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Romen Sood

Station Manager | 16 Apr 2003

“We are expecting a listenership of more than 100 minutes in Kolkata.”

Romen Sood, Station Manager, Radio Mirchi, Kolkata has years of experience in the communication arena. Sood’s career includes stints on both the client and the advertising side. Sood has worked for organizations like ITC, Clarion and Mudra, Mumbai. Gunjan Khaitan of exchange4media Kolkata bureau met up with Romen Sood helps to understand the Kolkata market before the launch of the four radio stations and therefore the potential of Radio FM advertising in this city. Sood during his interaction also delves into the psyche of an average Kolkatan to arrive at the best programming mix for his radio station. Probably it’s his long years in the advertising business that urge him to treat Radio Mirchi as a “brand” and hence, to think of its positioning accordingly.

Q. How would you describe the Kolkata audience? Are they any different compared to the other metros?

Yes, Kolkata audience is more discerning where music is concerned. Research has confirmed that they can differentiate good music from average music. The most important fact that was thrown up in the research and the one that we bear in mind while deciding the programming is, that the people of Kolkata are very proud of their heritage and language. They are also conservative but not in terms of accepting music from international spheres.

Q. Will the Kolkata market/audience and clients receive Radio FM and especially Radio Mirchi, keeping in mind that they are quite conservative by nature?

Radio FM has been received very well across all the metros and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be received well in Kolkata as well. Radio FM is not a new phenomenon like a Dotcom. It is a very natural medium. Moreover, there has been a successful story of Times FM in Kolkata in the past. Therefore, there is no reason why Radio FM advertising should not be accepted well. In fact the expectations from the various FM channels are higher now. We are expecting a listenership of more than 100 minutes in Kolkata. All the hype created by the stations to be launched here, will result in habit formation, thus making Radio FM a normal part of an average Kolkatan’s life. It is the onus of the marketing team to educate clients who are on the edge about advertising on Radio FM. However, the real success of FM advertising will be proven after the launch when more clients will come in thus proliferating the category. The only problem I foresee is the time taken by the client to accept the medium will be a trifle longer. The personality and the target audience of Mirchi will be the same as in any other city where it’s currently playing. However, the communications and the creative chosen for Kolkata will be adapted to suit the sensibilities of the city. It will be customized to the soul, feel and tastes of Kolkata.

Q. The TG and personality of Mirchi remaining the same, how would you make the station city centric?

Radio is a city specific medium. Therefore, Mirchi is also made city centric. You cannot do the same things for Mirchi Kolkata like you would do for Mirchi Mumbai. You can however implement your learnings from the Mumbai station to the Kolkata station. We have conducted a lot of research to find out what makes people in Kolkata tick, what entertainment means for them, their media habits etc. It is not a Mumbai channel being launched but is tailor made to suit Kolkata.This is a channel for the people of Kolkata, addressing their concerns, playing their music and talking their language.

Q. How will the people of Kolkata differentiate Radio Mirchi from any other station?

Every FM station can play the same song. But what they cannot duplicate is the brand image and the listeners experience with the station. Hence, we are building a brand and our activities are focused on that. Moreover, listeners are unable to evaluate any station. They have a sum total of experience – of how the RJs speak, the music they hear and the complete packaging like station promos that they experience. The most important role is played by the RJs- what they talk, how they talk and whether they connect with the listeners or not plays a crucial role in helping the listener identify the station. It is not a formula, it comes with experience. Bottom line is that you have to choose the right RJs. Differentiation for a FM station is based on how you take the brand to the market. It depends on the kind of mass media activities, tie- ups and below the line activities done for the brand. A Radio Mirchi road show will be different from any other FM station’s road show. Anything that we do, big or small, our brand personality will reflect in it.

Q. What is the programming strategy for Mirchi like? Will you differentiate your programmes according to day parts?

Firstly, People are not coming to hear RJs speak. Therefore, we have kept the speech minimal. We definitely have RJs talk but only to the level where they add to the channel and not act as irritants. Secondly, we will also play Bengali music. Even if we play 60% Hindi, we will not be deviating from our TG’s choice of music. The difference is made by what the RJs talk. We will be talking about what Calcutta would like to hear. A mix of national, international and local information would constitute our programming mix. It depends on how the masala is packaged so that an average listener is connected to the station. We will adopt ‘Natural programming’ and ‘Natural speech’ appealing to Kolkata people. We are looking at each day part as a brand. Studying the TG and the mood for each day part helps increase our efficiency. Depending on the day parts we have utility messages like traffic, weather and sports update being aired. Different programmes are required for different day parts, different moods and different TG. For example: in the morning we would target family, in the afternoon housewives, and in the evening students who would come back from schools and colleges. However, Radio FM will be heard all the day and in all the places – basically it will be carried around.

Q. Could you comment on the competition that Radio Mirchi will be facing in Kolkata?

It is good to have competition. It is healthy as it will give the audience more choice and improve everyone’s performance on the whole. Any activity done by any other station is beneficial for us, as it will help in creating an overall hype for the medium and facilitating habit formation. Bottom line is that competition will help in increasing the pie. We have a very healthy respect for our competitors. Especially for MEASAT, I respect them for their international success and experience.

Q. Any plans of expansion to the Northeast or Bihar and Jharkhand?

We have a license for Cuttack and Bhubhaneshwar. However, the license for Northeast depends on the government.

Q. Where do you expect the Ad revenues flowing in from?

Retail boom has hit Kolkata as we can see with Pantaloons, Shoppers Stop and the likes opening here and there is a significant population armed with a good purchasing power to support these outlets. We see a lot of revenue coming in from the retail section. There is no skew towards national or local advertisers where revenues are concerned. Both will contribute equally and significantly. Where the National players will go in for sponsorships, local players will wait and watch for some time.

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