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Sandeep Sud

VP & Cluster Head | 16 Jul 2008

Today, it is not possible for a radio station to survive if it is producing niche content. We did start it in Bangalore, but it did not work. Within six months of operations, we migrated to ‘only Kannada’ format. Everybody followed us after that. In Chennai, from the very beginning the brand positioning of Mirchi has been as a complete Tamil channel and that has worked wonders for us.

Sandeep Sud walked into the Radio Mirchi office on September 18, 2002 with the aspiration of becoming a radio jockey. Today, after almost a six-year stint, he is the VP and Cluster Head - Tamil Nadu of ENIL, overseeing operations in Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai.

An engineer from the Manipal Institute of Technology, Sud began his career with GE Lighting and then Elf Lubricants. Best described by his colleagues as a true blue Mirchi Man, in ENIL Sud has straddled various assignments, beginning with Retail Sales Head in Chennai to Sales Head, Bangalore to Head of 360 Degree, South. From there he was in Mumbai, heading the 360 Degree business in the West before returning to his hometown Chennai, where he had started the Mirchi journey.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Esha Madhavan, Sud shares his life as a Mirchi Man and the FM station’s progress in a competitive market like Tamil Nadu.

Q. How has the journey as a Mirchi Man been so far?

I was a sales guy with a creative bent of mind, and that didn’t work with selling lubricants, so when I heard a radio station was opening up in Chennai, I packed my bags and left Trichy for good. Well, nobody recognised my RJ-ing skills, but I did make it through to sales, and it has been a roller-coaster ride since then. In Mirchi, the responsibilities apart, it is a very young, fun and hands-on kind of a culture here.

Q. How would you define Radio Mirchi Chennai's brand positioning?

The individuality of the jock, and the unique treatment of any day-to-day happening in a common man’s life to a movie release, everything is handled in a unique, customised fashion. Brand Radio Mirchi is not built on impulse. It is validated by a lot of research, and the learning from the international radio market is tailor-made and made relevant to the Indian market. I can claim to say that a lot of the new entrants have followed the Mirchi style of functioning, in terms of format and content. The brand positioning of Mirchi as a complete Tamil channel has worked wonders for us. There were radio channels that tried the mix of Tamil and English/Hindi format in Chennai, but having failed they have all come back to the complete Tamil mix.

Q. With the radio space getting cluttered, is niche radio a possibility in India right now?

Today, it is not possible for a radio station to survive if it is producing niche content. We did start it in Bangalore, but it did not work. Within six months of operations, we migrated to ‘only Kannada’ format. Everybody followed us after that. In Chennai, from the very beginning the brand positioning of Mirchi has been as a complete Tamil channel and that has worked wonders for us.

Music is the common denominator. For Mirchi, the humour quotient, that is, quality humour, can never be done away with. FM radio is all about topicality, how local your radio can be. Mirchi is for the majority. It is about more music and less talk. We are in the business of contemporary superhit music. So, no part of the masses can be ignored. Bringing the least common denominator with the most common denominator is the biggest challenge for us, and at the same time maintaining the brand loyalty. However, I am sure in the long run, the genres are going to be created in a more mature radio market. And if at all there is any need for niche radio in the Indian scenario, that time will tell.

Q. How would you describe the listeners in Chennai?

Chennai listeners are very discerning. The Tamil music industry has never run dry and has been always filled with talented people. So, you have quality and progressive listeners and hence, the challenge lies in maintaining a constant appeal.

Q. How competitive is the Tamil radio market?

Complete polarisation is happening here. The two extremes are Mirchi and Suryan. A large number is shifting towards Mirchi, while some are like the cat on the roof, with a bit of alignment to both the sides.

Q. What are the promotional activities that form part of Radio Mirchi's marketing strategies?

Mirchi Activation takes care of radio property, which oversees both on air and off air activities. Clients are understanding the medium far better now. Hoardings being banned in Chennai is a small process by default by which radio has benefited. Hoardings being topical, we are definitely being able to capitalise on that. We sell ideas along with the air time. We customise the medium and provide complete creative business solutions to our clients. Radio Mirchi has core competence of its own in the form of 360 Degrees.

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