DOHA: People from the tiny southern Indian state of Kerala are among the largest and pioneering expatriate communities in Qatar and can boast of having a number of newspapers published from Doha in their native tongue, Malayalam.
With the launch of the Doha edition of Malayala Manorama, a century-old vernacular daily in Kerala, yesterday, five Malayalam newspapers are being published from Qatar and more are in the works. The other dailies that already have Doha editions are Madhyamam, Chandrika, Thejas and Varthamanam, each having its own committed readership.
Kerala, which is highly dependent on remittances from expatriates, has more than a dozen popular vernacular newspapers, with their readership running into many millions.
With the launch of Malayala Manorama, Malayalam dailies now outnumber the local Arabic (four) and English dailies (three). The total circulation of their Doha editions may not cross five digits, but the actual readership is much more, say media sources.
A large number of Keralites (commonly known as Malayalees) here are skilled or semi-skilled single workers living in labour camps or shared houses. With their paltry salaries, many of them cannot afford to spend QR2 daily for a newspaper. So they pool in money to buy newspaper(s) and share it in their camp or villa.
“The rise in shared accommodations in Qatar has boosted the readership of all Malayalam dailies here, although their circulation has not increased in proportion to the rise in population,” says Harris Vallil, marketing manager of Gulf Madhyamam.
Malayalees here, like Keralites back home are deeply split along political lines. Most newspapers in Kerala have political leanings, appealing to their targeted readership.
“There is no dearth of political issues and controversies in Kerala and readers here are more interested in them. This is one factor behind the increasing popularity of Malayalam dailies in the Gulf,” says Ashraf Tooneri, Resident Editor of Middle East Chandrika.
All these newspapers have their online editions, but the news-hungry Malayalee would like to read them in print, even if they have access to the Internet, he said.
“In some shared accommodations, you would see all Malayalam dailies published here. Each Keralite would have his preferred newspaper but he would also like to read other newspapers to understand the different angles (or versions) of a news,” Harris added. This is how these newspapers have found a thriving market in the Gulf, despite the proliferation of Malayalam TV channels and the online media.
Ahmed Pathiripatta, a veteran expatriate and correspondent of Mathrubhoomi, another leading Malayalam daily, believes TV channels and online media have a major negative impact on the readership of Malayalam newspapers here.
“The circulation of Malayalam dailies in Qatar has come down despite an increase in their number, after the arrival of Malayalam TV channels. There is a small market in Qatar which is getting shared by many,” he said.
He felt that the prospects of getting more advertisement revenue from the booming Qatari market is the main factor prompting more dailies to launch their Doha editions.
“We have found that people from Kerala living abroad like to read Malayalam papers to know about their native place and what is happening there. Our Doha edition will meet their expectations,” Anand Mathew, Senior General Manager for sales at Malayala Manorama had told this daily on Tuesday.
The Doha edition of Manorama is distinct with four editions representing the different regions of Kerala. The Peninsula