A Tale Of Two Rahuls

Last week the Indian media world was busy covering two Rahuls. Both are youth icons in their own right, and both were facing their share of emotional moments in their respective fields. Only difference is that one facing the public wrath for his party’s defeat in state election in UP and other taking a retirement from a sport which is followed by the entire nation!

Both were happening almost at the same time, so the social media enthusiasts had an excellent time to create pun at each other’s expense (like the wrong Rahul is going! :-))

But that is not my point! Both were coming from the jaws of failure, but evoked completely a different kind of reaction from public. The Rahul who hailed from a humble background and became the cynosure of all eyes believed on strong work ethics and served the country with exemplary hard work and dedication. The other Rahul, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, largely seen as the heir of the dynasty rule, constantly facing flak from his party’s downturn of image for its involvement in various corruption charges by the other party leaders. The second Rahul, obviously doesn’t have the repertoire of accomplishments of winning laurels for the country and the distinction of earning a tag of ‘The Wall’ unlike the former, but both get huge media attention for different reason.

What can brands learn from both of them? Needless to say both are engaged in two most high profile professions like cricket and politics, and both share a tremendous load for carrying the hopes of billion citizens! So both the brands are relevant from a consumer point of view and there will be enough discussions about them in media space. However, one of them faces a trust deficit despite travelling to far flung areas of country’s largest state and bonding with common citizens in order to win votes! So what went wrong with him? Through he has the grace of taking the responsibility for his party’s defeat.

Is it the party’s current image embroiled by continuous allegation of corruption? Or is it the price hike of essential commodities affecting the lives of voters? Or is it his foreign descent that could create a mental block for certain voters to accept him as their leader?

I’d say none of them! Because we live in a time when none of these political parties have so-called clean image or none of them have done anything significant for the public that could be demonstrated apart from paying lip service! So where does the story lead to? If politics is a category then it is a very fragmented category today with plethora of choices( thanks to emergence of regional parties!). In a fragmented category, the brand differentiation are low and therefore the personalities play an important role in the brand choice! So this election was a classic case of personality war where their party symbols become a mere formality( or a sign of progressiveness as the ride on bicycle considered to be ‘green’ where as elephant’s back equals to ‘cruelty’!)

Cut to personality! The personality that won finally had managed to overcome all the baggages that his party accumulated over the past and took all by surprise! However let me not dwell on him now, because there are enough people already doing that and also will dilute my plot!

So back to Rahul again! The Rahul who was expected to create magic for his party. The brand Rahul lacks some inherent attribute besides Empathy! The Brand Rahul lacks a powerful Brand Idea! A powerful brand idea can not only propel action, it can unite people under a common goal. In the current scenario, he had very little to draw anything positive from his own party therefore he needed to come up with his own. Needless it had to be in sync with his own party’s values. Without that there will be a lack of purpose and ill directed actions by various members of the party which will lead to deviation from the main goal and invite unnecessary controversies. Because there was a lack of a powerful idea therefore there was no articulation of that idea. Another trait of powerful brands is that they carry the hopes and aspirations of their stakeholders on their shoulders. Of course they are supported by able people, but they connect with their leader through that powerful idea. Here in case of Brand Rahul what we saw that he is largely dependent on his party, which is facing political turmoil at this point, to create a roadmap for future. In fact the party which won finally, actually came out of ashes with the help of another personality whose only agenda as of now is to bring back the law and order of the state which is very much missing currently. Again this has been promised under a party banner which itself has been blamed in the past for deteriorating law and order situation in the state. However, people are willing to give him a fresh chance as he has a simple yet powerful idea which has created impediments for development in the past for progress of the state. So Brand Rahul despite having well meaning intentions, it lacks a simple yet powerful idea that galvanises support for his party.

