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Radio Interviews

Neerja Dhillon

Station Director Mumbai | 03 Jul 2009

FM radio has become more interactive now. Earlier, there were a lot of recorded programmes with a certain concepts like the ‘Cibaca Geetmala’… However, now radio has become more of a companion, and with the launch of mobile phones with FM feature, people are beginning to use it as a personal medium. Radio has become a platform for listeners to become involved through increased interactivity; today programming is all about capturing the city vibe.

Neerja Dhillon has been with Big FM since September 2006 and has made significant contributions in Brand Activation and Marketing in the Corporate Office. Prior to joining Big FM, she was handling media at Pro Cam and had also served in a marketing role at B4U. Dhillon is an MBA in Marketing from MET Institute of Management, Mumbai.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Robin Thomas, Dhillon outlines Big FM’s growth and the relevance of going local.

Q. Your stand on Big FM’s brand positioning in Mumbai since this market has no clear winner?

Within two years, in fact in the last six months, we have seen a lot of growth in the station despite the tough competition. Not only in Mumbai, but across the country, Big FM is very local in its approach – be it our positioning, which is ‘Suno Sunao, Life Banao’, or our thought, which is very relevant to that specific city. For instance, in Mumbai, where everyone has a certain routine or lifestyle that requires a mood upliftment and radio as a medium provides that mood upliftment, we have introduced fun with a twist in terms of our content and music. We have specifically mapped it according to the different time of the day when people expect a certain kind of music and entertainment.

Q. Tell us something about music placements in Big FM.

One of our shows, ‘Big Chai’ is actually called ‘Josh Mornings’ because in the morning one would want their energy levels to be high and one would want the same energy levels to come from the music. The pace at which RJ Archana Jani delivers the music and the content is absolutely upbeat. The afternoons are called ‘Time Pass Afternoons’ (with RJ Rishi), which is not only about music, because at that time of the day one wants to sit back and enjoy. One does not want to interact too much with anybody, therefore, one wants to listen to music that does not interfere too much, hence we play popular music. In the evenings – be it a housewife or student or a person returning home from work – everyone wants to unwind after a tough day at work. So, our evenings are ‘chillax’ ones with RJ Rohit. Our late night show ‘K’ has Kalindi tackling love problems, we also have romantic countdowns at that hour.

Q. How has the introduction of digital changed programming in radio over the years?

FM radio has become more interactive now. Earlier, there were a lot of recorded programmes with a certain concepts like the ‘Cibaca Geetmala’, which was really great and we have grown up with it. However, now radio has become more of a companion, and with the launch of mobile phones with FM feature, people are beginning to use it as a personal medium, especially youngsters and those who spend most of their time outside. Mobile phones have brought a personal touch to the medium as one interacts more with it, the shows are live, and we are out in the city doing regular OBs. We don’t just sit in the studios, our RJs go out every week and we are either part of some event or have our mobile vans travelling to various parts of the city and giving consumers the voice. Radio has become a platform for listeners to become involved through increased interactivity; today programming is all about capturing the city vibe. Moreover, there is even more interactivity happening today via SMSes and not just phone calls, a lot of interactions are also happening online wherein RJs are blogging. Therefore, you pretty much become part of their daily lives.

Q. One thing that India can learn from the West in terms of programming?

Radio in the US and Europe has evolved and their ability to have niche programming, having a rock station or talk radio, and the opportunity to have that kind of a station is interesting. But it took them a lot of time to get there. Even in types of audiences, the role of radio in their lives is a lot more mature than what it is in India. In fact, in India, FM is a recent phenomenon in terms of growth, however, I believe that India will reach there much sooner with the kind of pace most of the FM stations across the country are showing. Big FM launched 44 stations across the country within two years, and I don’t see this kind of pace among other FM player anywhere in the world.

Q. Has political advertising been the biggest achievement in the industry so far?

We have done campaigns for Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh and the response has been fabulous. Political parties are utilising the medium very well and the benefits of radio as a medium during elections has been seen because of the kind of audience one can get for radio. You can get a broader audience with radio. In case of other mediums, you do need a certain level of literacy and different criteria. Thus, for the government it makes more sense in terms of cost effectiveness to reach the number of people that they want to communicate with and the broader audience that can understand the medium, and use radio. I believe this is where radio really comes in as it is very local and can talk in the language of the people. It has been great because it has opened avenues and different kinds of revenue for us. So yes, political advertising has been great for us.

Q. Can radio look beyond advertising?

Today, we have big reach in terms of on-ground events, activations and I think this is pretty much the way since we have been looking at business for two years. We are looking at a lot of synergies between both the businesses and it really works well because anyone who is looking at promotion today is looking at on-ground connect as well as on-air, and we provide a complete 360, we also offer online as well as mobile services. So, through our digital business as well as FM and on-ground initiatives, we offer synergies that are really beneficial for clients.

Q. What are the trends to watch out for?

We certainly hope that news and current affairs are allowed on FM radio, it is something that we are looking forward to. Even in terms of more stations coming in Phase III of Fm expansion, we are looking at increasing our reach. From the Big FM perspective, we are looking at a lot more of radio experience, which is not just being in the studio, but being out in the city. That is the trend that we had initiated two years ago and have grown with each passing month, we have just increased that base. We have very interesting formats coming up, for instance, we go into malls and public places and we go live rather than just send links. This helps us in getting the city vibes. We are looking at using our mobile vans much more, our mobile vans would go out daily with our OB jockeys, and that’s what we have been doing and will continue to do so. It is all about being more local.

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