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Shariq Patel

Station Head | 03 Nov 2003

Advertising on the radio has definitely increased. Research shows a figure of 50 lakh listeners. It’s not something planners can ignore. Moreover, due to stations operational in different cities, an advertiser reaches cross cities. So an increase in the budget looks justified.

Shariq Patel, an MBA from NMIMS is a reasonably new player in the radio industry. Prior to his current four-month old relationship with Go 92.5, he was in various fields beginning with a four-year experience with EXIM Bank. Testing the dotcom scene for a while with Indya.com, he then worked for AirTel. The cellular industry faced similar problems of license fees a few years back as the FM industry faces now. Coming from a background like that gives him a certain confidence about the radio industry’s future. As a Station Head, he ensures smooth operations at Go 92.5. In this conversation with Noor Fathima Warsia, he talks about Go 92.5’s new time-band strategy, the evolution in Go 92.5’s programming and future plans of the station.

Q. After your stint at AirTel, what made you venture in FM radio, considering the problems that the category faced?

The decision of joining was not based on what the industry might see FM as. It was more about how convinced the people of the company or the people who are running the company are about the business. When I joined I knew about the conditional termination of license but that did not deter me. Go 92.5 was an opportunity to work with a brand I associate with and in an exciting medium. I had to take it.

Q. Have you always been an avid radio listener?

I have always been probably one of the biggest radio fans. Even before I joined, I only listened to Go 92.5. It was the only station that spoke to me as an individual, was talking my language and played my kind of music. I think more than that, it was the attitude of the way the channel was run. There was a lot of tongue in the cheek humour and the station stood for something that connected with me.

Q. How did the situation of conditional license surrender impact Go92.5’s operations?

License fee is a problem for every station. Mid-day being a listed company had to take such a step due to investor pressure. But even then, it was never said that ‘Ok for 12 months, there is status quo.’ We still had aggressive targets. We still have an operative cost, which we have to recover by way of revenues. We have been doing substantial investments in innovative programming like college radio and festival specials. More importantly, we will continue to make such investments and try and improve ourselves with each attempt.

Q. Tell us something about the problems you have encountered in your four-month experience with Go 92.5?

So far, it has been a great experience. Apart from the license fee issue, there has never been any problem. There are challenges but the going looks good. Revenues are looking up. Audience size is improving and our inventory is packed at peak time. There are, what can be called ‘concern areas’ that have to looked into but not problems per say.

And these ‘concern areas’ are . .

Well, to begin with research figures indicate that 50% of the population are housewives or retired people. This is an area of concern. We are operating in a situation where by virtue of our format, this percent of the market will not tune into us because we are not addressing them. There are housewives listening to us, but we need to put a strategy in place where we can tap this market effectively. Emerging from this situation, the second concern area is that many brands don’t advertise with us. For instance, there aren’t any pressure cookers or hair oils. We need to come up with programming that will cater to the kind of audience that currently to my mind, is deprived of Go 92.5. Of course, while addressing to a target very different from our existing one, we have to make sure that the programming remains in sync with our identity. That too, if not a concern area, is a challenge.

Q. So what is your programming mantra?

In programming, language wise, we are a Hindi - English mix in equal proportion. We have a young, chirpy format, which we want to maintain. At any given point there are at least three-four contests running, which helps in increasing our interactivity. Simply put, we do a lot of experimental stuff. The mantra would be, get an idea, think it out and execute it well, all in a short span of time. Now, we are getting more target-specific. We have incorporated a time-band strategy in our programming that will allow us to reach to various target groups.

Q. What do you mean by time-band strategy?

Based on the research we have, we have segmented the day in a manner where we cater to the audience that is likely to tune in that hour. There is the morning slot of 7-11, which caters to young professionals. Now we have brought in 11-2 band, which is for, what we term as, the ‘whirlpool woman’, that is the young woman at home. This will be 100 per cent Hindi programming. This is followed by ‘Local Vocal’, which is purely for collegians. This goes on till 6 pm that brings in the drive audience again. Then from 9 pm to 1 am, we play only English classics.

Q. And this segmentation addresses specific audience for various day parts?

That is what it does in effect, yes. Our listenership profile then has variety. In the morning and late evening drive hours, we get the typical young professionals. Then afternoon are for the young woman at home, as we classify them. College youth is of course a definite on the channel, I would like to think we are the preferred college radio station. The night slot of 9–1, when we play English classics, doesn’t cater to any one section in particular. These are favourites that appeal to any age group. So there is a lot of missed audience coming in this slot.

Q. How do you think this kind of target-specific programming will influence your clients?

As I mentioned earlier, we indulge in experimental stuff big time. There are two effects of this kind of programming. First, when the client presents the germ of an idea, our immediate reaction is ‘yes’. Then we figure out how do we juggle it, how we’ll fit it in and our programming mantra helps us in that. That ways we try to be the preferred destination when an existing client wants to sponsor an event or a radio property. Second, there are many new clients that will come in, especially with the coming in of the 11-2 afternoon slot. Now we can have consumer durables on the channel. Not just a LG CDMA but a LG refrigerator and AC can also be advertised. So, it is a double positive impact on advertisers.

Q. What is your station’s current advertiser profile?

We have many quality brands on the station. There is Tata Motors, Colgate, Star Network that is Star World and Movies, Coke, Orange, Bazee.com, Tata Indicom and Asian Paints. So there is quite a variety in that too.

Q. So your revenues are generated from corporates?

Ours is a corporate growth. 90% of our advertisers are the large tickets. I think that is by virtue of the audience profile that we are bringing. Having said that, we have retailers also. We have a classified section on the station called Mumbai bazaar. But those are basically the advertisers who are very keen to be on the station.

Q. Advertisers’ interest in radio seems to be increasing. What would you attribute this to?

Advertising on the radio has definitely increased. One reason is that radio research throws a figure of 50 lakhs listeners in a city. It’s not something media planners can ignore. Another thing that perhaps worked in favour of radio is stations in various cities. So for an advertiser, an increase in the budget looks justified when he is reaching cross-cities. Plus stations have taken initiatives to promote the category, which is eventually paying off.

Q. Go92.5 is yet a single city station. What is the development of your plans for stations in Delhi and Chennai?

Delhi and Chennai are very much on the radar. But details about this can be sorted only after the license issue is resolved. Once that happens we will be doing a lot better than right now. We currently hold the third position now. Once we have other stations going, we will come up automatically. And with our current format, we will be filling a gap here. So I know we are going to do some beating in these cities.

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