H T Media Ltd Management Discussions.

Global Economy

The global economy witnessed slow growth amidst multiple headwinds, coming at 2.9% for CY 2019 as per International Monetary Fund (IMF). It was affected by increasing trade tensions between the US and China, rising oil prices and currency depreciation in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs). Global slowdown in the manufacturing sector, and pressure built around US – Iran hostility also added to the slowdown. Aided by supportive monetary policies from several central banks, inflation was largely controlled below target levels, especially in advanced economies. Growth in labour market and resilient service sector were showing the signs of recovery.

Outlook

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting individuals, businesses and governments across the world. It has necessitated isolation, lockdowns, and closures to slow the spread of the virus, protect lives and allow the health care systems to cope, which has impacted economic activity. As a result of the pandemic, the global economy is expected to contract by 4.9% during CY2020,asperIMFWEOJune2020.However,theglobaleconomy is expected to grow by 5.4% in CY 2021 as economic activity normalizes, with the aid of policy measures. The synchronized actions of large central banks is expected to generate the space for Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs) to use monetary policy to respond to domestic cyclical conditions.

Indian Economy

As per World Economic Outlook (WEO) released by IMF in June 2020, the Indian GDP growth stood at at 4.2% in FY 2019-20. Indias economy has become the fifth largest in the world, as measured using GDP at current US dollar prices, moving past United Kingdom and France. The overall size of the Indian economy was pegged at US $2.9 trillion in 2019. The country witnessed an investment-led slowdown which broadened into a weakening consumption-led slowdown. The slowdown in consumption is mainly on account of financial stress in rural income, stagnating agricultural wage, weak job creation and rising unemployment in the country. However, the government is trying to revive demand through various fiscal measures including corporate tax cuts, supporting farmers income through MGREGA & Kisan Yojanas and easing monetary policies.

Outlook

It was widely expected that Indian economy would see a revival in consumption growth in FY 2020-21. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 is likely to hamper the growth, with projected GDP contraction for FY 2020-21 by 4.5% as per IMF WEO June 2020. The steps taken to contain the spread, such as nationwide restrictions and the lockdown, have resulted in a slowdown in economic activity and could impact consumption as well as investment. The spread of the virus is likely to result in near team supply and demand side pressures. The economic fallout would depend on factors including the pathway of the pandemic, the intensity and efficacy of containment efforts, the extent of supply disruptions, shift in spending patterns, behavioural changes, confidence effects, and volatile commodity prices. However, the IMF expects the Indian economy to sharply recover with a GDP growth of 6% in FY 2021-22.

Industry Overview

Media & Entertainment Industry

The Indian Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry is the fastest growing among its global peers, and it is anticipated to continue its momentum, outperforming the global average. The industry witnessed a growth rate of 9% over previous year to reach H1.8 trillion in CY 2019.The growth can be attributed to increase in digital subscription and demand for innovative content across various media platforms. However, the industry also witnessed certain headwinds in terms of economic slowdown and changes in regulatory norms.

CY 2019 saw growth in the industry driven by subscription based business model and robustness of content production and post–production. Advertising revenue saw a nominal growth of 5.3% in CY 2019 while the revenue from subscription grew by 9.3%. The growth in advertising was impacted by slowdown in the economy, especially in the second half of the year leading to lower advertising spends during festive season.

Outlook

The M&E industry was expected to show a strong growth during CY 2019-22. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 is likely to impact the overall economic growth, which would percolate down to the M&E industry as well. The sector is likely to be affected due to impact on revenue from advertising, postponement of events, impact on theatrical revenues due to loss of weekends and delay of content production and post-production.

The growth of sector, once the impact of COVID-19 wears off, is expected to be driven by consumption of regional media content. Given the wide reach of traditional media, it would continue to be an attractive platform for SMEs and long-tail advertisers across the country. Bundled services are also likely to witness growth. Going forward, the industry is expected to focus on localization and further penetration of regional markets.

(Source: EY M&E Report, PWC Media Outlook)

Print Media

The size of the print media sector is estimated at H295.7 billion in CY 2019. It witnessed growth in revenue from circulation and increase in readership during the year under review. The revenue from advertising fell by 5% in CY 2019 which led to overall de-growth in the sector. However, in India, the print media has displayed resilience by continuing to stay relevant and gain readership due to its ability to adapt to changing consumer behaviour.

The print media continues to be the most credible and reliable source of information, gaining its readers trust and faith. The segment also witnessed improvement in margin due to rationalization of newspaper prices and implementation of cost reduction measures.

