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Neeraj Chaturvedi

National Mktg & Promo Head | 22 Sep 2009

The future should also see opening up of more channels in Phase III. With the coming of more and more licenses, we are expecting a lot of new players to come on board. Existing players are expected to become more aggressive as they have been really burdened by the previous license fee structure and have borne the brunt for the last 2-3 years. The expected regulatory reforms that are likely to improve profitability and stimulate foreign investments should also give the industry a much needed fillip. Multiple licenses per station will also help in better utilisation of resources and better profitability. News in the coming times will be seen as stream of revenue.

Neeraj Chaturvedi took charge at Fever FM on December 1, 2006 as Station Head, Delhi. Prior to his stint with the radio industry, Chaturvedi was with the Tata Administrative Services (TAS) and deputed to Tata Tea Ltd at Dubai, UAE, as Senior Manager – Sales & Marketing for West Asia & North Africa. His decade-long marketing experience is a blend of local and global marketing, having launched products in Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Middle East, Jordan and the US, besides having worked in the Indian market.

In his current profile, Chaturvedi is responsible for the station’s overall personality, growth and development and for leading the Fever team to meet listener/ stakeholder expectations. Chaturvedi has had a passion for music ever since his student days. Prior to officially taking over as Station Head for Fever 104 FM, he used to actively take part in music.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Robin Thomas, Chaturvedi speaks at length about Fever FM’s growth in the country so far and future plans.

Q. Having been the Station Head in Delhi and Mumbai in the initial years with Fever FM, you are now National Marketing Head and Station Head, Delhi. How do you manage to handle two designations? Also, please share with us your experience in Fever FM?

Having launched the brand and the station, and worked in start-ups all my life, this just feels like home. My experience at Fever FM has been wonderful. The joy of starting a business and launching a brand and making it a successful is unparalleled. We were the last music station to launch in Delhi and we were also playing English music. The soothsayers had doomed us for failure. Within six months of launch, we were a mass premium station and the thought leaders in the industry. We started format programming, large scale promotions like ‘Fever Bolo’, mega radio client promotions like Bingo Tick Tock Boing, the biggest music show Delhi had seen, that is, the AR Rahman Show, Delhi Daredevil Deewangi (IPL), the Delhi Radio Survey – the biggest and the only radio survey till date; and finally, the ‘Fever No. 1 Show’ and ‘Khabardar’ – two shows that brought the TV format of stand-up to radio for the first time.

Q. As National Marketing Head of Fever FM, if you have to list some of the achievements till date, what would they be?

The biggest achievement will have to be that Fever FM achieved No. 1 status in Bangalore and Mumbai. Delhi has been a consistent growth story, and though we captured the No. 2 position early last year, this year, we have really managed to increase the gap between us and the rest of the market. We are almost double the nearest competitor in Delhi with the help of industry firsts such as the Delhi Radio Survey, and that is a big achievement.

Mumbai being such a difficult and competitive market was the toughest to crack, however, based on strong programming and marketing integration, we were able to break through and upstage the older players. The objective was to identify some of the local level problems and launch specific marketing initiatives to tackle them. Some of the promotions that really worked wonders for us were Fever 104 FM Digisound, Sun Mumbai Sun and large scale local alliances.

Q. Beginning 2009, Fever FM had a clear focus of becoming the No. 1 FM station in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. Today, Fever FM is in the top three. It has even become No. 1 in Mumbai and in Bangalore, but how do you plan to sustain this growth and maintain the numero uno position?

Our focus has been on evolving with the evolving consumer and giving them the best entertainment possible. We have tried at every step to set new benchmarks in entertainment for our listeners. As a brand, we know that radio only works if it is local and true to the essence of the city it is present in. For instance, in Bangalore we did a huge promotion where listeners could win gold coins on the occasion Varamahalakshmi Puja, which is a big festival for our Kannadiga listeners.

In terms of content, our listeners know that they can expect more music, more humour more entertainment and more local relevance on Fever FM, which will remain our long-term strategy.

Q. Which of these markets – Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata – according to you, is the toughest to crack (in terms of reaching the top slot). While Mumbai has become volatile where there is no clear winner, Delhi has long been dominated by Radio Mirchi, and Fever FM has only recently managed to overcome FM Gold to reach the second slot. In Bangalore, too, you are doing well. In your opinion, what should be done, or what is Fever FM doing in order to become No. 1 in all these markets?

