Friday, October 29, 2004

Pick any Kannada paper for Re 1!

Newspaper hungama: Pick any Kannada paper for Re 1!
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: K.V. Ramachandra finds himself in quite a pickle. Pick up any Kannada newspaper from his modest idli shop on Chamarajpet main road and it comes to you at Re. 1.

The more he sells, the more losses he suffers. But Ramachandra, the Kannada activist, wins over Ramchandra the businessman. And the language of Kuvempu and of Da.Ra.Bendre gets another gentle breath of life.

It’s a rather novel way of promoting Kannada at a time when banning anything non-Kannada is thought to be the only way to save the language. The 42-year-old activist has been running the small eating joint, popular for its piping hot idlis and dosas, for over two decades now opposite the Bata showroom.

He’s also general secretary of the Chamarajpet Kannada Cultural Centre and involves himself in pro-Kannada campaigns and agitations.

This PUC dropout’s latest campaign is to promote Kannada newspapers even if it burns a huge hole in his pocket. A few Kannada banners greet people passing his shop. And one exhorts Kannadigas to buy Kannada newspapers, read and promote them.

Ramachandra says that every time he bought a Kannada eveninger, a big crowd would flock around him for a glimpse of the news. He believes that most Kannadigas only read newspapers; they don’t buy them.

This is in sharp contrast to the Tamil population, which buys and reads Tamil newspapers and the reader’s poverty is never an issue. It has been a month now since Ramachandra introduced the Re-1 offer, and it has been a runaway hit. No matter how much he pays the newspaper agent, he himself offers every copy at Re.1. There are losses, of course, but the idli business, he says, compensates for them.

‘‘The initial response was encouraging. With the news reaching many people in Chamarajpet by word of mouth, I am selling 200 copies a day. I sell more on Friday and Sunday because of the supplements,’’ he says.

Many residents ask if he can deliver the paper at their doorsteps. ‘‘There are many who want to switch from their existing vendor to save some money. That is meaningless,’’ he says. The copies are sold from 6.30a.m. everyday and people must go to his shop for their copy.

The success has only spurred him to start planning the marketing of Kannada books in the same manner.

He also plans to give away copies of Kannada newspapers free on November 1 to celebrate Kannada Rajyotsava in his inimitable style. To minimise his losses, let’s hope his idli-dosas are a sell-out too.

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