On the Way Up

From Himal Southasian, Volume 9, Number 2 (APRIL 1996)

As a small, new magazine, we were happy that our South Asian launch from New Delhi in March received wide coverage in newspapers and magazines. The write-ups generally welcomed Himal South Asia as an idea whose time indeed had arrived, and commended our editorial content. Many also understood that by producing a serious magazine for all South Asia, we were trying to buck the regional trend of bringing out quick-read glossies targetted at niche markets. These well-wishers were clearly worried that the market might not sustain Himal South Asia.

In his syndicated column “With Malice Towards One and All”, Khushwant Singh reviewed India Today Plus, Outlook and a few other new journals, and expressed the opinion that “the most daring magazine venture of the last month is Himal South Asia from Kahtmandu.” He wondered whether the magazine would receive enough advertisements to keep the its head above water.

“A bold venture in the face of Himalayan obstacles,” wrote BBC correspondent Andrew Whitehead in his fortnightly column in Asian Age. “Himal is embarking on a bold gamble. It needs, and deserves, more success than the other South Asian institution based in the Nepalese capital — SAARC.” Sunday magazine, after alerting readers that the new journal’s editor was not related to “either Madhuri or the former foreign secretary “, went on to worry, “…whether advertisers will bite the bait is to be seen.”

Here at Himal South Asia, with seven years’ experience of publishing the earlier Himalayan Himal, we know that it is not enough to publish a good magazine. The trick is to survive in order to be able to improve and expand. This requires good marketing and sales, and most importantly, the ability to attract advertising. Because Himal South Asia’s beat is the entire Subcontinent, we hope to explore — and be the first to benefit from — the regional advertising market.

Presently, the advertising budgets of trans-nationals are fragmented according to the political economies of South Asia, and national companies which do not have trans-border ambitions have no incentive to ride the pages of a regional magazine. It is only a matter of time, however, before: a) regional advertisers see the benefit of advertising for a select audience that is spread out all over South Asia, and, b) national advertisers begin to eye the regional market.

South Asia is one of the last regions worldwide where magazine publishing is yet to peak, and with the support of advertisers a serious magazine like Himal South Asia, too, will find sustenance. There is only one thing that we ask for: chief executives who read.

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