DB Corp reports Q1 net loss of Rs 48 crore

Print ad revenue improving post-lockdown

DB Corp is one of the largest news media groups in India. Photo DB Corp
DB Corp is one of the largest news media groups in India. Photo DB Corp

DB Corp, also known as the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper group, has reported a consolidated net loss of Rs 48.04 crore in Q1 FY2020-2021 against a profit of Rs 93.7 crore in the same period last year due to the market disruptions induced by Covid-19 pandemic.

Revenue from operations was down to Rs 210.41 crore from Rs 607.03 crore in the corresponding period of the previous fiscal. Total expenses were at Rs 279.41 crore against Rs 467.21 crore in the same period of last year.

Its revenue from printing, publishing, and allied business was down 64.45% to Rs 202.43 crore during the quarter as against Rs 569.53 crore in the year-ago period. Revenue from radio was at Rs 7.98 crore in April-June 2020 as against Rs 37.65 crore in the same period last year.

DB Corp is one of the largest print media companies and publishes newspapers like Dainik Bhaskar, Divya Bhaskar, Divya Marathi, and Saurashtra Samachar. Girish Agarwaal, non-executive director of the company, said during a conference call that the company is seeing a continuous recovery in its advertising revenue. 

In April 2020, because of the lockdown, ad sales were around only 19% compared to April last year, which improved just by 1% to 20% in May and further improved to 32% in June compared to the same month in the previous year. And in July, revenue further improved to 53% of last year’s ad sales despite some short-term reimpositions of the lockdown in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar in the middle of July.

“And currently, as we speak, in the second week of August, we are at an 81% level in the overall circulation numbers and with a few key markets like Rajasthan clocking even higher at 84%. The balance 16% or 19% of copies that are yet to come back to us are largely from the offices and the markets in the containment zones. We are confident that as and when the situation comes under control, these containment zones will be relaxed, and the offices and the shops will again resume their operations, and the copies will come back,” he said.

The company’s efforts to educate readers through awareness campaigns by experts paid off well. Circulated copies increased to 76% by 30 June and to 78% daily by the end of July, thus registering continuous pick up in circulation. Overall circulation has recovered to 81% of pre-lockdown levels with some key markets, including Rajasthan, reaching 84%.

In the same conference call, Pawan Agarwaal, deputy managing director of DB Corp, said that its digital business has been doing very well. “Our app users have gone up by almost 4x with one of the highest time spent by users. During the past couple of months, given the Covid situation, while most of the media companies in India post advertising on their digital platforms to optimize revenue on their digital platforms, we remain focused on our strategy of building best-in-class radio experience on our digital app with no ads even during Covid-19. We continue to invest in the digital business, and our focus is on our app’s daily active users,” he said.

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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