Now coming to cynosure Rahul. This Rahul is a different animal altogether. He epitomizes class and consistency, makes him one of the legendary personalities in the world of sport. His only purpose is to provide solidity to Indian batting line up which he has demonstrated remarkably well for last 15 years. The team has benefited from his uncomplicated batting technique and positive attitude he brought to the game, something transcended into other professions as well. That’s what successful brands are all about. They come with a lot of substance and values that inspire people from all walks of life. Their fans and followers tend to model those traits in their own behavior but they themselves remain unfazed by their contribution they make and also the adulation they receive in the process. Their commitment and consistency of delivery builds trust which is what forms the basis of a sustainable brand. They don’t try to give too many messages to their stakeholders. But their stakeholders are very clear what they stand for and in majority of the cases they stand for only one promise. But that becomes to be the game changer. That’s what powerful ideas are all about. They unite people under a common goal.

We can verify this by pondering upon any of the contemporary brands and we will get our answers. From Nike to Anna Hazare, all are the fruits of a powerful idea. Those ideas are simple but if implemented can change the lives of million people of the world.

A Bitter Pill To Swallow!

Today came to Jaipur as a panelist for INMA conference. My first appearance in a fora like this as a person from the print industry!

The topic was about how to drive readership growth in an era when circulation no. are growing healthily. Undoubtedly a hot topic and chose to take a very provocative stance! I realised one thing that industry needs to wake up and align to the issues related readership measurement! Enough time has been wasted by criticising the survey when we haven’t understood the fundamentals of the methodology, let alone taking advantage of it! In fact one senior leader from one noteworthy publication casted insinuation about a competitive publication rigging the data and blaming the body under which the research is conducted. I wonder if he is so sure about his information then why is he not taking action against. He is a senior leader. He should realise the price he is paying for his inaction. Neither he is seen in any meeting when he is called to participate in the body. These are the people, to my mind, are the stumbling block for any kind of change. I agree there are some serious lacunae in the methodology of the research. But we must also realise this is the best we can have in the current situation. So we have two options in hand. Either we follow the methodology and have some readership figure for print or completely junk it as we are not capable of having anything better than the current one. In the second case, I would imagine we would bring back the stone age. If a media is not measurable, then advertisers would not put money on that medium. Then all the critics of the research would have to look for another industry for jobs.

So as an industry person, my suggestion would be, even if you have to vent your frustration, do it as an insider rather than an outsider. This is an age of collaboration. So if we believe that readership no. are important for our growth then we must collaborate with MRUC and make our voice counted. It is not easy to be a part of that body as most of these meetings happen on Saturdays. Also this is a honorary service.

I understand that circulation growth itself is an uphill task! On top of the when it is not translated into readership growth, it is a bitter pill to swallow. But it is also true that very few of us taken any concerted measure to grow our readership. We always believed that by chasing circulation no. blindfoldedly we will drive our readership no. But that’s not true. Ultimately readership is a sample survey conducted among readers, whereas circulation is audited by a body of chartered accountants! The second one is done within the four walls and other one is done at the market level. We only need to understand the difference and align with the reality. Much later comes a way to monetize that readership figure.

IPL2: The Fever Is On…

If IPL1 was all about testing a new format whether it will work or not, then IPL2 is about testing the same format in a foreign soil where there will be no local support for the teams.

 We have just received the viewership data from AC Nielsen’s TAM for the first 8 days of IPL2 i.e. 11 matches. While we are not going to compare the viewership trends of IPL2 vs. IPL1 as TAM has expanded its panel size in the meantime, but definitely highlight the over all findings with you of IPL2.

 The Salient points are:

  • The opening match between Chennai vs. Mumbai opened with a rating of 5.1 at all India level
  • The 6 metro ratings are marginally higher than all India
  • Mumbai and Chennai markets are showing highest ratings amongst all 6 metros
  • Decline in time spent on viewing of regular General Entertainment Channels(GEC)

 Snapshot of Ratings by Marketsgraph2






*HSM= Hindi Speaking Markets

 Kolkata has shown highest rating for the match played between Jaipur vs. Kolkata on 23rd April, 2009. Incidentally, it was a tied match which went to Super Over. Also Mumbai and Hyderabad are the two cities where ratings are high for almost all the matches.

Dip in Viewing of Regular Channels during Prime Time

The regular GEC channels have suffered a blow to the tune of 7-20%.











