Covid-19 and the economic revival in Bharat

Non-metros display higher resilience than metros

Covid-19 and the economic revival in Bharat

India underwent a strict lockdown in the second quarter of 2020 due to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. The economic revival in metropolitan cities has been considerably slow. Reverse migration during the lockdown had many people relocating back to their hometowns. Post lockdown being eased, non-metros have displayed higher resilience than the metros.

To discuss the festive demand pacing up the economic activities further in non-
metros, Dainik Bhaskar and exchange4media hosted a webinar on ‘Non-metros: Buoyant with festive demand.’

Vikram Sakhuja, Group chief executive officer, Madison Media, and OOH, shared some eye-opening statistics, “Two thirds of India’s population lives in the rural and non-metros (the Bharat areas). 53% of household consumption expenditure comes from there. Rural contribution is 50-67% of FMCGs category, 60% of fans, 50-51% of two-wheelers, 33% of white goods including smartphones, and 15-20% of cars.”

There has been a sharp increase in literacy levels and double-income families in rural areas, which has contributed to the growth of tier-II and tier-III cities. Naval Ahuja, co-founder, e4m, adds, “The GST collection growth for India was at 4% nationwide, the growth for non-metros was at 10%, showing better revival and rebound in these markets. The bountiful monsoon and good harvests are also driving this growth in smaller towns.”

Newspaper Advertising pushing up sales in Bharat

Newspaper consumption was severely hit in the metros while the situation was not that bad in non-metros as circulation came back much faster there. According to the speakers, vernacular newspapers have seen an 85-90% bounce back.


Girish Agarwal, promoter-director, Dainik Bhaskar Group

Two lucrative aspects of the print medium are its immediacy and credibility. Girish Agarwal, promoter-director, Dainik Bhaskar Group, says, “The newspaper business is 100% response-driven. You don’t do brand-building advertising in print.”

Vivek B Srivatsa, head-Marketing for Passenger Vehicle Business Unit (PVBU), Tata Motors expresses his view on print advertising, “The auto industry is driven by visibility on the media and on the new products that we launch. We have daily trackers and elaborate data about which publication works for which region for which day.

“Tata Motors was the first to go on media post the pandemic. We were on
newspapers June onwards and that has helped us have a much stronger
steam behind our recovery.”

The fear factor has been comparatively less in Bharat areas. The markets opened up much faster, people are going shopping, and there is a large amount of economic activity. Satyajit Sengupta, CCSMO – Sales & Marketing, Dainik Bhaskar group shares his opinion, “In the last 4-5 months, we have got some excellent case studies on the response that newspapers have shown. We have taken these numbers to the advertisers, and it has helped us tremendously.”

“A more tailormade approach for each product and each market would be the way to go ahead. Agency-client-media triangle has to work a lot more efficiently to make the right decisions,” Srivatsa adds.

Covid-19 as a catalyst for growth

The driving consumption in large categories like FMCG, eCommerce, and auto has visibly spiked in tier-II and tier-III cities. “We are seeing a dramatic increase in first-time buyers due to fear of travel in public transport. Personal transport has come out to be the number one priority,” says Srivatsa.

Phakey remarks, “Rural has grown almost twice as fast as urban in the FMCG
category. Within Dabur categories, healthcare has grown the fastest. eCommerce has grown at a very fast rate and made inroads into the smaller towns. It has grown five times for us and become a significant part of our journey. There is a growth of 3 to 4 times on our digital spends. Because we are able to communicate with the rural consumer, Dabur products have got huge amount of savings because of this medium. We have seen traction for new products coming from smaller town classes.”

In the next six months to one year, we will see an explosion in the retail
infrastructure in the non-metros. The appetite for risk of the financial agencies will gradually expand in the smaller towns, and that will be influenced by the improved economy in the smaller towns,” Srivatsa predicts.

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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