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   The most tragic part about the Indian Post... (February 14, 1990)

The most tragic part about the Indian Post is that it is a good paper that did not sell. Mr. Singhania was wrongly advised on two counts: first, to start a paper, and second, to start it in the way it was.

Mr. J.C. Jain advised him to start the paper. Mr. Singhania had the money, though it now seems not enough, Mr. Jain the know-how, though that also is in question now. It was claimed that Bombay was at last going to have a paper to rival the Times.

That was the first mistake, you cannot rival the Times by bringing out a 16-pages. The day somebody comes out with a 72-page paper, Times would become No.2, unless it also increases its pages. Which, I am sure, it is quite capable of doing. All it has to do is close down all its other publications and its other editions and concentrate on the Bombay Times.

The second mistake the Post made was to claim, after a bit of learning, that is was aiming to be not number one but number tow, displacing the Indian Express. You cannot have an upmarket, objective, neat-and-clean paper, and at the same time displace the gutsy, crusading, biased Express. It is like replacing Arun Shourie with Nihal Singh.

Next, the Post recruited staff wholesale from other papers. That is the biggest mistake a newpaper can make, because only those people leave a newspaper (or any other job) and join a new paper if they are disgrunted with their present lot. And disgrunted journalists do not make good journalists. So the Post began with a news editor who was refused the post on his old paper, a chief reporter who had been passed over in his old paper.

The paper also went in for high technology and it kept stressing this point in all their advertisements, forgetting that it is people and secondhand manual typewriters that make newspapers, not Atex machines. Economically also it was an unwise decision, instead of spendign a core of rupees on what are after all glorified typewriters, they should have bought a printing press.

The sad part is that the staff has got so used to working on the Atex that it is refusing to use typewriters.

The launching strategy was also illadvised. It gave away thousands of copies free, forgetting the cardinal principle in selling: you don’t give away anything free, newspaper or soap. Readers ridicule you: “I don’t know why they are dumping this paper in my house every morning!”

The Independent also made a similar mistake of giving the paper away free (introductory offer). It has made other similar mistakes also. If it wants to sell its computer system, I have a buyer.

 
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