can be seen at most of the newspaper stands at Vashi, the same is not the case in Panvel and Kamothe.
B M Gupta, who has a bookstall at Vashi Railway Station states, “The sale of local newspapers is quite brisk, every week about 200 copies of ‘Vashi Times’, 50 copies of ‘Twincity Times’, 15 copies of ‘Newsband’, etc, get sold out. People who seek employment in the area or want to know about the real estate status of the city mainly read these local tabloids.” Rajesh Chouhan, who owns a newspaper stand at Vashi bus depot, sales around 400 copies of ‘Vashi Times’, 100 copies of ‘TwinCity Times’, 20 to 25 copies of others, every week. “People who are interested in the local advertisements like paying-guest accommodation, tiffin box services, appointments ads, etc, mostly read these papers,” adds Chouhan.
Unanimously all the local newspapers sustain on the revenue generated by advertisements. However, it is believed that many tabloids running in the city are patronised by the political parties and builders. Srinivas Iyer, who ran a magazine, Redefinition News for a year in Navi Mumbai, shares, “I started a magazine in 2004 and continued for a year. But, I had to shut shop as revenue generation was posing a problem in the absence of the advertisements.”
Jitendra Takekar, who started a tabloid in Thane succumbed to the similar situation. “I started a local newspaper for Thane, Aamchi Thanekar and came out with seven issues. However, I was forced to defunct it, as I was unable to get even the verification letter from the Register Newspaper of (RNI), which is mandatory for the newspaper registration.” He adds further, “Despite of meeting the RNI officer at Vashi, nothing concrete was done regarding the verification letter. I feel that if would have got the support of some political party, I would not have encountered the problem.”
Kopar Khairane resident Shailja Sharma informs, “We have subscribed to the local news papers along with the national papers as the local papers tend to give an update on local news on time unlike the big news papers. Like Shailja, Richa Srivastav from Sanpada also reads local tabloids regularly. However, for her the local papers are more like locality advertisement circular.
Where assistant editors like S Fernando from ‘Vashi Times’, Vardha Sharma of ‘TwinCity Times’ and Parwaiz Khan from ’21st Century Commercial’ are pleased with the standing of their newspapers, editors such as K R Bhat of ‘NewsBand’ admits the supplements of bigger publications are gradually killing the small-times newspapers.
“We cater to the need of the local people and which is why the readership of our paper remains constant,” says Vardha Sharma. Perwaiz Khan and S Fernando share the point view of Sharma. However, K R Bhat contradicts, “So far we are unable to make any profits. But, gradually we are trying to recover the printing cost. Beyond any doubt, surviving in the present scenario is tough for local newspapers.”
(Pic: Meghana Kurup)