Going forward, the sector is expected to focus on increasing subscription revenue through a combination of cover price actions and identification of new markets which are underpenetrated. It is also working towards building its image as an in-depth and accurate source of information, and not just provider of news and opinion. Additionally, revenue from regional dailies, especially Hindi newspapers, is expected to increase on the back of rising readership in the Hindi speaking belt and targeted advertising efforts.

(Source: EY M&E Report)

Advertising in Print

Print media is the 2nd largest contributor of revenue in the Indian advertisement market, accounting for around 30% of the total advertising expenditure in CY 2019. The Indian print industry performed quite well when compared to the global average, which declined 3% during the same period. India has bucked the global trend, by being the only country where print continues to have a dominant share of advertising expenditure at 30%.

In terms of volume, English and Hindi dailies together account for a dominant share of total newspaper advertising volume. Hindi dailies continued to be the largest contributor, as it has the largest reach as compared to other languages.

The majority of the advertising growth was witnessed in the first half of CY 2019. The effect of macroeconomic slowdown and a poor festive season led to a slowdown in the second half of the year. Marketing spends by the FMCG, automobile, education, real estate and retail sector continue to be major contributors in print advertising expenditure, with a share of approximately 50% in CY 2019. Further, during the year under review, the e-commerce industry emerged as the fastest growing sector with an advertising expenditure growth of 14% YoY.

(Source: Pitch Madison Report, EY M&E Report)

Circulation in Print

Circulation revenue increased by 2% over previous year, to H89.9 billion in CY 2019. In India, 38% of the people read news publications, 5% read magazines and two-third of all the readers belong to NCCS A-B-C. English and Hindi dailies together contribute 56% to the total circulated copies in the country. The total readership of English dailies showed a marginal increase over previous year, even as Hindi dailies are the most popular in terms of circulation as well as readership. With the constant growth of literacy in the country, regional editions and vernacular publications have attracted readers, which has resulted into growth in circulation of newspapers, and the same trend could be expected to continue.

Radio

The Indian radio segment reached a size of H31.1 billion in CY 2019. The radio revenue of private FM players grew by 5% in the first half of CY 2019, but witnessed a sharp slowdown in the second half of the year, due to slowdown in the economy. There were over 1100 operational radio stations across the country in CY 2019. As per the IRS Q4 2019, the listenership base of radio, has remained fairly stable across the last three studies. The proportion of urban radio listeners remains almost twice that of the rural listener base.

Delhi-NCR, followed by Maharashtra, have emerged as the leading markets for FM radio in the country, mainly due to a large audience base in these regions. Over 800 radio channel licenses are expected from the upcoming Phase-III auction across 227 new cities. It is expected to significantly improve the reach of FM radio in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the coming years.

Being a popular local medium of communication, radio was extensively used by government. The e-commerce sector was the main contributor to advertising expenditure growth, followed by FMCG, BFSI, education & retail categories. The millennial population has contributed to the growth of this industry and it is expected to sustain the momentum on account of innovative content, digital communities, music streaming and promotion of traditional events.

(Source: EY M&E Report, Pitch Madison Report, TechSci Research report)

Radio Listenership (listened to radio in last 1 month, % of respondents)

Recruitment

The recruitment industry has not just grown but, has evolved into a mature market. The demand for recruiters has grown by 63%, between CY 2016 and CY 2019. It has led to a demand for expert recruitment solutions capable of bridging the gap between candidates and recruiters. Talent is one of the most important business drivers and organizations are increasingly finding value in partnerships with specialist firms and job portals.

(Source: Antal International Report, Trading Economics Report)

Company Overview

One of Indias largest media companies, HT Media Limited (HT Media), has evolved into a diversified Media and Entertainment conglomerate. The Companys rich legacy dates back to 1924, when its flagship product Hindustan Times was launched by Mahatma Gandhi.

In the print segment, the Company has an established presence with its key brands including English daily ‘Hindustan Times, Hindi daily ‘Hindustan and Business daily ‘Mint. The publications are renowned for their editorial prowess and innovative approach, due to which they have emerged as a formidable force in the market.

The marquee brands of the Company have an extensive Total Readership (TR) base of 5.63 Crore in India as per IRS Q4 2019.

The Company has strong presence in the radio segment through brands like ‘Fever, ‘Nasha and ‘Radio One. The Company also operates a recruitment solutions portal Shine.com, to cater to requirements of recruiters and candidates.

