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B Surendar

COO | 20 Sep 2013

Radio being a powerful frequency medium, marketers can achieve best results only if they invest a higher percentage of their media spends and improve the intensity of their campaign. In fact, those who have tried that have got a better impact and response.

B Surendar, COO, Red FM/ Suryan FM has been with the radio station since 2005. Surendar commenced his career in 1996 as General Manager at Indian Express. After a stint of nine years with the newspaper, he moved on to Red FM as National Sales Head. He has spearheaded various verticals in Red FM and was recently appointed as COO.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Saloni Surti, Surendar speaks at length about the FM radio market in the South, the skewed listener ratio in the metros, content differentiation and more...

Q. How has the South market shaped up in the last few years?

For the FM radio industry, South India has emerged as the most important region in the entire country, other than the two mega metros. The market here has been doing exceedingly well in the last 4-5 years. Our network, in particular, with its dominating presence in South has witnessed a steep revenue growth during this period, resulting in the region now contributing nearly half of the total turnover. About the listeners here, they are passionate about the medium and are very demanding in their expectations.

Q. How are the consumer dynamics different in the South as compared to the rest of India?

Consumers here are discerning and know exactly what they want – be it entertainment or information. They take the medium very seriously and expect us to deliver precisely as per their requirement. Hence, keeping a close tab on their lifestyle, habits and preferences become critical in achieving customer delight.

Q. How are marketers leveraging radio down South?

Marketers have done a fair job till now when it comes to believing in the medium or exploring various innovations through on air, on ground, etc. Quite a few of them have used the South, given its importance, as their launch or test market before expanding into the rest of the country.

But the one area which requires further improvement is the depth of consumption. Radio being a powerful frequency medium, marketers can achieve best results only if they invest a higher percentage of their media spends and improve the intensity of their campaign. In fact, those who have tried that have got a better impact and response. At a time when the cover prices of newspapers and subscription as well as ad rates of TV channels are expected to go up sharply, radio medium with its enormous reach, flexibility and value-for-money proposition can come in handy in optimising the business potential of clients. One is sure that it will turn out to be a win-win for both.

Q. Please name some of your regular clients.

Since most advertisers who use FM radio here use our network stations, it is easier to name categories. Starting with the robust retail & real estate category, almost all important brands in FMCG, telecom, durables and BFSI figure in our top spenders list. In fact, social advertising has also gone up substantially.

Q. According to an eStatIndia report, a huge chunk of the population is now moving to urbanised areas, especially in Kerala. How has this impacted the radio ecosystem? How are you dealing with the change in terms of content and marketing?

I assume it is not just a coincidence that Kerala is proving to be an excellent market for radio in recent years. As you know, the radio licenses are currently available more in bigger cities and towns and this trend of rapid urbanisation is bound to help FM stations grow faster at this point. But the content and marketing strategy is already based on the pulse of each local market and adapting to changes is an ongoing and continuous process at our end.

Q. What does Red FM do to break the monotony of content that listeners often complain of?

Whether it is Red FM or Suryan FM, we have always tried to lead from the front when it comes to content differentiation. If more licenses get picked up during Phase III expansion in existing radio markets and if the Government also allows newer genres, viz. News & Current affairs, Live Sports, etc., without heavy restrictions, then listeners are sure to get even more variety in FM radio content in future.

Q. Is the audience in South equally digitally inclined? How do you integrate digital with your terrestrial radio station?

Since South is an IT hub, it goes without saying that a good part of the FM radio audience are digitally inclined and so we do make conscious use of the synergy that exists between these two emerging mediums. We are making good progress on digital integration, especially in our top markets like Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi and Hyderabad. There is a rapid growth in digital interaction with our existing and new listeners. Digital media is all about engagement and we have been active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Our RJs are fast exploiting their VJ skills as well!

Q. What are your views on mobile presence of radio stations? Does Red FM have plans for the same?

We are already active on the mobile platform for the past two years, with nine of our stations in different languages available through leading service providers. There are more plans in the offing.

Q. Please share five things that marketers should keep in mind while investing on radio in the South.

• They should ensure that they are making at least the threshold level of investment required to optimise returns from the medium.
• Since radio is a great media multiplier and an expert in delivering a brand’s USP, they should integrate the message here with the one they are trying to deliver through key mediums. But while doing that, they should also ensure their creative approach is customised to radio.
• Localising the message as per market requirements would be a great advantage on radio.
• Put extra efforts on the radio creative and integration if your TG belongs to light/ medium user category in the other two mass media, viz. TV and print.
• For launch and very special campaigns, one should look at creating a signature sound/ sonic tune.

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