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Ambar Basu

VP Finance | 21 Jul 2005

“Radio City today has managed to not only revive, but also revolutionise radio-listening habits. Radio City is India’s first private FM Channel to go on air. The genre of game shows has been pioneered by Radio City with the famous Radio City 91FM Suno Aurr Lakhpati Bano, which generated overwhelming response with over 1.23 crore calls in just five weeks.”

Radio City believes in the philosophy of offering its listeners the best from the Hindi music industry, coupling it with a host of interactive on-air shows. To keep pace with the changing market trends, the radio channel is using every opportunity to innovate with the category to build stronger involvement and listenership. In a conversation with Preeti Jadhav, Ambar Basu, Vice-President, Finance, Radio City chats about the channels’ uniqueness, advertisers’ response to the radio medium, and the likes. Excerpts:

Q. Any one show that you would call extraordinary and feel proud of?

There isn’t one particular show that we can highlight and speak about. Radio City uses every opportunity to innovate with the category to build stronger involvement and listenership. Radio City pioneered the concept of getting into specialised packaging. The genre of game shows was also one of Radio City’s firsts with the famous Radio City 91FM Suno Aurr Lakhpati Bano, which generated an overwhelming response with over 1.23 crore calls in just five weeks. Today, Radio City has several popular features that are unique to the station. For example, a feature on Bollywood (Tadka Trailor), on humour (Babbar Sher), and on interactive pranks (Poppat). Also the concept match-making was introduced by Radio City with The Matchmaker Show.

Q. What is the benchmark that you have set for yourself?

Since its inception, Radio City has set standards for the radio industry with innovative programming, vivacious radio jockeys and hit music.

Q. Do you make any extra effort during the peak TV hours so that you don’t lose listeners?

It is a myth that radio competes with TV. Radio has its own loyal listeners as it is an interactive, informative as well as an inexpensive medium, which builds a relationship with the listeners. Through various shows, a relationship is built with the RJs, and in fact, we have some listeners who have been with us since the time our first show went on air.

Radio is a more mass medium that television and as such, the prime times differ for both mediums.

Q. Where would you rate Radio City among other private FM channels in terms of listenership?

No accurate data is available, though as per the last ILT Wave VI report, Radio City leads across all socio-economic groups in terms of TOM recall. The report also says that the bulk of radio listernership happens at home.

Q. How can one actually ascertain which station is the most heard?

The new research will be available by early July and we will have a clearer understanding after the analysis of that data.

Q. What role does content innovation play in keeping ahead of the competition? What is the strategy of Radio City in terms of deciding on the kind of content for each city?

Content is King and it has to be designed in a way so as to appeal to all target groups. Innovative programming is the only differentiating factor for each radio station existing today. Radio City plays only hit music, which is predominantly in Hindi – whether classics, Bollywood music or Indipop – with a playlist designed from extensive consumer research.

As mentioned earlier, Radio City has pioneered innovative programming techniques, be it for the genre of gameshows or various other contests. For monsoons, we are having a special programme called Radio City Gaddha Tere Naam, which has been specially designed to address the issue of potholes.

The strategy for each city depends on its listener-base and the local needs. However, the content needs to be innovated almost on a daily basis to retain freshness. The RJ is a friend for the listener and how he looks at topical issues makes the listener tune in.

Q. Now that radio has firmly established itself, are local advertisers looking at radio as a part of the regular media plan? Or, do they still recognise radio as a reminder medium or a brand-building medium?

Radio provides advertisers with the most flexible mass media channel, requiring short lead times and low production costs. This enables lightning fast responses to changing market conditions for corporates.

World over, local advertisers form the bulk of the revenue generated by any radio station, but those are evolved markets. Here, radio is still at a nascent stage, but local advertisers are seeing radio as a cost-effective medium to advertise – both as a reminder and as a brand-building medium – and have started including radio in their media plans.

Q. Tell us about some of the on-ground and on-air promotions you have lined up to promote the channel?

To add to the fun monsoon brings with it, Radio City has planned ‘Monsoon Special’ for the season. A host of programmes like Baarish Band Baajaa, Rain Check-up, Bhutta Singh, Bheegi Billi, etc, have been lined up. Apart from this, we have planned quite a few activities in the coming months.

Recently, as part of our third anniversary celebration plans in Mumbai, we had a host of on-ground activities across the city where our RJs interacted with the people. In Delhi, we recently finished with the ‘City Bajao, Bike Le Jao Contest’. The contest was on air for 15 days and a lucky winner was given a bike everyday for 15 days. The response that we got was way beyond our expectations. We got a total of more than five million SMSs, and even a larger number of calls during the 15-day activity. This was indeed a remarkable achievement for Radio City.

Primarily, visibility and interactivity are the key strategies to promoting the Radio City brand.

Q. Please share more on Radio City's ‘City Bajao Bike Le Jao Contest’.

It was a 15-day contest, wherein everyday a winner of a simple question asked on air was gratified with a bike. The response was absolutely phenomenol with the total number of SMSs crossing five million in the 15-day period. This was unique since all the bikes were presented by Radio City itself. Out of the 15 winners, we had a female winner and one was just a 15-year-old boy.

Q. Do your RJs have a written script or are they allowed to voice their opinion freely?

They work under broad guidelines and are allowed their creative freedom within that. The RJs perform live at the studios, and spontaneity is a must when talking to such a large audience base. Hence, homework is a must, though not a written script.

Q. If they are allowed to voice their opinions freely then has there been any incident wherein the opinions of the channel and the RJ been not on the same footing?

The RJs are the station’s voice, and since they work within the guidelines given to them, there have been no instances of their stance differing from that of the station’s.

Q. How do you keep your idea bank updated? Do you believe that sometimes there is too much demand for fresh ideas?

Yes, there is a pressure on programming and marketing to shurn out new ideas, but generally these pressures are more to do with attracting new listeners than with the listeners.

A fine balance between familiarity and likeability has to be establishes with the listeners. Thus, the format of the programme remains more or less the same with the RJs adding their bit of fun to retain its freshness continually. From our perspective, it is this freshness that sustains listernership.

Regular cross-function meets also help keep the idea bank updated. But it is the work culture within Radio City itself that blends beautifully with the systemic structure to produce great programming/marketing/sales ideas.

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