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Harrish M Bhatia

Business Head | 25 Oct 2007

Till recently, people never took radio as a medium of communication seriously. Print and electronic mediums have always dominated the scene. But the scenario is changing and people are now waking up to the importance of radio. The medium has unparalleled reach and its complete potential is still to be tapped. The radio industry is on the rise, and things are looking bright for the industry.

Harrish M Bhatia, Business Head of Synergy Media Entertainment Ltd that owns My FM, has had extensive experience in sales and marketing. Prior to joining Synergy, he was VP, Sales and Marketing at Bhaskar Group, where he was an old hand. Incidentally, Synergy Media Entertainment is also a Bhaskar Group company.

At the Bhaskar Group, Bhatia was credited with the launch of Divya Bhaskar in Gujarat in 2003. He was based in Mumbai since 2005 as Vice President, Sales and Marketing for South and West.

Prior to joining the Bhaskar Group, he was National Product Head of Korean multinational LG Electronics in India, where he was responsible for the launch of the LG door cooling refrigerators in India.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha, Bhatia speaks about the Group’s FM venture and future plans.

Q. What does 94.3 My FM represent?

94.3 My FM is a brand with an emotional connect, a one-to-one relation with the listener that delivers the zeal and zest to live life full on. It represents bonding with the listeners and making them a part of the entire experience. The brand line – ‘Dil Se!’ – is about the josh and passion in life.

Q. Radio is regarded as a medium of back-to-back music. Where does the talk format fit it? Won’t it be monotonous?

On the contrary, people’s expectations from a radio channel have changed now. Today, radio has become an important part of people’s lives – the radio is expected to engage the listeners and also add value to their lives. It is a source of information and entertainment on the move. Most of the free time that people have is when they are traveling and at this time, people prefer to tune in to the radio and enjoy themselves.

Q. How many FM licenses you have?

We have licenses to operate in 17 cities in seven states – Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Maharashtra. We are already operational in 12 cities – Jaipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Udaipur, Ajmer, Surat, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bilaspur. My FM will soon launch in Nagpur, Raipur, Jabalpur, Jodhpur and Kota.

Q. How different is your marketing in the rural and the urban markets?

We do not operate in the rural market yet. Thanks to the economic boom in India, Tier 1 cities like Ahmedabad and even Tier 2 and the Tier 3 cities have undergone tremendous changes in terms of lifestyle of the people and their aspiration levels. People in these markets are experiencing and enjoying all sorts of services and consumer brands, which we thought were the privilege of the metros cities. However, one thing that has not changed is the language of entertainment, which is predominantly Hindi, and Bollywood rules in terms of entertainment. This is the basis of all the stations like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Raipur, Ajmer or Surat. This explains why we have not gone 100 per cent Gujarati in Ahmedabad. We ensure that we understand the city in terms of its leisure / entertainment / pastime before formulating content for the station.

Q. Which is easier to sell – talk radio or music radio? And, which format do you see growing?

It is too early to say this. It’s a wait and watch situation. The talk format is new while the music format is growing. But even niche formats should grow.

Q. Are you looking at competition from satellite radio?

It is too early to comment on this.

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

Content is the key in the radio industry. We ensure we understand the city in terms of its pastime / leisure / entertainment before we finalise our content. That is the reason why we understand that while a city like Ajmer, which has nearly 30 per cent Sindhi population should have a different preference in music and content from another station, say Jaipur. The content innovations are indeed helping us staying ahead. For instance, in Tier 1 stations like Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, the importance of international music has been acknowledged and, therefore, it is a part of our programme line-up.

Q. What are your future plans for My FM?

We want to be a mainstream player and plan to go national. This is in line with our vision to be among the Top 3 players. The results and response to My FM have been very encouraging. As per an ACNielsen survey conducted in August-September 2007, My FM was the top rated radio station in Jaipur, the fastest growing radio station in Ahmedabad, and the most upmarket station in Chandigarh. Doesn’t that say it all? Our content has been well received by our listeners. The Ahmedabad results are all within two months of launch, when all these markets have the presence of other players for long.

Q. Where do you think the radio industry is headed?

Till recently, people never took radio as a medium of communication seriously. Print and electronic mediums have always dominated the scene. But the scenario is changing and people are now waking up to the importance of radio. The medium has unparalleled reach and its complete potential is still to be tapped. The radio industry is on the rise, and things are looking bright for the industry.

Q. What is the profile of your target audience?

The profile of our target audience is SEC A & B and men and women in the age group of 15-35 years.

Q. What are your expansion plans?

We are already operational in 12 cities. We have five more station launches to go that would be completed by the end of November this year. We will then try and add to our listener base, thus consolidating our presence in all our operative cities.

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