Product Mix (At Group Level) Print Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times is one of Indias leading and most reputed English dailies in India. It offers a compelling proposition for advertisers on account of strong brand value and an exclusive and premium reader base. 85% of its readers are from NCCS A validating the premium reader profile. As per IRS Q4 2019, it is the 2nd most read English daily in India with an Average Issue Readership (AIR) of 27 Lacs. During the year, Hindustan Times continued to make strides in all the major markets, which validates the faith of the readers who have made it the No. 1 daily in Delhi-NCR for 19th time in a row, the No. 1 daily in Punjab including Chandigarh and a strong No. 2 in Mumbai.

Hindustan

Hindustan has a wide reach with Total Readership of 5 Crore readers as per IRS Q4 2019, and continues to enjoy a prominent position in the Indian market. In Bihar, Hindustan continues to dominate the Hindi dailies with AIR of 37 Lacs, including the No. 1 position in Patna. It continues to be a strong player in Uttar Pradesh with AIR of 71 Lacs. It is also the 2nd most read newspaper in Jharkhand and Delhi. Catering to a broad reader base, the Hindi daily is extremely popular across age groups and is a preferred choice of advertisers. Hindustan has a median reader age of 30 years, which indicates its popularity across age groups and adds to its attractiveness for advertisers.

Mint

Mint is one of Indias premium business news publications providing in-depth financial and economic analysis. Mint has held to its No. 2 position among the leading business dailies in India, attracting 2.6 Lacs readers on AIR basis as per IRS Q4 2019. It has the most premium reader profile with maximum share of NCCS A1 readers among all business dailies.

Radio

Fever FM

Fever FM is the No.1 station in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru (non-Kannada), as per RAM ratings for Q4 FY20 (till 14 March 2020). Since its inception, Fever FM has consistently topped RAM charts and is a preferred choice of listeners due to its varied content. Fever FM caters to listeners in 13 cities. It has been an undisputed leader in Delhi for over 8 years, and has enjoyed similar success in Mumbai for more than 3 years. When it comes to listenership scores, the RAM domination of the stations is a testimony to its market leadership across states.

Over the years, the brand kept innovation at its core, drove thought leadership and introduced a variety of content (music and non-music), across genres. Fever has truly redefined entertainment on radio through radio dramas, sports, CSR or bollywood. During the year under review, Fever was also appreciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for its #PlasticSeBreakUp campaign. Fever is the only radio station to be recognized by PMO for its innovative campaign to ensure reduced usage of single-use plastic.

Radio Nasha

Radio Nasha continues to be the No. 1 retro station in Delhi, as per RAM ratings for Q4 FY20 (till March 14 2020). It is Indias first cool retro station to pay rich tribute to the excitement, romance and attitude of the magical era of the 70s, 80s, 90s & 2000s. Its unique positioning has helped the brand to carve a niche for itself. With a passion to ‘invoke nostalgia, it is renowned for its remarkable listener engagement.

Radio One

Radio One is a new entrant to HT Medias noteworthy radio portfolio. It has operations in 7 Indian metro cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune and Ahmedabad. It has Indias largest International format Radio Network in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru; the Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) formats in Pune and Ahmedabad; Hindi Retro format in Kolkata, and Tamil format in Chennai. Radio One appeals to the intelligent and evolved listeners, successfully building communities around food, music, sports, travel and fitness.

Recruitment Solutions

Shine.com

Shine.com is the 2nd largest job portal in India. It has made significant investments in, and plans to leverage, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to simplify the overall system in order to better the recruitment process of the portal.

To further augment its growth and market share, Shine is focusing on the following areas:

• Building a robust candidate database

• Focusing on experienced as well as entry-level candidates

• Enhancing search algorithms through advanced analytics

• Investing in skill up-gradation programs

HT Smartcast

HT Smartcast is one of the nations fastest growing podcast platform and the largest content catalogue from a single publisher with over 80 hours of content, ranging from film to markets and politics to fashion. Conceptualised in October 2019, HT Smartcast marked the Companys foray into the podcasting universe with a vision to add this growing medium to its already robust portfolio.

Within a span of 6 months, HT Smartcast has successfully brought more than 25 top podcasting platforms within its ambit. It has also launched more than 3500 episodes, spanning across 100 shows in varied platforms. The content was sourced from multiple groups (from print, radio and other specially curated content), demonstrating a high degree of cross-functional collaboration. Insights from our podcast platform partners and secondary research led to the selection of a wide array of content for our diverse consumers. The platform has gained around 2.5 million+ listens from India and around the world in a span of 6 months between October 2019 and March 2020.

Financial Overview

Revenue from operations

The broad-based slowdown in the economy during the year impacted the discretionary spend by key advertising categories, due to which both print and radio businesses faced pressure on revenue. Accordingly, revenue from operations remained muted at H2,105 Crore in FY 2019-20 as compared to H2,199 Crore in the previous year.

