Rahul Sood, Managing Director, India and South Asia, BBC Global News, and Rupa Jha, Head of Indian Languages, BBC World Service, talk about BBC India’s aggressive growth in a crowded market like India
Rahul Sood, Managing Director, India and South Asia, BBC Global News, and Rupa Jha, Head of Indian Languages, BBC World Service, recently spoke to e4m about BBC India’s aggressive growth in a crowded market like India which is backed by its new strategic focus on regional languages and editorial policy that places facts before speed.
Rupa: The expansion in Indian languages has contributed a lot in the past few years. The core BBC values and framework on impartiality has lived up to the expectations of Indian audiences. The audience growth underlines the appetite for informed news and updates from trusted media sources, sorting the truth from the fake news and opinion.
BBC’s programmes on reality check, fact check and explainers have demonstrated that audiences are drawn towards news that they can rely on. Grassroots and local politics dominates Indian news, however, news from around the world is becoming more relevant as that provides ‘solutions’ from around the world which we have witnessed with Coronavirus special programmes.
Rahul: Basically, trust and credibility are two driving forces. In this global pandemic, people are looking for reliable and trustworthy news platforms. On mobile devices, BBC Hindi is amongst the top 5 most consumed news content by users in India.
You have been focusing heavily on regional content, is it just Hindi that is drawing in the audience, what about other languages?
Rupa: We are expanding beyond larger cities, focusing on young and women audience. We are going beyond the news connoisseurs to news nibblers. The BBC operates in nine languages in India. Apart from Hindi and English, we cover Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali and Urdu
The BBC has made a major investment in India – with new language services, new staff, new programming, and refurbished studios. This represents a financial investment in India of tens of millions of pounds.
This commitment to India has created more than 250 new jobs in the region and this isn’t just about adding new languages, but about transforming our operation so we are digitally-led and mobile-first. We are making Delhi a digital powerhouse and the digital hub for South Asia. The former Director General of BBC has announced an ambition for an audience of 500 million for its global services by 2022, the year of the BBC’s centenary.
Rahul: We know there is a huge potential market; India has 462 million internet users out of its 1.2 billion population. Within this pool, there are over 300 million local language users. This pool of vernacular users is expected to grow to over 500 million by 2021, with the total pool of internet users by 2021 being estimated at around 735 million users.
India is also a highly competitive market, what would you call the big differentiators when it comes to editorial content?
Rupa: We are not in a rush to break news if we are not sure. We don’t want to generate heat, we are investing into journalism by giving our audiences more explained and factual context. We’ll continue working on bringing the trust back to news platforms in India. We are putting more boots on the ground.
Rahul: In the race to be first, ‘Being right’ is more important than being first.
What are the big challenges of operating in a market like India?
Rupa: News in India is so polarised and it is an extremely crowded market which gives us an opportunity to take care of the precise needs of our niche audience that is fast growing digitally.
With Covid adding numbers across digital publications, what is the strategy at BBC Global News going to be when it comes to growing market share in India further?
Rahul: Digital is at the heart of what BBC does and we are seeing record growth numbers globally and in India. BBC’s trusted values, impartiality, reporting factual news at this time of disinformation and toxic news ensures brand safe environment to the advertiser.
Industry research body Ipsos announced earlier this month (Nov’20) that BBC is the number one international news brand in English language in India, across both TV and online. The BBC’s 24 hour international news channel was watched by more people than any of its international competitors in the past year and is the fastest growing general English language news channel of the past year. It also revealed that BBC is the top international online news platform in terms of number of online users weekly.
BBC sites registered highest increase in traffic (approx. 40 million unique visitors) in Sep’20 (Comscore data).
On BBC platform, unique visitors increased faster than overall general news platforms in India. This refers to Sep ’20 growth and growth is year over year (YoY).med