I am a student of life. My professional interests lie in reading and writing on consumer-oriented businesses, brands, media and entertainment. Personally, I see the world in portraits through the lens of my camera. Literature, history, politics and sports are my other major interests. Direct your feedback to Sohini.Mitter@network18online.com
On a sleepy afternoon about two weeks ago (October 2 to be precise), the chirpy social media world started talking about the ‘Ei Shomoy TVC’ which was uploaded on YouTube that very day. The music video brings together Bengal’s most popular bands (Fossils, Cactus, Chandrabindoo, Lakkhichhara, Mohiner Ghoraguli) and Anupam Roy, and creates a montage of Kolkata’s most famous sights and sounds (Maidan, Victoria Memorial, Hooghly river, Vidyasagar Setu, Tagore and football) with words like 'Ei Shomoy Amar Shomoy' (This time is my time) strewn in along with a great dose of infectious youthful energy.
This (click on the video) television commercial was The Times of India’s first major promotion of its Bengali newspaper Ei Shomoy which launches on October 15. They followed it up with another pre-launch campaign through 140 billboards across the city and a bevy of print ads too.
With Ei Shomoy, the Times Group marks its entry into an already saturated Bengali newspaper market (estimated to be around Rs 900 crore) which has thus far been dominated by the ABP group. It brings out two dailies: The widely read Ananda Bazaar Patrika (whose circulation exceeds six million copies according to the Indian Readership Survey) and the recently-launched tabloid Ebela which is targeted at the youth and has already hooked readers with its colourful content on film, sports and lifestyle.
While the Ei Shomoy TVC has received myriad reactions on the web, from being hailed ‘fantabulous’ to being termed ‘wannabe’, the more interesting story lies elsewhere.
The Times Group which is a leader in the English print market in India is on an expansion spree, and intends to spread its network to tap into the lucrative vernacular ad market. It has met with decent successes in Maharashtra (where it publishes the Marathi newspaper Maharashtra Times) and in Kerala (where it entered into a strategic relationship with Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi earlier this year).
But Bengal is a different ball game. At present, eight newspapers jostle for existence in this market, with Ananda Bazaar Patrika being the clear leader in terms of advertising and circulation. The others include Bartaman, Pratidin, Aajkaal, Uttar Banga Sambad, Ek Din, Ganashakti and the month-old Ebela.
While an ad war with ABP is imminent, especially in its run-up to the launch on the auspicious occasion of Mahalaya (the start of the Durga Puja festival which invites plenty of special ads), Ei Shomoy will take on ABP’s fairly high cover price too. At Rs 5 per copy, ABP is the most expensive Bengali newspaper compared to its competitor papers priced between Rs 2-3. Sources say that Ei Shomoy might be priced even lower, to start with.
TOI has also managed a prize catch in the form of veteran Bengali journalist and ex-ABP man Suman Chattopadhyay, who has been roped in as the editor of Ei Shomoy. In his last assignment, he served as the editor of his own newspaper Ek Din.
Besides this, it is left to be seen how Ei Shomoy positions itself in the mind of the politically-conscious Bengali. While ABP has increasingly become critical of the ruling TMC government, Pratidin is virtually evolving into a voice of the TMC; Ganashakti is alleged to be the CPM mouthpiece and Aajkaal leans towards the Left as well; Bartaman, meanwhile, claims itself as fiercely independent and unbiased.
Amidst all this, Ei Shomoy (as the TVC suggests) looks to carve a niche for itself in the impressionable minds of young readers, who have modern sensibilities and wish to be a part of a new resurgent Bengal. Is it then targeted at the poriborton-obsessed Bengali? Can Ei Shomoy finally drive change in a state which is journeying into the past with each passing day? Or will it place itself elsewhere in the ideological spectrum? Only shomoy (time) will tell.