Profitability

In FY 2019-20, the Companys Operating EBITDA witnessed a sharp turnaround to reach H151 Crore from loss of H16 Crore in FY 2018-19. The Operating EBITDA Margin for the year stood at 7.2%, which is an improvement of 8% over last year, due to lower newsprint prices and tight control on costs. The loss after tax stood at H215 Crore in FY 2019-20, compared to a profit after tax of H16 Crore in the previous year. The decline is mainly because of impairment loss towards intangible assets and goodwill, which have been recognised as an exceptional item. Return on Net Worth has reduced from -0.5% in FY 2018-19 to -9.5% in FY 2019-20 led by increase in losses.

Current Ratio

Current Ratio has decreased from 1.3 times as on March 31 2019 to 0.9 times as on March 31 2020. This is primarily due to a decrease in current investments and cash.

Interest Coverage Ratio

Interest Coverage Ratio has improved by 98% from 1.0 times as on March 31 2019 to 2.0 times as on March 31 2020, due to the cumulative impact of increase in operating profits and decrease in finance cost.

Inventory Turnover Ratio

Inventory Turnover Ratio decreased from 5.4 times as on 31 March 2019 to 3.7 times as on 31 March 2020, due to a decrease in the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).

Marketing Initiatives

In order to strengthen its brand recall and market presence, HT Media took various marketing initiatives to further augment its growth. Few of the initiatives are listed below.

My First Vote

A 90-days, high visible campaign was initiated by the Company to encourage the Indian youth to register and cast their votes in the 2019 general elections. The campaign resulted in huge user engagement and registered around 20K views on the website.

HT Read Blue

A unique campaign, whereby Hindustan Times newspapers turned blue for Indias World Cup matches. Engaging its audience through print, radio and on-ground contests, this campaign generated a lot of enthusiasm in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Punjab.

HT School Edition

With a vision to create a world class product for the next generation, we completely revamped the HT School edition. Designed to attract students of all age groups, we have fine-tuned the product to make it appealing and engaging. Keeping in mind their diverse requirements, HT School edition is now packed with colourful, vibrant, info-graphic content, incorporating fun facts/trivia, news around science & technology, entertainment, games & puzzles and sports.

HT Weekend

HT weekend is a first-of-its kind 8 page tabloid available every Sunday, along with the HT main edition in Delhi-NCR and Mumbai. The product is designed to deliver a complete infotainment package for a weekend read to our leisure readers. HT Weekend has been curated as the ‘Perfect Hangout Partner.

Bappa Beat

A unique campaign launched to celebrate the 10 days of Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, it helped to create a special connection with Mumbaikars. Bappa Beat touched more than 1 Lac people in Mumbai and helped to improve the brands NPS score.

HT Scholarship

We started the Hindustan Times Scholarship Program in 2010 to recognize and reward Mumbais brightest young minds. The initiative has entered its 10th year and we have received 1.4 Lacs entries from 500 schools, this year. The idea behind the campaign is to reach out to parents and students, and enable them to realize their childs true potential by helping them to achieve their goals and objectives.

Editorial Highlights

The Company has undertaken several initiatives in its journey of constant improvement in its editorial standards, during the year. The focus has been on producing, every day, with consistency, fair and balanced editions across the country, raising the quality of news reporting, features and opinion pages. Besides, the Company is focused on 360 degree coverage of events to reach a greater audience.

India – The internet shutdown capital of the world

During FY 2019-20, ~67% of the worlds documented shutdowns took place in India. For the first time, Mint Lounge studied the anatomy of network disruptions and the impact they had on lives and livelihoods of people.

Why Indian women VCs get a raw deal

The campaign shed light on the Indian venture capital (VC) segment being predominantly male-dominated.

Climate Tracker

Mint Lounge launched an important campaign to raise awareness about the impact of climate change to apprise readers and nations of the looming issue through this weekly column.

Specials

General Elections

The general election held in CY 2019 was one of the most significant in the history of modern India. From its announcement to results day, HT fanned out across the country, reporting from the ground, capturing trends, offering commentary, weaving stories around data from every part of India. The ‘Results Day edition was a great culmination of this extraordinary effort.

Interim Budget

The Mint Budget issue maintained a laser sharp focus on every aspect of the budget. It offered insights and analysis of major economic issues discussed during the Interim Budget. It also featured a graphic edition on the 200 days that defined Budget 2020. The publication featured interesting interpretations of the economy by Madhubani artists and included cutting-edge graphics.