Even the News Genres have Dipped in Rating during Prime Time despite the Election Wave

News Genre Ratingsgraph21







Market = Hindi Speaking Market (HSM)

Two Mobile Service Providers among Top 10 Advertisersgraph31











The ratings may not be comparable to last year’s IPL, the initial ratings definitely encouraging. Even the response from the advertisers is also satisfactory.

A Splash of Colors

July 21st 2008 saw the burgeoning space of Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GEC) expanding with the launch of Colors, an offering from the Viacom18 (a 50:50 joint venture between Viacom and Network18) stable. The channel performed extraordinarily and led experts to wonder at the why’s and how’s of Colors, the King-in-waiting. We have done a small study to satiate those questions.

Colors created an initial buzz with the Akshay Kumar hosted reality show, Fear Factor – Khatron Ke Khiladi (KKK). What KKK did was target the age group 14-34 with its new daredevil show. That age group is most open to experimentation and is not averse to flirt with their choices. The show format and the celebrity factor (the contestants as well as the host) helped build valuable viewership awareness.

That awareness transcended into unprecedented loyalty and we are here to analyze Colors’ spectacular rise in this competitive space. As we are engaged in this effort, Colors is the No 2 GEC in HSM Markets (TAM data for week 10 – 1 to 7 March) snapping at the heels of Star Plus.

The summarized analysis can be put forward thus: “Differentiated Content and Disruptive Scheduling”. Looking beyond the obvious let us delve into some of the finer points which helped Colors in its stupendous rise.


Promotional Strategies during launch:
In its efforts to become the market leader, Colors had undertaken innovative promotions targeting Hindi speaking audience in 90 Indian cities. The points below are some of their extensive marketing and promotional initiatives.

  • Colors used all media such as TV, radio, print, websites, mobiles, movie theaters and outdoor in a launch blitz.
  • More than 65,000 ad spots were booked on Television.
    15 million SMS’s were sent across all telecom operators in the country.
  • 1,300 hoardings were used and road shows were launched across the country.
  • 3,000 taxis in Mumbai and 2,000 auto rickshaws in small towns, along with local trains and school buses were painted with the Colors logo.
  • The hugely popular Dabbawala services were marshaled in Mumbai to disburse the channel message.
  • Specific corporate marketing activities were done at Big Bazaar stores with helpers and counter-personnel wearing Colors T-shirts and giving out information about the channel. Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi merchandise was available at Pantaloons outlets.
  • In McDonald’s, the Colors brand was present on the menu list while Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi merchandise was available there.
  • For program specific advertising, Colors tied up with ISKCON for promoting its mythological show Jai Sri Krishna at all ISKCON temples. Moreover, 1000 temples across Hindi speaking states were used to promote the show by putting up banners and giving out Krishna merchandise, literature and calendars.
  • For the show ‘Mohe Rang De’, Colors chose Punjab and Delhi to organize street plays as these places were the maximum witness to freedom struggle depicted in the serial.

A good mix of convention and innovation coupled with the content of its shows ensured a bombastic entry for Colors into the viewer’s paradigm.


Distribution Strategy:
The clinching factor in Colors’ favor was, according to many, its brilliant distribution strategy. The channel is currently available in 66.8 million homes, with a 24% market share. It has 200 of the 280 advertisers in this space on board. Very impressive figures indeed.

Atul Gupta, an independent cable distribution expert, considers Viacom’s distribution strategy to be 99% responsible for the success of Colors. “The channel is a distribution success. Period,” he says.

In an interesting strategy, Viacom18 is said to have given away Rs 100 crore as carriage fee for a year to get the best band for its channel. Its budget was clearly much higher than the Rs 40-60 crore that NDTV Imagine and 9X reportedly invested in their distribution. The results show!

