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ABP Sells Businessworld To Anurag Batra & Vikram Jhunjhunwala; Our Take

(by Apurva Chaudhary and Nikhil Pahwa)

Update: A source with knowledge of Businessworld’s financial position tells us that the magazine was doing around Rs 15 crore in revenue, had a loss of Rs 4.5 crore, and since it was not a separate company, there was no debt to be taken on board. The key issue, we’re told, was the high editorial cost (of around Rs 6.5 crore), and the loss, because of which any entity acquiring it would either have to take on the cost of laying people off, or a significant loss post-acquisition. It’s unlikely that the magazine was sold for more than Rs 5 crore.

Earlier: This is a first in India: an online media exec buying a print media publication: The Anandbazaar Patrika Group (ABP), which publishes newspaper dailies, has sold its fortnightly business magazine Businessworld to Anurag Batra, owner of Exchange4media and investor Vikram Jhunjhunwala, reports Business Standard. At the time of filing this report, Batra had not responded to an email from MediaNama, requesting a confirmation, and details of the deal.

The suggestion here is that it is Batra in his individual capacity, and not his business that has participated in this deal, while Jhunjhunwala represents investors. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed, but we’re hearing that the deal in in the Rs 6-15 crore range, with debt being taken on board as well. It is not clear whether Batra and Jhunjhunwala plan to continue with the magazine in the print format.

Earlier this month, ABP Group which publishes newspaper dailies Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph, had put up Businessworld on sale, with a deal apparently expected by the end of the fiscal. So this was quick. ABP appears to be in a rush to exits some of its businesses: Penguin-Random House is also looking to buy the 45% stake in its Indian business, that the ABP Group holds through Ananda Publishers.

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Launched in 1981 as a fortnightly magazine, Businessworld is probably one of the oldest business magazine in the country. It currently has around 50 employees, and had switched back to a fortnightly magazine from a weekly, shifting from news to focus entirely on analysis and trend based articles. The company attributed this shift to the emergence of Internet and several dedicated business television channels.

Exchange4Media was founded in 2000 and covers news in marketing, media, broadcasting, and advertising. In 2004, it launched a bi-monthly magazine, Franchise Plus that covers Franchising, Retailing, Distribution, Retail Real Estate and Licensing industry. It also runs a monthly magazine on realty Realty Plus, a monthly advertising, marketing, broadcasting and media magazine called PITCH. This is primarily an online publishing and events business.

Quick Take

This is Batra’s big gamble of entering the bigger stage: he’s built a business largely focused on the advertising and marketing industry (with publishers and broadcasters as his primary source of revenue), and Businessworld, as a brand, gives him access to a wider set of businesses to cover, and a potentially wider base of advertisers. The tricky part, though, lies in editorial: in retaining the team, and bringing the magazine business online in a manner that it isn’t a copy-paste of Print. Magazines are different from newspapers, in that they have to bring in more depth, as a consequence of their difference in periodicity: the news is already old, and magazines play in the perspective field. Some of that role is now being taken over by newspapers, even as TV and the Internet take on the job of providing immediate news. Exchange4Media, though, is largely news focused, and hardly a publication known for long-form and in-depth analysis that typify magazines.

BusinessWorld is going to have an interesting future, and it’s quite a task for Batra and co to adapt the business to the changing environment.

Corrigendum: We’d incorrectly mentioned that BusinessWorld was the oldest business magazine in India. Business India was the oldest business magazine in the country, launched in 1978 (hat tip – Chitra Narayan). Our apologies for the error and we’ve updated the article accordingly.

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