Does a free newspaper stand a chance in India?

Per Mikael Jensen, president and CEO of Metro International, the Swedish company behind the world’s largest free newspaper Metro, on his India plans, in the latest issue of Forbes India:

# We’ve been looking at India for the last five years. It would have to be a joint venture or a franchise. FDI allows us to own 26% of the operation and we have increased our efforts towards exploring the opportunity through our India representative, Husain Quettawalla.

# In Latin America, we are in four countries. The two most recent launches in Mexico and Brazil have done extremely well and have become profitable in less than two years, which is very good performance. When we look at the Indian market, we see some similarities. We are not likely to need a giant market share to become profitable.

# Where we stand out is that we are so focussed on our target audience—the young urban audience between the ages of 20 and 40. When I look at Indian readership figures for Indian newspapers, like The Times of India for example, I’m not scared to death with their readership to be honest.

# The main time we target our audience is during the morning when they have 15 to 20 mintues to read our paper. This is when people are entering the metro trains or are waiting for the trains. We distribute at university campuses, high schools and waiting rooms at hospitals—everywhere people have 20 minutes they could use in reading the newspaper. But in India, given that our target audience doesn’t really travel by the trains, we won’t be focussing on the public transport system. So the model will focus on distribution at traffic lights or even targetting people when they get out of movie theatres.

But in a country where most English dailies are sold at rock-bottom prices, does a freesheet stand a chance?

Read the full interview: ‘I’m not worried about ToI‘s readership’


  1. Mysore Peshva

    Yes, certainly! It will succeed if it identifies with its readers’ need which, in most indian cities, seems to favor a cerebral, no-page3 newspaper to balance all of the junk papers.

  2. Give me a crossword, a jumble and am in. No jiggling for change too! And considering that many cities are going the train way, it’s about time!

  3. Metro

    What is going to stop our news distributors to sell fresh newspaper copies directly to the neighborhood waste dealer (Kabadiwala), & make some handy money instead of circulating it to the mass?
    The whole newspaper pricing issue is extremely sensitive to what is known as raddi economics. If a distributor makes more money in selling his load of newspapers off to a waste dealer (than his commissions from selling it to people), he will do it. That’s precisely why Indian newspapers are finding it difficult to maintain that critical margin beyond which most of their papers will end up getting recycled without being read in the first place.

  4. Jugaad King

    Times of India’s numbers may not scare him, but their ability to take on a marketing challenge should.

    They are pretty good. They stalled Network 18’s press venture, WSJ’s entry to India. FT… oh well. poor sods.

    Thus said. ToI is not an insurmountable problem. You can easily build circulations of about 100-150,000 in key markets like B, D Bg and usually that is sufficient to keep the wheels turning.

    The key issue is that how do eliminate waste. The two bucks we pay is to prevent waste. But clearly Metro has been there done that.

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