INTERNATIONAL: Medium of the month

Geetanjali Kirloskar examines the rebirth of India’s best-selling title

Geetanjali Kirloskar examines the rebirth of India’s best-selling title



The dust is only just settling in India after the controversy stirred up

by the country’s first hosting of the Miss World Competition.

Ironically, one of the sponsors of the event that so angered India’s

traditionalists was a one-time bastion of its traditional values - a

weekly women’s magazine called Femina.



The English-language fortnightly has been the friend, confidante and

guide to women of all classes of Indian society since 1959. It has stood

by her through ups and downs, supplying her with a diet of recipes,

beauty tips and knitting patterns over the past 37 years.



Until, that is, the early 90s. By 1991, the publisher, Benette Coleman

of India, could no longer ignore the growing trend - which began in the

mid-80s - for Indian women to become more independent and make more of

their lives. Faced with the fact that circulation had slumped to a

derisory 63,000 in a country of 930 million, of which 446 million were

women, one of India’s traditional icons decided to update.



In 1992, the magazine was relaunched with a new logo and design,

upmarket paper and a bold editorial approach. Instead of a patronising

stream of home hints and needlework, Femina began speaking to the new

generation of Indian women on such issues as picking career options for

girls, sex after marriage and stories on the evolving mother-daughter

relationship.



The change worked. By 1993, circulation had risen substantially and,

under the aegis of a new editor, Sathya Saran, continued to rise. At the

same time, the pass-on rate went up to 10 per issue from 8 per issue

and, by this year, its latest audited circulation figures were at a

healthy 132,840.



Last month, Femina was clearly confident about its new modern stance -

it sponsored the Miss World competition, and it went on the Internet for

the first time.



Femina’s rebirth has made the magazine India’s highest circulation

English-language magazine for women - and also for men, since 48 per

cent of its readers are the husbands, sons or friends of women readers.



In the hard-fought battle for English-language magazine readers in

India, Femina’s main competition comes from Savvy, with a circulation of

108,193.



Femina positions itself ‘For the Woman of Substance’, while Savvy has a

more feminist stance. Another strong contender in the marketplace is

Society, which, as the name suggests, deals with news about the rich and

famous among India’s elite.



Geetanjali Kirloskar is the business development manager for Pratibha

Advertising in Bangalore



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FACT BOX

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Circulation 1996 audited first half

Femina             132,840

Women’s Era        101,457

Savvy              108,193

Society             73,694

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