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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Data on the job: How Mumbai sent letters to the editor

Flashback, circa 2005: As the junior-most on the staff of Downtown Plus - once the South #Mumbai supplement of the Times of India and known for coining the term SoBo for South Bombay - my job was to read the letters to the editor, design contests and interact with the readers (besides writing and reporting). I started maintaining an Excel sheet of all the readers who would write in. I mapped the areas where they were from and discovered that the bulk of our readers were from Byculla and Colaba. I found it amusing because our marketing never considered Byculla as our reader base. Generating graphs, maps, etc, wasn't a part of my job profile but the data looked exciting so for the two years I was there, I worked with it and a couple of times showed it to my colleagues, discussing the trends in the readership. The marketing wasn't too thrilled that we had more readers from the eastern side of south Mumbai than the more 'upmarket' western areas of Worli and Breach Candy (the population difference they didn't want to consider. The central and eastern parts of south Mumbai are more populous than western and southern parts). I jogged down to the archives on the second floor and found a microfilm of TOI papers in the early 1880s. Back in those days there was no Marine Drive and the seven islands of Bombay were being linked by causeways and bridges. The poshest places were around Byculla Club. And  first few pages of the newspapers were devoted to ads (news started appearing on page 1 only in the 1940s) from Byculla and Pydhonie. In 2008, I was the youngest on the Mumbai Mirror desk and hence tasked to check the responses and letters to the editor. The demographic was different (whole Mumbai with 8,00,000 copies) but again, there were more responses from Mumbai's less affluent eastern and northern parts than the west and south, interestingly.


Sridhar Ramakrishnan Ashishwang Godha Swati Soni Srabana Lahiri Sudipta Basu

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