thee times of india

Today the old lady of boribunder (yay, i remember fundaes that were st. peters in school quizzes) started a kannada edition. Simply titled “the times of india”, with “the” being pronounced as it is when it precedes a vowel sound!

reminds me of certain peculiarities of bangalore english, at least the variety that people of my parents’ generation speak. for a start, “the” is always pronounced as “thee”, irrespective of the sound that follows it. giraffe is pronounced as “giraff-ay” (maybe that was how it was originally meant to be pronounced but the english spoilt it), madam as “maedam” (interestingly most men of my father’s generation address all unrelated women as “maedam”. something i’m not used to. so recently there was this situation where i was addressing a woman by her first name and dad was calling her “maedam”), and so on. there are a lot of better ones i’m sure but currently my memory fails me.

going on to other things, some english words have come to mean something totally different in Kannada. for example “recess” refers to the act of peeing. and “motion” means “shit”. “rubber” usually means “eraser” and the pencil sharpener is referred to as “mender”. “machine” by default refers to the flour grinding machine, so “going to the machine” means “i’m going to the flour mill to get some flour grounded”. if i owned one such shop, it would probably be appropriate to play a certain number from Pink Floyd’s “wish you were here” album!

coming back to where we started, bennett coleman and company now owns four newspapers in bangalore (following its not so recent acquisition of the “vijay group) – two in english and two in Kannada. two of those are market leaders – the english ToI and Vijaya Karnataka. will be interesting to see what strategy the times follows for the Kannada toi.

As regards to the two english papers, Vijay Times has been positioned as a cost leader. It is much cheaper, all in color and the quality of writing is pathetic. Haven’t seen another newspaper that is so badly written. Only thing is its supplements seem better than the crappy Bangalore Times (i mean the kind of stuff they try to cover in the supplements is good – again pathetically written). It is more of a paper that is a “second newspapers” to homes that are currently getting only a Kannada newspaper, and who want to “move up the ladder” by reading an english paper.

On the other hand Vijaya Karnataka is widely acknowledged as the best Kannada newspaper, and though i haven’t read it too often, I think it’s a fairly well written paper (maybe it has quickly come to be like what Deccan Herald is in English) and has a wide traditional base. My take is that “thee ToI” will try to be the “cool Kannada newspaper” and try and catch youngsters’ attention. Right now most Kannada papers are quite serious and “traditional” and probably “thee toi” will be the paper to read for the young man on the street!

It is also interesting to point out here that “thee ToI” was distributed free along with Vijay Times this morning but wasn’t distributed along with the English ToI. Wondering if that offers some pointers towards its STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning).

The founder of Vijaya Karnataka and Vijay TImes, Vijay Sankeshwar was a hardcore BJP man, representing Dharwad North in parliament for quite a few terms. He fell out with yediyurappa (i think) and quit the party and formed his own Kannada Naadu Party. Now I’m told he’s with Bangarappa in the Samajwadi Party. Yet, one of today’s editorials in the Vijay Times was very right-wing – attacking the UPA government for being too pro-Muslim. Intersting!

On similar lines, I think the BJP committed a huge blunder by letting Vijay go. In one stroke they lost access to what would later become Karnataka’s leading daily by a long margin, not to speak of the transportation and logistics (VRL) etc.

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