  • Its advertising rates currently, are on a par with other leading channels in the GEC space, with a 10-second spot going for Rs1.5 lakh. In the launch phase, it was as low as Rs20,000. A 650% increase!
  • Colors now rides on the back of DEN (Digital Entertainment Network), the cable distribution company owned by Network 18’s Sameer Manchanda and Raghav Bahl. That DEN has made inroads into Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Gujarat, could only work in Colors’ favor, down the road.
  • Viacom18 joined TheOneAlliance (an initiative of MSM Discovery Pvt Ltd) on 25th Feb 2009. It will be a part of the exclusive bouquet, as pay channels (along with Nick and MTV), from April 1, 2009.

Programming Strategy and Performance:
As mentioned before, Colors first targeted the 14-34 age group; first with KKK then with Bigg Boss 2. Bigg Boss 2 was a hypothetical winner anyway considering the amount of controversy associated with its host Shilpa Shetty and the participants – Rahul Mahajan, Monica Bedi and the like.

The next challenge in its wake was to get the core audience of women between 25 and 44 years, who were hooked to other established channels, to sample the new channel. Colors started advertising its mass market shows, Balika Vadhu and Jai Sri Krishna in a big way during Bigg Boss 2 and KKK.

It also cleverly timed the various programmes based on the assumption that most homes have only one television set. So Balika Vadhu and Jai Sri Krishna were shown between 8 pm and 9 pm, and Bigg Boss 2 after 10 pm. In its strategy to avoid confrontation with the existing players, and thereby build viewership base, it succeeded.

The launch episode of Fear Factor recorded a TVR of 1.72, which went up to 3.3 in the finale. The serials on Colors – Balika Vadhu, Jai Sri Krishna and Mohe Rang De also gained immensely due to the action hero’s muscle.

Although KKK and Bigg Boss 2 gave the channel its hype, its serials Balika Vadhu and Jai Sri Krishna delivered the ratings. It was a classic case of transferring of viewer’s loyalty. Moreover the strategy used by Colors in using repeat telecasts to garner GRP’s had a positive side effect as well. It built loyalty and also ensured that new prospective viewers catch up on the storyline at leisure.

Market Wise performance of the top 6 GEC’sgraph22

The performance drivers are the huge markets of UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and MP. Interestingly Star Plus received jolts in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and WB. The reasons could be proliferation of local GEC’s or the poaching of Colors. Colors, though, has conclusively dealt a blow to the likes of Sony, Imagine and 9X.

Another interesting source tapped by Colors in its quest for GRP’s was Movies. The strategy in this case was the showcasing of recent blockbusters at non-conventional times. Slots of 4 PM on weekends were chosen. Another example of Colors’ strategy of avoiding confrontation yet succeeding. Colors initially started with a couple of movies per day in the weekends. Currently the number has greatly increased. Weekends are full of movies (both Prime and Non-Prime Time) and Week Recaps of its serials. The TRP’s gathered are also pretty good. Welcome (the highest rated movie on Colors) gathered a TRP of 3.01%.


Luck played its part too!


The demise of the erstwhile hugely popular K serials in Star Plus resulted in new focus on the fresher serials in the Colors bouquet esp. Balika Vadhu.

The Producers Strike (46th to 48th Week 2008) saw Colors toppling Star Plus for the first time in 8 years and maintain its top dog status for 3 weeks (the duration of the strike). This was due to the fact that Colors had the only fresh content to offer in the form of Bigg Boss 2. Also the repeats of its relatively new shows attracted attention as viewers thought they could catch up on the stories so far, much easier.


Graphical Analysis of Color’s Performance
To wrap up let us give a timeline to Colors’ performance. The graph below shows us how Colors rescued the genre from definite drops in Channel Share (%).

  1. Colors reached 100 GRP’s in only its 2nd week (August)
    a. KKK had a TRP of 2.57% in that week
    b. Balika Vadhu had 1.34% and Jai Sri Krishna had a rating of 1.03%
  2. Colors achieves a 20% share in genre GRP’s (it continues to do so, increasing to its tally); In 10th Week (October) it grabs 2nd position with 235 GRP’s. Strong performers this time are Bigg Boss 2 and Balika Vadhu (6.5% TVR)
  3. The Producer’s strike induces a huge slump in GEC shares. Fresh content in Colors helps it to be numero uno for 3 weeks. Within 18 weeks of launch it is the top GEC.

In conclusion, let us summarize what Colors did to enable such a pedestal.

  • Disruption with attention seeking properties like KKK and Bigg Boss 2 to pique audience interest.
  • Blitz promotion with use of conventional and innovative strategies.
  • Non-confrontation strategy with other GEC’s evident from scheduling of their shows.
  • Apt transfer of loyalty to serials like Balika Vadhu and Jai Sri Krishna.
  • The superb distribution sowing whose benefits they are reaping.

Colors did manage to become number 1 in the 9th week (Feb 22 to 28) albeit with a very slender 3 GRP lead over Star Plus. Testament to the dynamic rise this channel has achieved in such a short period of time.


Twitter helps to break the breaking news mould

Recently, NASA used Twitter™ to break the news of the discovery of what appeared to be water ice on Mars by the Phoenix Mars Lander. Other NASA projects, such as Space Shuttle missions and the International Space Station are also known to provide regular updates via Twitter™. The portable platform in which NASA chose to “break” this news is slowly evolving to potentially assume giant proportions. The well worn term “social media” is now actively contributing to another conventional forum of “breaking news”.

“Breaking News” primarily has two connotations. The urgency and scale of impact being one and the exclusivity in releasing the information being another. The phenomenon started with CNN disrupting normally scheduled programming to convey issues of utmost importance; usually real-time. The recent dilution of this once-effective, eyeball grabbing tool however is not my present concern.

The points I want to talk about are:

1. Democratization of the concept.
2. Proliferation of Platform.
3. Portability of content.
4. Measurement of Merit.
5. An equivalent of Google proportions to opinion building?

CNN’s Tori Blasé is a regular “tweeter” and admits to receiving fresh news from her followers along with reviews and responses for her work. This gets translated into news but the source is no longer the “traditional” journalist. People are getting involved in the process of creating the content. Social Capital (a term associated with Twitter again) is slowly but surely gaining currency.

The platform of the Breaking News innovation was the TV. But now, along with provision of content expanding its sources; there is also a proliferation in platform. The Internet and the mobile phone are the most popular entrants. News at any time can be relayed to channels through SMS and updates can be posted for public viewing on websites like Twitter™, Jaiku™ and Yammer™.

The most important point I think is the portability of the content. The within 140 character posts on Twitter™ or short messages over the phone have more potential to maintain interest than long articulated discourses on blogs. Whenever, wherever you can post a short message on your account for your “followers” to mull over.

The biggest innovation in this respect and the reason why I became interested enough about this exciting prospect is the new tool on the API (Application Programming Interface) of Twitter™ – “twInfluence”. It gauges the reach of tweets and the people who read them. It analyzes velocity (how quickly you’ve gained quality followers) and social capital (how many high-influence people follow you) and a comprehensive listing is provided. It is sure to encourage creative competition and that augurs well.

Google is the messiah of our age. Delivering us from confusion in the rapidly expanding digitized information superhighways. But what sites like Twitter™ is doing is building opinion and packaging it in an effective way. Along with fresh content, it invites intelligent response and hyper-linking for substantiation of arguments made. Popular tweets recently have been “tweetsfromgaza”; a very opinionated forum about the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks tweet. No invasive red alerts of Breaking News when there is actually none.  But serious issues. Serious discussions. All with real-time updates. That’s the beauty of it.

Published on DNA Money, dated February 10, 2009 and http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1229262

“100 GRP”- New Benchmark or Overrated Myth

The rarefied air enjoyed by the likes of Star Plus, Zee TV and SET has met with asphyxiating elements recently. The entrance of some potentially strong players has seen a whirl of dynamic activity. For years the triumvirate ruled with gusto, Star Plus leading with élan. Although the gap between SET and the preceding two continued to increase, no upstart aimed to upset the applecart. This newbie brigade primarily consists of NDTV Imagine, a GEC from the increasing bouquet of NDTV; 9X from INX Media and the “most impressive newcomer award” winner Viacom 18’s Colors. The award by the way is courtesy those amazing GRP figures that has the industry in a tizzy.


