New Delhi: Rewatiraman Shukla, a young office worker living in a slum on New Delhi’s outskirts, can’t remember a time when his family did not have a newspaper delivered to their home.
The newspaper was what Shukla’s father believed would open the world of opportunities for his three children. And now, families like his are firing the exceptional growth of regional newspapers in India.
At a time when scores of American newspapers have downsized or shifted to online editions, the Indian newspaper industry is booming. Media analysts say the regional language newspapers are expected to clock double-digit figures in the coming decade as millions of new literates choose newspapers as their primary source of information.
Newspapers, especially in the regional languages, are a fast-growing space in India right now. We are bang in the middle of it, so we are very excited.
-Pradeep Dwivedi, Dainik Bhaskar
Media experts say the enormous push for education over the past five decades has bumped literacy rates. But there’s a long way to go, with the government predicting universal literacy will be achieved only in 2060.
The Other Media
Though Internet access is rising rapidly in India, about 80% of the country still lacks it. Indian newspapers which are delivered for less than 120 rupees a month are much more accessible.
The plethora of television news channels in regional languages has surprisingly only increased newspaper readership, said PN Vasanti, director of the Center for Media Studies in New Delhi.
We call it the ‘appetizer effect.’ In a study of media habits of people, we found that the more that people watched television news, the more they were turning to the newspapers to check the facts. In India, the credibility of newspapers and the written word is way beyond that of the television news channels.
-PN Vasanti, Director of Center for Media Studies
Rewatiraman’s father, Ved Prakash Shukla, has been subscribing to a Hindi newspaper for 15 years for his children’s sake, even when tight finances made it something of a luxury.
“In my job as a chauffeur, I saw how the children of the rich speak English and know all about what’s happening in the world.”
Rewatiraman was recently promoted and has begun climbing the corporate ladder with some success.
“All those years of reading the paper. It’s been worth it,” Rewatiraman said.