The world, especially in all of its particulars, continues to evolve rapidly these days. As print journalism struggles for survival in the United States, it seems that, in India, magazines are thriving, and especially lifestyle magazine with high-end design and content. And why shouldn't that be so? It makes perfect sense in our constantly shifting landscape. India's economy had until recently been booming, during which incomes took a sharp rise. What's to be done with those discretionary funds? One can even ask: If it's India today, can China be far behind?
The headline for the piece, which appeared recently in the business pages of The New York Times, was "In India, Magazines That Translate Well," and the reporter was Heather Timmons, writing from New Delhi.
"An explosion of Western magazines has hit newsstands in India in the past 12 months," noted Timmons, "pitching a familiar mix of consumption and gossip, relationship advice and expensive goodies.
"Indian versions of Vogue, Rolling Stone, OK!, Hello, Maxim, FHM, Golf Digest, People and Marie Claire have all sprung up this year, and GQ and Fortune are soon to follow. They join familiar names like Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Reader's Digest."
Timmons pointed out that, even though India's economy has slowed and inflation has risen, the country still remains one of the world's "bright spots" as far as magazines are concerned. "A whole new class of nouveau riche Indians has been created in recent years as the economy and real estate prices soared and two-income families became the norm in some upper-income urban areas."
The chief executive of Condé Nast India, Alex Kuruvilla, told Timmons there are now 1 million homes earning more than $100,000.
"Most of the new Western magazines being published in India are not really Western at all — they are written, photographed, edited and designed almost completely in India. Many are published under licensing agreements with the media company that owns the name. Even though they are all published in English, their content may be completely different from their American and British counterparts."
Condé Nast is "the only major foreign-owned publisher that has set up a fully staffed India division to write and print a fully owned title." Not surprisingly, the photo that accompanied the piece showed someone brandishing a copy of Vogue India.
Magazine advertising in India is expected to grow by 20 percent to $302 million during this year, according to the International Federation of the Periodical Press.
One recent spread in India Vogue, though, has caused a stir, and not a positive one. According to Timmons, in an even more recent Times article, Vogue India's August issue "presented a 16-page vision of supple handbags, bejeweled clutches and status-symbol umbrellas, modeled not by runway stars [or the wealthy] … but by average Indian people."
Not everyone was amused.