It’s official: HuffPost India—a partnership between the Huffington Post Media Group and The Times of India Group—will launch on Nov. 25. With the number of Indian Internet users next year expected to reach 370 million—200 million of which are middle-income citizens— Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington said it's positioning the company for potentially huge gains.
"It’s a critical market for any global media company," the founder said. "It's a market of incredible growth, and an obvious market for us to go to."
The English-language Indian website will mark HuffPost's 12th international edition and third foray into Asia. The online publication already has a large international presence, with its global desktop numbers reaching 86 million unique views, per comScore in June 2014. The company has previously claimed that almost half of its traffic comes from overseas.
Jimmy Soni Won't Lead The Initiative
Interestingly, former managing editor Jimmy Soni—who many consider a Huffington protégé—will not be headed to India to guide the efforts. Although it had been previously announced in May that Soni was leaving his U.S. post to focus on the Indian venture, Huffington said he was no longer with the company and has left to focus on writing a book.
Instead, executive international editor Nicholas Sabloff will direct news strategy, while international general manager Koda Wang will lead the business side. Both are expected to head to India in the next few weeks. The 10-person newsroom will be housed in The Times of India's home base in New Delhi, but will expand as the site gains traction. The edition will also rely on the contributions of bloggers, and Huffington said she's already found interested parties among Indian industrialists, business leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as students.
Journalism in India Is 'More Vibrant Than Ever Before'
Satyan Gajwani, CEO of Times Internet (the digital arm of The Times of India), said his company partnered with HuffPost because it saw the publisher as an innovative digital-first news leader. He's also admired how it takes a broad view on news, adding "untraditional" topics like "good news" and "healthy living" into the mix.
"The Indian journalism ecosystem is in many ways more vibrant than ever before, but it's also changing rapidly," he said. "Social media and the Internet have put a great pressure on media outlets for high-quality and transparent journalism. Interestingly, as facts become easier for people to access, consumers are looking for insight, analysis and opinion to help shape views. That's a space where we are excited to see what Huffington Post does to shape the market."
Huffington said she was particularly excited to launch the Indian project because she studied comparative religion at Visva-Bharati University outside Calcutta when she was 17. She added that she's looking forward to injecting Indian articles into all of editions of Huffington Post, especially considering the changes the government is currently going through and the fact that spirituality and healthy living are highly influential in the culture.
"India can be an amazing producer of content obviously both for HuffPost India and around the world," she explained. "We're doing more and more of that: covering the same issues in all our editions and translating the content."