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The distribution chain

India's magazine houses rely on a decentralised system of distributors, contractors and retailers to market their titles, permitting them to deny directly hiring children while benefiting from their employment.

delhi Updated: Aug 18, 2008 12:04 IST
Emily Meredith

India's magazine houses rely on a decentralised system of distributors, contractors and retailers to market their titles, permitting them to deny directly hiring children while benefiting from their employment.

Davinder Rawat sells periodicals from his shop in INA market, but much of his business comes from the special street promotions he runs for publishers.

Rawat said publishers approach him to get a title out, and he in turn hires contractors for street sales. He said the people he hires are all old enough to work but acknowledged they may hire juveniles without his knowledge.

"Even if the contractor is hiring [youths], I am only employing one person," he said. Publishers and distributors also deny direct involvement with children.

"We are not selling it to the children," said Pawan Kumar Das, at India Book House's Delhi centre.

Abhimanu Ghosh, CEO of Planman Media, which publishes The Sunday Indian and 4P, admitted seeing children sell his publications, but said the system of sales and marketing prevents Planman from knowing exactly who is hired to sell its titles.

"We are very disturbed ourselves, not just that it's a social issue, but it's also a public disaster to us," said Ghosh. "It pains us because we are a very responsible media company."

Publishers use two distribution channels, depending on their goals, according to Vinay Maheshwari, HT's own circulation manager.

If a magazine wants to increase sales, it uses a distributor. The distributor sends it to bookstores and newsstands. It might contact an agent like Rawat's. The publisher pays commission on each copy sold.

If the goal is visibility, the company contacts Dawat directly and pays an outright fee. In return, Dawat ensures that India's upwardly mobile commuters see its magazines at red lights.

Maheshwari said HT has used a distributor for sales of the annual dining guide but does not hire agents directly.

Most high-profile titles, including foreign ones, in India are published by a handful of companies, including Planman, Outlook and Media Transasia India.

Outlook India, which holds licenses for several foreign titles like People and Marie Claire, cannot control the final vendor either, according to its publisher Maheshwar Peri. Representatives from Tehelka and Media Transasia India, which published the Indian edition of Maxim, did not return requests for comment.

Peri said Outlook bars its printers and other contract companies from using child labour, but doing the same for sales is difficult.

"What we employ are contractors," Peri said. "The contractors in turn employ sales people, who are adults. What happens after that is not in our control."