What exactly is this GRP?


GRP is the sum of ratings achieved by a specific media vehicle or schedule. It represents the percentage of the target audience reached by a program. It helps advertisers locate their preferred channel for exposure. Now the existing players in the GEC market have been perennial giants. Lacking the volume or the time period to cultivate loyalty, the new channels, fore-fronted by 9X, have hit upon an excellent strategy. They have indulged in brand repositioning by coyly attracting the attention away from the existing rank hierarchy into a level field of channels with plus-100 GRP’s. Purely a psychological ploy. But this apparent commoditization has definitely generated a buzz.


On the brighter side though, this fragmentation has provided opportunities to clients who now have alternatives other than the top 2 channels. They have been provided with a chance to get the same Reach (%) by showcasing their products in the new entrants who have relatively much lesser rates.


Colors vs. 9X


Now let us (with TAM’s aid) get into some numbers. The speed, with which Colors breached the “100 GRP’s barrier”, would make Usain Bolt blush. In just the second week of launch, Colors riding on the hugely popular Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi registered a GRP of 118. The game show’s conclusion in the 33rd week niggled the figures a bit (a climb down from 138 to 129) but Big Boss 2’s voyeuristic appeal is sure to set things right. Now these figures are mind boggling. Let us therefore take a critical view. A bit of digging reveals that the amazing shares are quite largely due to Repeat Telecasts. An astonishing 84% of the total amount of time Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi was on air was repeats. The GRP’s, though not commensurate, are 45% of the total GRP’s for the show. Hence, unraveling the mysterious yarn of 100 GRP’s, we first meet with a definitive masque. 9X’s story is a bit different. It reached a zenith of 100+ in the 21st week. Its figures have dropped since. 9X though scaled the peak because of the Mythology Genre (Jai Maa Vaishno Devi and Alif Laila). The fluctuating fortunes of these two programs have been the principle contributory element.


How important is the numbers game?


If planning was arithmetic then clients could gain as much leverage from advertising in Movie Channels. Both MAX and Zee Cinema regularly have GRP’s in excess of 150. If the GRP’s were the decisive variable, one should have benefitted from advertising in a host of sub 100 channels; thereby accumulating their score. The GRP’s provided by the top 2 channels can be matched by the next 5 (SET, Colors, NDTV Imagine, 9X, Star One.) Moreover the rates of advertising will be far less in the latter set. The effective reach is in fact more in the lagging group (see graph.) But the qualitative aspect cannot be discounted. Brand Relevance demands that household products attract the viewership of housewives (who are the bulk audience for the Serials on Star Plus or Zee TV.) So a client advertising the said product might not find his desired audiences in an action show like Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi. Moreover advertising in GEC’s is Program-led as compared to Title-led advertising in movie channels. A caustic view might thus render the uselessness of this “100 GRP’s” myth. But Colors and 9X should be given their due for their strong performance and their shrewd strategizing.




Top 2: Star Plus, Zee TV

Next 5: SET, Colors, NDTV Imagine, 9X, Star One

Source: TAM

TG: CS 4+

Market: HSM

Period: Weeks 31-34




As part of strategy, clients may wish to utilize the lower costs of repeat telecasts. As mentioned above, repeats garner a decently good viewership. Moreover, recently channels have been engaging in profusive showcasing of certain genres. Mythological/Fantasy serials are the most obvious example. According to the number of programs per channel, NDTV Imagine leads with 4; Star Plus and 9X have 2 each. This genre contributed 39 % of the total GRP for NDTV Imagine (Weeks 31-34) Hence it is obvious that the channels are cashing in on the popularity via a volume outlook. Clients can associate themselves with a genre and thereby gain.


In conclusion let me maintain that this viewpoint is not aimed at challenging the trends. It merely tries to examine the validity of their announcements and their implications. The industry has warmed up to the new players because of their ingenuity. That is commendable. However as I have maintained the numbers can and often give a veiled view.


Published on September 2008 http://www.exchange4media.com/viewpoint/viewpoint.asp?view_id=102