It’s the onset of summer in Chennai. The beginning of a long season of heat, sweat and swear words, a season in which one never ceases to long for a sojourn in hill stations. So when I got an invite from P.S. Venkatasubramanian, Vice President, Circulation, for the All India Sales Conference in Udhagamandalam or Ooty, the immediate response was to accept it. The added incentive was his assurance that there would be no speeches, seminars, presentations and brainstorming sessions. It was going to be a grand gettogether of his colleagues from all over the country celebrating their success and the leadership recognising with rewards the hard work that went into that success. I was not disappointed. The five days from the time we landed at the Coimbatore airport to the time we returned to the same airport were filled with moments of joy and shared experiences. The Coimbatore team of Ciculation Department, led by Apollo Rajkumar, surprised us with high standards of hospitality by taking care of every little need of the 200-odd participants. Its meticulous planning and execution were evident in every minute of our stay.
When Frontline was relaunched with added features and a 60 per cent increase in its price, apprehension was palpable in and outside the organisation. The relaunch idea itself was viewed with an element of suspicion by friends and wellwishers. The dominant impression was that it was part of a marketing strategy in which the editorial side was complicit.
Six months down the road, the good news is that the increased price has not deterred our loyal readers a bit. What is more, we have won over many new readers. Enriched content without any compromise on the character of the magazine is a major factor. What is equally important is the effort taken by the sales team to take it to every nook and corner of the country with unprecedented enthusiasm and determination. The internal news about increased reach and revenue of Frontline was encouraging. The hard evidence for this good news came at the conference.
It was a great experience to learn firsthand from the salespersons on the ground that the magazine after its relaunch had been received very well by readers across the country. Its circulation has doubled in Udupi. There is a renewed interest in West Bengal. IT professionals of Bangalore responded with enthusiasm to the team’s subscription campaign. Such encouraging news came in bits and pieces from young men and women (“champs” as Venkat would call them) across dinner tables, on the lawns of Fernhill, and during karaoke and dance sessions and a mindblowing awards ceremony that saw talent being rewarded generously. I overheard a conversation in the bus on our way back from Ooty to Coimbatore. “The Frontline sales team freaked out,” said a sales officer. “Because they have achieved their targets,” said Venkat.
It goes without saying that the success of a newspaper or a magazine depends much on the close, coordinated efforts of the editorial, advertising and circulation teams.
About a decade ago, N. Ram, then Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu Group of Publications, declared that the walls dividing the different wings of the organisation were down. The Ooty conclave has once again proved what the vanishing of the walls could do to a magazine like Frontline.
R. Vijaya Sankar