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PB Ramaswamy

Cluster Director | 02 Sep 2008

When there are too many players in the market, consolidation is bound to happen in order to sustain. The same was true for the not so long ago airlines boom in our country. You can expect consolidation in the Chennai FM market, too, and that will happen very soon.

PB Ramaswamy began his career with M&N Publications and subsequently handled sales at Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd. He had also been Regional Head with Saregama and Primesite.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Esha Madhavan, Ramaswamy speaks about the FM radio scene in Chennai and also shared his views on radio being gradually woven into media plans in the Southern metro.

Q. What do you think about the growth of FM radio in Chennai?

When we talk of radio’s growth, we have to consider two aspects – one is the growth from the listenership point of view, and the other is from revenue point of view. As far as listenership is considered, Chennai is the fastest growing market among the metros. Today in Chennai, radio penetration has reached a level of 75 per cent and growing. From the advertisers’ side, the way the clients were looking at radio last year, compared to how they are using the medium, this has completely changed. Last year, we had to go to clients and educate them as to what radio is all about. This year, we just have to say how my radio station will deliver for their particular product. Advertisers have already tasted success of their radio campaigns and are slowly increasing their spends on radio.

Q. How far have you been able to tap the retail market in Chennai?

For any radio channel in Chennai today, retail is about 40 per cent, while corporate is about 60 per cent. The success of a radio channel depends on how many retail ads a station has. Chennai being a highly retail oriented market, we are expecting the retail file to grow. The first thing is we still have space. The way the corporates have starting using radio, the retailers have started catching up with that. We are looking at a scenario where it is 70-30, wherein retail goes to a level of 70 per cent.

Q. What position, according to you, radio holds in the media plan of any brand campaign?

The scenario is like this – if a client has Rs 100 saved for his campaign, he will put Rs 50 on TVC, Rs 30 on print, Rs 10 on some other media and the rest on radio. This is the story for quite a few clients, mostly retailers. The radio money adds on to the campaign at the last minute. But whether it gets added on in the last minute or is part of the campaign from the very beginning, what matters is that it still is part of the campaign. The seriousness of treating radio as part of the media plan is definitely lesser compared to others.

Q. Is it because radio here is not proving to be that cost effective for retailers?

Radio is the most cost effective medium for retailers. TV channels are getting desperate in such a scenario and that is because there is so much competition in that segment. On attaining such a desperation level, they have started cutting cost because they need to free their inventory. But what they fail to realise is that once you decrease your rate, then in the future even when one is in a more comfortable position, one will not be able to increase the rate again. The way radio listenership is catching up and the price that we are offering is less than TV. It is still a cheaper option offering a high frequency for retail.

Q. Has radio been able to capitalise on the limited options for outdoor campaigns in Chennai?

Most of the retailers have been spending good money on outdoors in Chennai. Radio has been able to cash in from the ‘no hoarding’ situation, especially during this Aadi season. I have taken away a very quantifiable amount of money from the retailers for Aadi. One reason being that they have nowhere else to put the money saved from outdoors. But will that money continue to keep coming in is the question of the hour. Because outdoor is a visual medium, so unless and until radio is able to offer some innovative alternatives close to that, it will take a little time. However, in the next three months, I can see most of the retailers’ money coming into radio. Currently, it is getting dispersed to a couple of more mediums, but it will come back.

Q. What is Big FM Chennai’s USP?

Our biggest USP is having continuous outdoor broadcasting to the extent that everyday at least one show is conducted outdoors. We have separate OB jocks for that as well.

Q. How would you define Chennai’s listeners?

Chennai is the most mature market as far as listeners are concerned. People here are very music loving and cannot be taken for a ride. Having one’s own music strategy or programme content without having felt the pulse of the city just doesn’t work here. We go the extent that every week we send about 30 songs for hook testing (first two lines of a song to our research agency) to judge the awareness for a particular song and only those songs with the highest awareness percentages are played by us.

Q. What is the ideal radio programme format according to you?

I wouldn’t comment on this as somebody from Big FM, but personally I can say that it has been hardly 1-2 years since the radio boom has happened. It is too early for any format other than music to work. Newer concepts can be worked at in the future, but not now.

Q. What is the possibility of consolidation among Chennai FM players?

When there are too many players in the market, consolidation is bound to happen in order to sustain. The same was true for the not so long ago airlines boom in our country. You can expect consolidation in the Chennai FM market, too, and that will happen very soon.

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