Sun shines on Indian newspaper industry

It's a boom-time for the press in India. And with six out of 10 people now literate, it's only going to get bigger, say Chetan Chauhan and Jonathan Brown

Anyone who believes the buzz has disappeared from the British newsroom in recent years should pay a visit to the sweltering offices of Delhi's biggest-selling broadsheet. By seven o' clock, the offices of the Hindustan Times are reminiscent of a madhouse. The cavernous office, practically deserted during the day, has been filling steadily since early evening with the newspaper's 120-plus Delhi-based reporters, who have been out on the beat since lunchtime, chasing stories in temperatures of 45C.

In the three-month monsoon, 178mm of rain can fall in a single day, bringing severe flooding. And in a city of 15 million people where the public transport system is highly unreliable, simply getting about is not easy. Journalists are given special government bus passes, although most prefer to avoid the crush and travel by autorickshaw or weave their way through the city's three million vehicles on private motorbike.

Coming face to face with the key figures within India's giant bureaucracy and swollen political class is also never easy. Access is normally granted after persistent pleas with secretaries. Meetings are normally limited to 15 minutes, and the reporter will seek to arrange as many of these before returning to the office in the evening to file their stories.

"Khogen, Ashu come over," bellows Yashwant Raj, the news editor, above the hubbub as he sketches out a dummy page, surrounded by senior staff. He is joined by Ashu, the graphic editor, who calls for the master illustrator Jayanto. He ambles over dressed in a long kurta over jeans and slippers. His job will be to draw plans for a new Delhi metro line.

Next Yashwant disappears into the reporters section, hunting for other reporters whose stories are destined for the front. Unlike in Britain, reporters are not permitted to take a byline on a story written from a press release, an open briefing or reworked wire copy. A front-page story brings with it recognition.

Yashwant returns from his trawl with Shekhar Iyer, a senior special correspondent from the newspaper's political bureau. Leaning back in his chair, he asks him to take him through his story on the day's biggest event: a successful bandh - nationwide strike - called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad to protest against the arrest of a Hindu priest Kanchi Shankaracharya on a murder charge. Satisfied, Yashwant gives him an hour to file 400 words.

The Hindustan Times began life as a family-owned newspaper in 1924, from a small office in Connaught Place. Today, it is still a family affair. K K Birla is the chairman while his daughter Shobana Bhartia runs the paper which prides itself on its hard news coverage, but which has recently added lifestyle and Delhi sections focusing on Bollywood gossip and parties. What has not changed is its support for the Congress Party, which has ruled India for 40 years, taking India through independence, partition, riots, emergency and the assassination of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi - not to mention the threat of nuclear war with Pakistan that looms over the subcontinent.

Now selling 900,000 copies a day, the Hindustan Times is bucking the trend seen in Britain, where, with a few notable exceptions, circulation is firmly downward. The HT is on the rise: in the past five years circulation is up 30 per cent. Trends are similar for its rival paper, The Times of India.

Professor Dinesh Sharma, of Delhi University's department of sociology, says that India has seen a massive surge in its media market in the past seven years. "Both newspapers and television are growing. With the population of the cities rising abnormally, the circulation of most English-language papers will increase," says Professor Sharma.

That ties in with the growth of the Indian middle class, driven by technological expertise in rapidly developing urban areas such as Delhi and Mumbai. The average annual income in cities is now close to $12,000, as opposed to the $4,000 in rural areas.

This boom in newspaper circulation means they can charge a high advertising rate. Many papers offer a decent rate for advertisement in all its editions covering almost entire country. This means it can use its low cost base to keep the cover price down. A weekday copy costs Rs 1.50, less than 2p. On Sunday, when it is close to 60 pages, it costs Rs2. Pay for reporters is Rs15,000- Rs40,000 (£177-£472) per month, depending on their seniority, but the hours are long. The high revenues have created a fully automated newspaper after much recent investment in technology.

That said, there remains a vast and untapped potential for newspapers which serve the non-urban Hindi-speaking masses, as well as the 14 other languages spoken in this giant country. In a population of more than one billion, six out of ten people are now literate, and almost all villages are covered by the education programme, offering a potential newspaper market 10 times the size of Britain. The economy is stable and growing at about 8 per cent a year.

"The danger for the English-language print media is that their readers are limited to the cities," says Professor Sharma. "The vernacular-language papers have a bigger market in smaller towns and rural India, and that market has yet to be tapped to its full potential."

Good news for the BBC staff facing the axe. A place in the sun, perhaps?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Urgent Requirement - Central Manchester

£20000 - £23000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Guru Careers: Social Media Executive / SEO Executive

£20 - 25K + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Social Media...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions