National Geographic Traveller India (NGTI) magazine’s editor Niloufer Venkatraman speaks about the magazine’s presence in India for last one year.
National Geographic Traveller India
Interview with Niloufer Venkatraman
Tell us about the legacy that National Geographic brings to India and how India is going to enrich it further?
Niloufer Venkatraman: In 1888, a group of 33 scientific and intellectual leaders met at the Cosmos Club to consider organizing a society to share geographical knowledge. They formed the National Geographic Society. These geologists, cartographers, meteorologists, and naturalists wandered far and wide in the search of knowledge and returned to Washington each autumn to analyze data, write results, and get funding for another season in the field. The National Geographic Society has reported on the world and all that is in it for over a century. India has always been a part of the expeditions and stories run in National Geographic. In fact, the August edition of National Geographic magazine which will release in a few weeks has an India story in it. We hope that as the magazine is distributed more widely around the country, we will inspire and create a new generation of Indian explorers.
How different or similar is the Indian edition of National Geographic Traveller from the International one?
Niloufer Venkatraman: It’s similar in philosophy but quite different as well. We generate about 80% of the content for National Geographic Traveller India here in India. Only about 20% is taken from the American edition. The Indian edition of National Geographic Traveller shares the same values as the international editions. We like to talk about sustainable travel and tell stories that inspire our readers to travel. Not only do we focus on travel to unknown destinations around India but also offer different ways of seeing popular spots; like bicycle tours in the Himalayas, trekking in Goa, and art trails in Kochi. An Indian traveler is not the same as a traveler from America or Europe, so even our international stories focus on the Indian traveler, one that likes to explore new places but also enjoys traveling with family.
You are celebrating the 1st anniversary with Return to Roots theme; tell us how did you conceive this and who all participated in it. Was it open to anyone or only to specific people?
Niloufer Venkatraman: Traveling to our native place is something that many Indians have done at some point in their lives. “Returning to roots” is also a very real and popular quest for people from other parts of the world. This traveling to unravel, experience, and learn about your heritage or ancestry is something that is very interesting. We decided to touch on it and look for writers who had a story to tell.
How big is your team in India and what is it like working at one of the biggest photography brands?
Niloufer Venkatraman: We have a small editorial and design team but it’s very talented and efficient one. Of course, it is fantastic to work with a brand like National Geographic; it’s also challenging and we have high standards to maintain. We pay a lot of attention to our picture selection process. In every issue, we do a photo workshop with an important and significant photographer. We hold Nat Geo photo workshops and photo exhibitions. Photography is a very significant part of what we do, but both Nat Geo Magazine and Nat Geo Traveller India magazine are strongly embedded in the tradition of storytelling and of bringing interesting information about the world to its readers.
Would the content of National Geographic Traveller focus more on bringing India to Indians or continue to mix and match the stories from around the world?
Niloufer Venkatraman: We focus on what we believe interests Indian readers. Which means, we carry a lot of content on India but also a fair amount on, other countries. Leisure travel to places around the world is more popular than ever, but so is discovering one’s own country. We will keep up the same balance.
What role do you think the travel blogs play in the travel content space?
Niloufer Venkatraman: Personal travel blogs are great for getting opinions and personal experiences. You will almost always find a blog post about a place that you are looking for, even an obscure village deep in the mountains. Blogs are also perfect for niche travelers like birdwatchers, bikers, hikers, etc. since commercial magazines may not be able to concentrate on their interests.
How do you plan to disseminate your content between the print and digital versions of your magazine?
Niloufer Venkatraman: The digital version of the magazine will launch very soon. We share some of the print content online at our website natgeotraveller.in
Do you have any specific plans to make NGTI build its own brand in India? If yes, please share some details.
Niloufer Venkatraman: It will be about managing the 4P’s effectively. National Geographic continuously redefines the standard of excellence with the superior editorial product, world-renowned photography, brand recognition, and consumer trust. At NGTI we will continue to partner with cutting-edge expeditions and initiatives in the travel, tourism and adventure spaces to bring to the country stories that few other media brands will be able to conceive of. And we hope to inspire millions of Indian families to travel sustainably. We are planning a string of developments around the overall content strategy. We look to carve out a dominant position across digital platforms by launching an iPad app and developing an interactive website targeted and focussed with the objective of catching the upmarket traveler at key touch points.
And we intend to take the distribution deeper into our large country and make quality travel journalism available to the huge emerging middle class in India, apart from our core High SEC reader. And we will maintain premium pricing for the intellectually actualized. For Brand recall, we are indulging in 360-degree marketing programs including ATL and BTL initiatives such as TV commercials on National Geographic and Fox Traveller channels, Radio spots in Delhi and Mumbai and Point of purchase campaigns across 500 retail outlets in the country. We will remain committed to spreading awareness about sustainable travel, and to ensuring that travel destinations endure for the future generation.
Magazine at the price point of Rs 120/-, do you think it could be out of reach for a larger population in India?
Niloufer Venkatraman: Co-existence of National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveller, Outlook Traveller, India Today Travel Plus, Travel and Leisure which are all priced above 100 definitely shows that there is scope for travel magazines in India. We cater to specific niche upmarket reader. Hence when we launched our premium product at Rs. 120 per copy, given the sheer quality of the product and its pre-eminence across the world NGT India launch has been historic in many ways. Today, National Geographic Traveller India is already one of the biggest travel magazines in India. In the last one year, it has seen an unprecedented response from the collective advertising and Indian reader communities.