‘Less Talk, More Music’ has been our winning proposition from day one. Being a late entrant in the industry, we recognised the fact that listeners were not getting the amount of music they liked, and that lack of choice had forced them to listen to on-air anchors droning on and on. We captured that insight and created unique on-air properties like 40 minutes ‘Non-Stop Music’, which have achieved high resonance with our listeners. Better music management, fewer ads, and contests the, scale of which have never been seen before, are some of the winning strategies that Fever FM has employed.

Q. As National Marketing Head and Station Head Delhi, what is the most challenging part of your job? And what are your priorities or growth (revenue) targets for Fever FM in 2009-10?

The most challenging part of the job is to constantly challenge ourselves. While it may sound clichéd, but we have challenged paradigms in the market and have attempted to wow our listeners beyond what they expect and can articulate. Also, keeping the rankings up week on week is a challenge in itself. We can easily fill couple of pages with just the number of activities all four stations do daily. To sustain this momentum and keep the ranks motivated is underlying challenge for us. Fever FM has come a long way and in a short span of time owing to this spirit of innovation and thought leadership. The task now is for us to consolidate and strengthen our positions in each of the cities of operation.

Q. FM stations are finding newer ways to attract its listeners through new forms of shows, change in music line-up. For instance, Fever FM, too, launched ‘Music Mohatsav’, hired new RJs, etc. What are the other initiatives undertaken by Fever FM in terms of reaching out to listeners?

Fever FM has today gained the reputation of an aggressive radio channel, which is constantly innovating and creating exciting content for its listeners. We believe in giving our listeners an engaging and entertaining ‘product’ via the choice of music, humour features interstitial and exciting promotions. Our new shows like ‘Fever No. 1 Show’ in Delhi and ‘Burde Blast’ in Bangalore are also examples of some of the other initiatives we have taken to reach out to listeners and give them a superior radio experience.

We have also created a number of humour interstitials in each of our cities, which are based on local insights – ‘Punga SSLC’ in Bangalore, ‘Babu Kebab’ in Mumbai, etc.

Q. It is believed that FM stations do not enjoy station loyalty, but music loyalty. Do you agree with that? How do you ensure that Fever FM enjoys good station loyalty as well?

I don’t think this argument holds any good, because since the music is mostly the same in all the stations, the listenership would be the same as well, which is not the case. We believe that station loyalty is created by staying in touch with your listeners, thoroughly researching the music, constantly innovating and giving great attention to every on-air detail, which ultimately provide the listener with a differentiated listening experience. Fever FM has brought about many radio innovations, resulting in unique on-air and on-ground experiences for our listeners, and the results are showing in RAM week on week.

Q. What is the state of Indian radio industry today, what are the trends to watch out for in this industry by 2010?

We are still very much a nascent industry and the scope for growth is immense. According to industry estimates, the contribution of radio to the overall AdEx is increasing at a rapid pace. The growth engine of this has been the opening up of more licenses, and the trends to watch for are new licenses, news and current affairs, and multiple licenses opening up. This will help the stations to reach out to newer audiences and allow for niche genres/ formats to be profitable and thus, enlivening the radio scene.

Q. With Phase III set to roll out soon, what are your expectations from it? Any expansion plans in mind? If yes, please elaborate on the same.

The future should also see opening up of more channels in Phase III. With the coming of more and more licenses, we are expecting a lot of new players to come on board. In addition, many more markets are opening up. The existing players, who have been waiting for something like this to happen all this while, will also expand into new markets now. Existing players are expected to show more aggression as they have been really burdened by the previous license fee structure and have borne the brunt for the last 2-3 years. The expected regulatory reforms that are likely to improve profitability and stimulate foreign investments should also give the industry a much needed fillip. Multiple licenses per station will also help in better utilisation of resources and better profitability. News in the coming times will be seen as stream of revenue. With the industry getting more mature, we should also see the emergence of robust audience measurement tools which could further catalyse growth.

As for our growth plans, at first, we want to make the existing stations profitable and then look at expanding to other stations.

Q. Who are your creative and media agencies?

Lowe is our creative agency and Maxus is our media agency.

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