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Farid Kureshi

National Sales Director | 23 Nov 2002

"TV does not provide you city specific reach- so it has far higher wastage than radio."

As the only active,comprehensive and leading Radio industry information resource in the country, the Radio Channel at exchange4media has looked at the emerging medium of Radio from various angles. At RadioSpeak we have brought to you the insights from the entrepreneurial Gautam Radia, the quintessential Radio CEO A P Parigi from a business point of view, Radio Jockey Anish Trivedi, Programming Head Vehrnon Ibrahim and research expert Praveen Tripathi. Now we look at Radio from advertising selling and marketing point of view... one of the criticism being that radio is being sold like TV whereas it is a very different medium than TV, as most people heading radio sales and marketing are from TV business. To be able to understand the intricacies of Radio Advertising Sales and Marketing we spoke to Farid Kureshi...

Radio's fate still hangs in balance. High license fee, low ad rates and too many stations playing the same numbers hasn't really helped.

However, the media fraternity is gradually shedding its wait and watch policy and pushing a small bit of the clients' money to radio as well - more so in the case of automobiles, financial products and FMCGs. And it has brought in some optimism in the industry. More so in the case of Radio Mirchi, which is reportedly a market leader in all the five cities where it has launched.

Ritu Midha of exchange4media spoke to Farid Kureshi, National Marketing Director, Radio Mirchi on what makes the radio tick, and how Radio Mirchi has left the other stations to do the catching up while it leads the way.

Q. What is Mirchi's USP, considering that most of the radio stations are trying to get into the same mass music slot?

As our punch line says, 'it is hot.' We have a very clearly defined position - we are a contemporary hit radio station, and our TG is 15 to 35 - SEC A and B. Most of the music that we play today is post 1995, 96.

As far as marketing is concerned, there are two aspects to it - establishing the brand itself so that it has a top of mind recall and secondly, to develop a large number of loyal listeners. We have done a very good job on it till now - even the IMRB study showed that 77% of the listeners actually rated radio Mirchi as the best.

In addition, Mirchi is the only station, which has a number of Bollywood stars endorsing it. It was conveyed through print and outdoor ads with Salman Khan, Bipasha Basu and many others.

Q. In a field where 3 out of the 5 radio stations are focusing on Bollyood music, to what extent would celebrity endorsement work?

Yes, everyone plays Hindi music and 90% of it is Bollywood numbers. Anyway movies is big business in India. Hence, celebrity endorsement goes a long way in establishing credibility and fan following. People want to hear the station endorsed by their favourite film stars. Shahrukh Khan, Bipasha Basu, Shilpa Shetty - you name the star, and he or she has been on the station in terms of endorsement as well as interview.

It works. We have done a lot of film contests, and we were the first station to do a movie premier. It appeals to our target group.

Q. What is your experience of radio? What kind of programmes really sell?

I would not be qualified to comment on programming. What I would say is that our positioning is the most appealing to most advertisers today. Nine out of ten advertisers in India are trying to reach this target group, be it financial institutions, white goods, airlines or credit cards.

Q. English music seems to be increasing in size once again. Does it indicate a change in the strategy?

As I mentioned, 90% music on our station is Hindi. Nonetheless, we are a contemporary hit radio station and our TG also appreciates English music. Hence, we pick up the best of the charts and play those numbers. The number of English songs depends on how many hits you have at that point in time. However, the focus is basically on contemporary hit Hindi music.

Q. A lot of listenership on mass stations comes from SEC D and E. Does it not lead to a lot of wastage as far as advertisers are concerned?

I would call it extended reach and not wastage! Any radio station or channel defines its core TG. For instance MTV might be targeting 15 to 21 year olds from SEC A and B, but it may so happen that a 55- year old is also watching MTV. You can't stop him.

Similarly, our programming and marketing efforts are directed only towards 15 to 35 Sec A and B target group, but if we happen to reach from an 11 year old to a 45 year old - I will not complain.

Now to answer the second part of your question, how would radio help in reaching this audience with minimum wastage -television does not provide you city specific reach- so it has far higher wastage than radio. And if you look at Radio Mirchi as a brand, it is present in four stations today - by the year-end it would be present in ten cities - which would include four metros. Most of the advertising money goes to these top ten cities in India.

When you are buying on radio you can buy in the specific cities, which are your priority and reduce wastage. And within those cities you can further segment your TG by choosing time bands. For instance, if you want to sell tires, you should look at drive time in the mornings and evenings. No media can say that I will give you zero wastage - but the wastage on radio is minimum. To give you another example, we know that 90% of drivers in India are male and chances are that they have their own automobiles and they are driving to work themselves. Secondly, you can buy specialised programming - if you want to reach housewife, you can opt for an afternoon slot where we have women-centric programmes.

Q. The kind of programmes you have is decided by the advertisers's needs or listeners' likes and dislikes?

Our number one priority is to focus on the listeners. We adapt to the changes in the listeners' taste. Listeners will not come because advertisers are there, advertisers will come because listeners are there!

Q. Every FM station touts itself as city's own station. How important a role does local flavour really play?

It is very important that each station caters to the local taste. That is what radio is all about. Radio is a very topical, on the ball medium. Being very localised, is where the magic of radio lies. Let me give you an example. Same client can promote different products/brands on different stations. Different copies can be used for different cities. The cost of television promotion is huge and customising it is a very expensive affair. Radio, however, costs you few thousand rupees, and so you can have multiple copies for multiple centres. It can work for both local and national brands. Viva may have a sale in Ahmedabad and not have a sale in Mumbai and use radio to announce it.

A radio knows the pulse of the city - knows the local linguistic flavour. Hence, anything we play on a station is researched locally. This research is an ongoing process, so that the music changes with the audience taste. Secondly, it talks about local entertainment, weather, traffic and social causes. RJs are local and so they know the local flavour - in Pune, for instance, there is a lot of Marathi talk, while in Ahmedabad, flavour is more Gujarati. If you go across the four radio stations of Radio Mirchi, you would notice a world of difference.

Q. Are you offering a combination of various stations as a package deal?

Absolutely. Most of the national advertisers who come to us today want to buy all the four stations. So we have package deals.

Q. First city you launched in was Indore. Did the learnings that you gained from there, make launch in other cities an easier experience?

Yes and no. It did help in having the launch a lot smoother operationally. But for any station to survive it has to be constantly on its toes - in terms of what your listeners want. Developing a loyal listener base is a difficult task. Every city is a totally different ball game. The attitude has to be local.

I think we have done a wonderful job…we are leaders everywhere.

Q. What synergies do you see in events and radio? If you look at Dubai, radio stations are continuously doing road shows and other events.

I believe that events go very well with radio, and we are doing a lot of local events in almost every city we are present in. Community involvement and closer interaction helps in building relationship with your listeners because you can feel the station far more closely. Personality involvement and direct interaction increases the audience interest. It is also a good opportunity for advertisers to reach the target group directly. Even more so for retail advertiser, who at the end of the day, is looking at how many footfalls you can generate for him.

Q. Morning shows seem to be the name of the game as far as radio is concerned. Is it given special attention both in terms of programming and marketing?

I will answer that in two parts - one is that worldwide mornings have a lot of breakfast shows, which is more of talk and less of music. These three-four hour morning shows have a lot of topical content. Most of the people outside of radio companies take this information off the web and seminars but what they forget is that we are not a market like US.

Having said that, morning is definitely one of the most crucial parts of programming as it sets the mood and tone for the day. You want a listener to start his day with your station and continue with it through the day. However, from an advertising perspective, it is only important for male-targeted categories. As far as women oriented products or household products, where whole family takes decision are concerned- looking beyond drive time is not a bad idea at all.

People say radio becomes highly personal and focused medium in mornings when a guy is driving I find it quite amusing. Why not look at evening also. Does the guy who goes in a car return by a local train?

The best way to have maximum reach is by having three or four spots in a day. It is not like television where viewing is by appointment. Radio is a frequency medium and over all pulse, reach and tone is important. Any advertiser should first look at frequency and then look at any other criteria.

Q. But doesn't radio really become a highly involved medium at drive time. In the other day parts it is just in the background.

We have tremendous amount of listenership in afternoons from about 12 to 5. Though what you say about radio being a background medium at home is very true, look at the uniqueness of the medium. Television is a medium by appointment - your eyes and ears have to be glued to TV. If you are not there you can't do anything. Same is the case with newspaper. However, no such complusions with radio! As far as the involvement with the medium is concerned, our senses react to what we like. If there is any song I like it is going to draw my attention. To that extent we can compare to a beautiful fragrance that draws our senses.

Q. So you don't have different rates for different parts of the day?

Of course, we do. There is a difference in rates for prime time and non-prime time. Prime time is mornings and evenings when we have office-going crowd also listening in. Non prime time is afternoon and late evenings - which makes it all the more lucrative for categories not focused on men.

Q. Lastly, would you say it is a dog-eat-dog world out there?

Let me put it this way. Media industry has just started taking note of radio - and hence, it is the responsibility of every radio station to focus on the growth of the category and not just individual growth of a particular station. Aim is to grow the pie - unless and until you deliver the numbers as an industry - the advertiser is not going to look at you very seriously. Pie is too small right now to fight for the share.

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