Human Resource

The Company believes that its employees are the key to its success and their well-being is a priority. HT Media has a comprehensive performance management system, matrix reporting structures and feedback lines to improve the appraisal process. The Company strives to build an agile culture. To successfully tread into the future, the Company lays a sharp focus on digitization and automation to leverage opportunities.

Going forward, it intends to focus on the introduction of comprehensive online HR workflows and platforms like Talent Management, Employee Engagement, Learning & Development, Expense Management, Reward & Recognition through AI and ML capabilities. The intent now is to primarily move to digital learning, complemented by instructor-led classroom training programs to enhance skills and competencies of our employees. The focus will be on creating a leaner structure and promoting synergies by collaboration among various businesses, not only in our style of working but also amongst different products. With a total strength of 1,891 members, HT Media Limited is marching ahead to achieve its goals.

Women at workplace

The Company has in place, strict policies for womens safety in the workplace. It is fully compliant with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The Companys formulated policy in this regard, is available on the employee intranet portal. The Internal Committee (IC) is in place. Three complaints were reported during FY 2019-20, and they were adequately dealt with by IC. The Company conducts regular training sessions for employees and Internal Committee members. The Company has rolled-out an online module for employees to increase awareness. All employees at the time of their joining, as a part of their induction, have to mandatorily complete online awareness module on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment policy.

Risk Management Framework

HT Media has a robust risk management framework to identify and mitigate risks arising from external and internal factors. A risk identification exercise is carried out periodically across business units to identify various strategic, operational, financial and compliance related risks. These are evaluated for their likelihood and potential impact. Few risks and uncertainties that can affect the business include changing consumer preferences, increasing digitization and adverse macroeconomic conditions influencing revenue growth. The risk of newsprint price fluctuation and supply constraints resulting in higher direct costs also cannot be overlooked. Further, heightened competition in key markets for print and radio businesses, along with a dynamic regulatory landscape remain some of the key risks faced by the Company.

Potential risks are reviewed on an ongoing basis and mitigating controls are deliberated upon as an integral part of decision-making. To stay ahead of the competition and minimise exposure to risk, the Company has taken various initiatives like continuous investment and diversification into newer businesses, greater management focus on increasing readership/circulation copies based on strength of differentiated content and brand, periodic review of cost structures, use of dynamic mix of local and imported newsprint along with optimized use of different grades, and usage of an automated compliance tool to monitor status of statutory compliances across all locations/functions.

Further, in light of the COVID-19 scenario, the Company is continuously evaluating the evolving situation and taking necessary steps to mitigate its impact, while ensuring business continuity. The Company is also taking cost optimization efforts across businesses and functions.

Internal Control

The Company has an effective system of internal controls corresponding with its size, nature of business and complexity of operations. The internal control mechanism comprises of a well-defined organizational structure with clearly defined authority and responsibility levels and comprehensive documented policies, guidelines and procedures governing the operations of respective business areas and functions. These controls have been designed to safeguard the assets and interests of the Company and its stakeholders and also ensure compliance with Companys policies, procedures and applicable regulations. Owing to continuously evolving business practices, these controls are regularly updated by the management.

The Companys focus on technology and automation has driven the establishment of appropriate automated controls and has further enhanced the existing control framework. A robust Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is used for accounting across locations. The Company also has Shared Service Centre (SSC) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application supporting centralized and standardized procurement, payment and approval processes. These systems enhance the reliability of financial and operational information by facilitating system-driven control activities, segregation of duties and enabling stricter controls.

The internal control system is supplemented by an extensive program of internal audits and their reviews by the management. The in-house internal audit function supported by professional external audit firms conducts comprehensive risk focused audits and evaluates the effectiveness of the internal control structure across locations and functions on a regular basis. In addition to internal audit activities, Company has also developed an internal financial control framework to periodically review the effectiveness of controls laid down across all critical processes. The Company uses an online compliance management tool, and a concurrent audit mechanism of the same through a professional audit firm for ensuring effective compliance oversight. Further, the Company has the Audit Committee of Directors which meets at least once in every quarter to review internal control systems, accounting processes, financial information and other related areas.

Way Ahead

The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic would have an impact on the advertising expenditures by businesses as companies look to trim discretionary spends. Due to this, the Company is expected to witness a reduction in the advertising revenue during the lockdown period. We continue to focus on enriching customer engagement, increasing the reach and providing ground breaking & exclusive coverage to our readers. The Company would focus on adoption of cost rationalisation measures to build savings and provide long term benefits to the Company. In these testing times, we would continue to uphold the principles of courage and responsibility enshrined in our values. We expect an uptick in advertising sentiments as the lockdown restrictions are lifted, and economic activity starts to return towards normalcy.