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Manav Dhanda

National Head, Programming | 16 Jan 2007

Every medium of entertainment relies on its content to get attract its target audience. Our differentiators such as music, RJs, utilities, etc. will help us achieve a substantial stand in the market. It is important to give listeners fresh and innovative content that they can relate to. Our content is very local and has been designed keeping consumer tastes and preferences in mind.

Manav Dhanda, the National Programming Head and Regional Head, West for Big 92.7 FM has extensive experience in radio, television and event management. He is also in-charge of activation and PR for the station. Dhanda’s previous assignment was with Miditech Ltd, where he piloted popular shows such as ‘Fame Gurukul’ and ‘Deal Ya No Deal’. He also did a stint with Sony, where he had managed the launch of ‘Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin’.

Dhanda has also worked with Radio Mirchi, Mumbai, as Programming Head, where he had handled live events such as ‘Lata Live in aid of Gujarat’, ‘Hrithik Live in Concert’ and the ‘Dreamgirls’ concert.

He has also directed the teleserial ‘Thodi si Bewafaii’ as a freelancer. Dhanda is also passionately involved with theatre in Delhi both as an actor and a director.

In this interview with exchange4media’s Indrani Sinha, Dhanda talks about the programme content of Big 92.7 FM, the innovations undertaken by the FM station to stay ahead and listeners’ preferences in music.

Q. Why a brand name ‘Big FM’?

We aim to reach out to nearly 45 cities, 1,000 towns and 50,000 villages, touching the lives of nearly 200 million Indians. For this, we needed a larger than life advertising campaign with our brand ambassadors – Abhishek Bachchan for the Hindi belt, Asin for the Hyderabad and Chennai markets, and Upendra for Bangalore. With concepts never before applied to the FM radio and our endeavour to rise to the top, the brand name ‘Big’ is perfect for us.

Q. Every FM station claims to be different and innovative from other FM stations. So, how different is Big FM?

We undertook extensive research before the launch of the station and found that what was missing was relevance of the category and low aspirational appeal. We have tried to tackle these issues and make radio a part of everyone’s daily life. Very importantly, our programming mix is ‘adult contemporary’ in nature and hence, vastly differs from the music being played on other stations. Forty per cent of our music is exclusive to us and will be heard only on our radio station. We span eras and hence, you will hear all-time favourites of yesteryears along with some of the latest music. We do not play perceived hits, but our audience’s preferences. Our content is local in nature and has been put together after extensive research and mood and activity mapping among audiences. All these things put together will ensure that we stand out clearly.

To ensure aspirational appeal, our key shows will be hosted by personalities like Pallavi Joshi and Vrijesh Hirjee in Mumbai, Mona ‘Jassi’ Singh and Gaurav ‘Nandu’ Ghera 9of ‘Jassi’ fame) in Delhi, Shilajit and Sudipa in Kolkata, C K Chandru and Dayanand in Bangalore, Uma Riaz Khan in Chennai and Jhansi in Hyderabad. These celebrities interact with the listeners in their language as they share their emotions on a daily basis, adding to the aspirational appeal of the station. In addition to this, we will also have a unique spiritual show hosted by Shweta Tiwari.

For the humour quotient, we have Sunil Pal of ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’ tickle listeners’ funny bones, while every Sunday evening we have ‘Indian Idol’ Abhijeet Sawant hosting the Top 30 Bollywood Countdown show. Also, adding freshness and variety is a host of new RJ talent identified and trained by stalwarts from the international radio industry.

Q. You have taken the celebrity route to differentiation, how do you think this will help establish the FM station?

The never before initiative of getting on board artists such as Mona Singh, Gaurav Gera, Pallavi Joshi, Abhijeet Sawant et al in the capacity of celebrity radio jockeys is to add a much needed aspirational appeal, which will help find connect with Indian audiences. Radio is live, 24x7, here and now, and the listener can actually connect with the celebrities. This helps create a huge connect and aspiration among listeners.

Q. What role does content innovation play in keeping ahead of the competition? What is Big FM’s strategy in terms of deciding on the content for each city?

Every medium of entertainment relies on its content to get attract its target audience. To address the competitive nature of radio as a medium and to ensure the station stands out from the clutter, Big 92.7 FM has undertaken extensive research and in-depth analysis of the likes and dislikes of its listeners before putting together its innovative programmes.

Our differentiators such as music, RJs, utilities, etc. will help us achieve a substantial stand in the market. It is important to give listeners fresh and innovative content that they can relate to. Our content is very local and has been designed keeping consumer tastes and preferences in mind.

Q. Do listeners differ from region to region or does music transcend all barriers?

Our studies show that listeners’ tastes vary from city to city during various day parts depending on the activity during that period. As I had mentioned earlier, Big 92.7 FM has designed a unique playlist that is based on consumers’ choice rather than ‘perceived hits’. Through the research initiatives carried out for the music testing across six cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore – the station has understood the pulse of a regular radio listener and the reasons that hold back a non-listener from tuning in. With music being the key differentiator on Big 92.7 FM, we are eyeing the adult contemporary positioning to find that instant connect with our listeners.

As part of the research initiative, the first phase of the music testing involved the ‘Auditorium Music Test’, which was carried out on a strong sample size of over 10,000 respondents across the six metros. This brought forth the nuances of music preferences by gender and age. In the second phase, Big 92.7 FM created dummy playlists consisting of hour-long capsules of music and conducted blind tests with consumers across these metros. Here too, consumers mostly preferred the playlists designed by Big 92.7 FM.

Q. What is the profile of your target audience?

Our target audience is mainly in the 20-35 age group. However, our programming mix is such that it does not alienate the other age groups.

Q. Are there any specific programme initiatives you are planning with this in mind?

All our programmes have been designed keeping our target audience in mind.

Q. Do you think your competition having the advantage of a headstart in most of the markets makes your task that much more difficult?

The competition definitely has the experience and we are late entrants in certain markets, but we are confident of doing well. We have an able team and a great programming mix. Big 92.7 FM plans to take radio as a medium of entertainment not only to the key metros, but also to virgin markets that have never before experienced radio as a medium of entertainment. In fact, we recently launched in the cities of Jammu, Srinagar and Aligarh.

There is a huge untapped market of non-listeners in our country as per our estimates. Indian listenership levels have reached a certain point, but there’s much more scope for growth as the average time spent on radio as a medium here is considerably less than the other mediums such as television. Due to this untapped potential, there is a huge chunk of audience that remains to be explored regardless of the competition.

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