Deccan Herald and Prajavani’s Mastermind

A bilingual online guide to excelling in competitive exams

Deccan Herald
The annual plan plus archive is available at Rs 479. Photo: Deccan Herald

The Deccan Herald-Prajavani exam-oriented Mastermind, begun just over a year ago in September 2021 by the news media group, is an online guide for students preparing for competitive employment exams such as the UPSC, KPSC, PSI, FDA, and Banking PO. It is a bilingual ePaper put together by a team of experts leveraging the strengths of two of the Bangalore-based Printers Mysore group’s media brands – Prajavani in Kannada and Deccan Herald in English. 

The subscription-based plans provide bilingual content in English and Kannada, multiple-choice tests, explainer videos, practice question papers, and archives to access the content of previous months. Several types of subscriptions are available with the introductory pricing of the annual plan discounted to Rs 399 for a year. The annual plan plus archive is available at Rs 479 and the archive subscription by itself is Rs 129. The archive was initiated recently – after the accumulation of about 10 months of content – as the project goes into its second year. 

Sitharaman Shankar, CEO at the Printers Mysore, explains that the Mastermind content is delivered as a four-page ePaper five days a week to subscribers. Two pages are in English, while the other two are in Kannada. The software is the same that is used for the ePapers of the group’s Deccan Herald and Prajavani dailies – the Gurgaon-based Summit’s Smartpaper platform. Videos are embedded within the ePaper – these contain the speech of the instructor along with the content written by a moving pen on the whiteboard in a simulation of the classroom. The instructor speaking is generally the same team member who has written the instructive content.

Online tests corrected – with explanations

Moreover, the group is planning to start producing sets of appropriate multiple-choice exams or tests that the students will take online. They will get back their corrected papers with explanations alongside. The exams will be priced separately and are likely to be launched in November.

Within the first year itself, the Mastermind effort has become financially viable. Shankar says that at one point in the past year, 40,000 subscribers were enrolled online. The aggressive pricing of the first year has been retained as the project goes into its second year. There is also demand for a physical product, a printed four-pager, which, according to Shankar, the group is evaluating as a possibility.

“We’re driven by a genuine desire to help students in their quest to crack these competitive exams, and we have the expertise to make a difference to their prospects,” says Shankar. “For us, it is a natural space to be in, given the wealth of content we have, and the credibility our papers enjoy. It makes sense to monetize this advantage while keeping prices affordable enough to ensure a range of students benefits.”

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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