Indian dailies resort to massive layoffs and pay cuts

Covid-19 takes a toll on print media journalists

newspaper industry
Big newspapers go for job cuts

The newspaper industry is one of the worst affected owing to the economic slowdown induced by the national lockdown announced on 25 March. Some of the biggest newspaper publishers have scaled back operations and shut numerous editions. There have also been large scale job losses and pay cuts.

According to the recent report by Adfactors, Hindustan Times has recently asked 150 employees or around 27% of the total staff, to resign. Managing editor Soumya Bhagacharya, other senior editors such as Poonam Saxena, Manjula Narayan, Rezaul Laskar, Padma Rao, and senior assistant editor, Ananya Ghosh were asked to resign. Hindustan, the HT Media group’s national Hindi daily, has laid off more than 180 employees. The group’s financial daily Mint has discontinued its 8-year-long association with columnist Sundeep Khanna, who covered business and economy, HT Education, and previously was the executive editor with MintRajasthan Patrika plans to lay off approximately 500 employees.

The Times of India in Kerala on 20 May 2020 laid-off seven reporters — three in Thiruvananthapuram, two in Kozhikode and one each in Malappuram and Kannur — and three desk editors. ABP Digital laid-off an unconfirmed number of journalists on 26 May 2020. The Economic Times cut jobs in Kochi, Chandigarh, and Kolkata. Three journalists managing Times Life, a Sunday supplement, were laid off on 13 April.

Vikatan Group laid off 172 employees in Chennai on 21 May. It is unclear how many journalists are affected by this step, Adfactor report said.

Pudhari, Pune, and Alpa Mahanagar, Mumbai, have announced layoffs while the Sakal Group asked 15 journalists to tender their resignation on 31 March. Another major regional newspaper Eenadu has laid off close to 1,000 employees from various departments, including journalists, graphic designers, and sales and marketing professionals.

Venerable English daily The Hindu based in Chennai has laid off an unknown number of journalists across editions, bureaus, and verticals. So far, about nine journalists in Karnataka and 20 in Mumbai have been laid off. On 22 June, The Hindu formally asked its employees in the Mumbai edition to tender their resignations. The move came the same day the Press Council of India issued a notice to the editor of The Hindu for threatening to lay off journalists. This was a day after the employees of the Mumbai edition wrote to the company’s board seeking clarification on their employment status, according to Adfactor.

Salary-cuts, leave and work without pay

In addition to massive-scale layoffs, newspaper companies have gone in for salary cuts, leave and work without pay.

Fortune India sent its 20 people strong editorial teams on a three-month leave without pay on 28 April. The decision was communicated in an internal eMail, Adfactor said. The Indian Express has asked its employees to take a temporary salary cut after the nationwide lockdown affected the paper’s circulation and sales.

Bennett Coleman & Co, which owns Times of India, Economic Times, Mirror, Nav Bharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Vijay Karnataka, and several other dailies, announced deferring of increments, restructuring of salary and salary cuts on 23 April. The Hindu is reported to have restructured its team in Mumbai by reducing the headcount after salary cuts up to 25% in May. The Hindu had earlier stopped printing in Mumbai during the lockdown, resuming only on 15 June.

Marathi dailies, Sakal, and Lokmat based in Pune have also announced pay-cuts while Tribune India has gone in for pay cuts on 2 May via an internal circular. Dainik Bhaskar restructured the salaries of nearly 1,000 employees (12% of the workforce), as reported by Reuters on 16 April 2020, while Patrika cut salaries on 7 April.


2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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