Campaign India Team
Oct 27, 2009

Forbes in India: Hungry for more

Campaign India has met Steve Forbes on a number of occasions but have yet to write about him. Now it’s time as he talks about what has been achieved, on the relationship with Network18 and on future plans. Campaign India Steve, it has been eleven issues since you launched in India. What do you think of the Indian product?

Forbes in India: Hungry for more
Campaign India has met Steve Forbes on a number of occasions but have yet to write about him. Now it’s time as he talks about what has been achieved, on the relationship with Network18 and on future plans.
 
Campaign India Steve, it has been eleven issues since you launched in India. What do you think of the Indian product?
Steve Forbes The product got a very good start and has just gotten better. We’ve done some wonderful covers – be it the Walmart one or putting Indira Gandhi on the cover after the budget instead of the Finance Minister, to make a point. The content itself has been done very well. We’re very pleased.

CI In India, you came in and occupied the number three or number four spot. I presume you’re also tracking competition and trying to figure what they’re doing right and what you’re not doing right. Have you seen some of the recent issues of your competition?
SF Not recently. But the key to Forbes India’s success is that the magazine is truthful, candid and gives insights that readers can’t find elsewhere, which is why readers’ subscriptions have been up. The numbers (of subscribers) is about 20,000 already and going up.

CI  Are you tempted to increase the cover price to Rs 100?
SF Where there’s demand, you can command. (Laughs)
 
CI Could you put that into black and white, with no shades of grey? Are you planning an increase in the cover price?
SF Well, I’ll have to talk to my partners. The marriage between Network18 and Forbes is a marriage of equals.
 
CI In India as a whole, we’re witnessing a shift to higher cover prices making publications less dependent on advertising. Are you personally in favour of such a move? (You can forget about the 100 rupee cover price question.)
SF If people like the content, they’ll pay a higher price for it.

CI On The Times of India Crest keeping its cover price at Rs 6 which is high for the Indian market
SF Well, these things abound. But you have to respond to circumstances and when you distinguish yourself, you are able to do more on the pricing side. So it becomes prudent if you have a healthy circulation because advertisers are impressed if you have a focused audience, so they know their messages are going to a receptive audience that’s buying your content at a price.

CI Do you think the need for Forbes India today is greater than it would have been three years ago?
SF Yes, we’ve learnt from the last couple of years that firms don’t last forever and downturns don’t last forever either. You have to work hard to create conditions for growth. When you have a booming economy, you think it’s pretty easy and it’s going to carry on, you keep thinking this will keep going on and on.
 
CI You don’t get involved in the editorial at all.
SF Well, the whole purpose of having an editorial team is to have people who are in a better position to decide on what their readers and investors in the Indian community want. Now, I don’t know what they want.
 
CI But how do you get a sense of what goes into the magazine?
SF In terms of responsive readers, subscriptions, comments we get from people — and I find most of it very interesting.
 
CI Do you read the comments you get?
SF Well, most of them.

CI What is the story that the comments are telling you?
SF The comments are that people like the candidness of the content, the unique approaches we take (as we did during the budget) and that they look forward to reading the magazine.
 
CI So in this day and age, is it easier to launch editions in other countries simply because the feedback comes in much faster? Does it make you feel more secure, having access to those comments?
SF Well, you always like to get good feedback and when you get negative feedback, you want to see if things will have to be tweaked a bit.
Sure, earlier one didn’t get feedback at all. Electronics and technology allows that now. But yes, we’re going to be expanding here onto other platforms, such as Forbes Woman, Forbes Life... so we’re bullish on India.
 
CI  How often do you speak to the India team on the editorial issues?
SF It’s not consistent, the number of times we speak.I think they’re doing a good job so I rely on their judgement. They’re very capable people and they also understand the philosophy of the magazine.
 
CI So you’re happy with their commitment to the Forbes brand?
SF As I say, they are the ones who get the brand. They understand it.
 
CI I’ve heard stories of you going and selling ad space along with the Network18 team.
SF I do some of it, my daughter Moira who was here, does some of it. If you don’t sell it, you don’t succeed.
 
CI Which is what I’m coming to – is ad sales becoming more difficult?
SF
In recession, ad sales are always difficult. But you can also demonstrate to marketers that this vehicle delivers more value.

 

Source:
Campaign India