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Nishant Mittal

CEO | 08 Jun 2010

The radio industry as a whole is going through a very bad phase due to music royalties, high infrastructure costs and licensing fees. There has been a long standing demand from the industry to sort out all these issues. We hope some positive changes will take shape this year. There are several issues that have hampered the radio industry’s progress in the country. Once these issues are sorted, we are planning for expansion. We will look forward to have more stations in West Bengal and the North East.

At the young age of 25 years, Nishant Mittal, Chief Executive Officer, Radio Misty, has earned laurels for his outstanding performance in the field of radio. He is now heading the media division of PCM Group of Industries and is probably the youngest radio CEO in the country.

An alumnus of Manchester Business School, Mittal is heading Radio Misty’s operations in Siliguri and Sikkim. With BBC and Radio Netherlands worldwide as partners, Radio Misty is known for its innovative shows and ground activities. The Fm station has become a household name in North Bengal and Sikkim.

Now, under Mittal’s leadership, PCM Group, the promoters of Radio Misty, are exploring new avenues in electronic and print media.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Robin Thomas, Mittal speaks at length about Radio Misty’s journey so far, the programming strategy, and future plans.

Q. How was the year 2009 for Radio Misty? What would you say were the key achievements?

Radio Misty had a wonderful 2009. We started with our Gangtok (Sikkim) station in 2009, the only 24x7 FM station in Sikkim. Radio Misty’s frequency is 94.3 FM in Siliguri. We changed the frequency to 94.3 FM from 95 FM in Sikkim. Other stations have the problem of the Siliguri frequency colliding with Sikkim, but in our case, we changed the frequency and we are the only station heard all over Sikkim without any problem. Revenue was also good in 2009 with several national advertisers coming on board, while small advertisers, too, were very supportive. The Radio Misty activation team undertook many ground events, which yielded great response from listeners.

Q. What are your growth targets for 2010?

We look forward to a great 2010. We have started with a big bang. There will be many more activities in regards to programming, ground activation and revenue. As we have two stations in Siliguri and Gangtok and we are the only 24x7 live stations in this region. This gives us an edge over other stations and we are the clear market leaders in this region.

Q. What is the kind of response that you have received from both listeners and advertisers for Radio Misty stations in Siliguri and Gangtok?

We have got tremendous response from listeners. Our motto is ‘Local people-local voice-local station-local choice’. We always design our shows as per listeners’ choice and suggestions. Interaction with listeners is always there. Besides this, we receive about 5,000 letters per month. We have the largest advertising pie in this region. We have about 80 per cent of the local and national advertisers on board and this is a very big thing. Advertisers are getting very good response from our stations and they always chose us for their campaigns. We promote local talent, local music, and mostly address local issues. Our first hoardings showed toy trains, which emitted musical notes rather than the usual smoke and tea gardens where the workers plucked music notes from the tea bushes. Right from the start, our station has been positioned to cater to the masses.

Q. How would you describe these two markets for radio (Siliguri and Gangtok) as compared to the metros?

Siliguri and Gangtok are very good markets. All major FMCG, lifestyle and telecom companies are present in this region. The spending capacity of the people in this region is also high. In metro cities, channel zapping in very high, so advertisers don’t get full benefit of their products. On the other hand, listeners are very loyal to radio in this market. According to a survey by a prominent vernacular daily, Radio Misty has an 82 per cent share of the total listenership.

Q. Radio Misty airs programming in four languages - Bengali, Hindi, Nepali and English. Doesn’t it fragment your listeners? How do you engage your listeners?

Radio Misty is a station for ages ranging from 10 years to 80 years. We play songs in these four languages because this is a radio station for all. People in this region are well versed in all the four languages and this gives listeners a variety of programmes. This unique blend of programming has made us the clear market leader in this region. The blend of music is a result of in-depth research and listeners’ suggestions. Multi station networks can never compete with local stations because local stations provide a local touch to their listeners.

Q. When does Radio Misty plan to break even?

The radio industry as a whole is going through a very bad phase due to music royalties, high infrastructure costs and licensing fees. There has been a long standing demand from the industry to sort out all these issues. We hope some positive changes will take shape this year.

Q. What are the kinds of brands or advertisers with Radio Misty? What is the percentage share between retail and national advertisers on Radio Misty?

Radio Misty has been able to create its brand image due to its innovative programming. We have both national and local advertisers on air, and product range comprising telecom, lifestyle and FMCG products. We have been a launch pad for major telecom companies for whom we provided whole solutions. Fifty-five per cent of our advertisers are local, while 45 per cent are national advertisers.

Q. What is your view on digital media? Do you see it as a threat to the growth or the future of radio industry in India?

Digital medium may be the fastest in terms of revenues, but in terms of penetration, radio is much ahead than any other medium. Most parts of India are still plagued by acute power shortage, some areas don’t even have electricity. However, despite these shortages, the radio reaches these parts of the country. I do not see the digital medium as a competition to FM radio in the near future.

Q. How has Radio Misty used digital media like the Internet and mobile to reach out to listeners? Does the use of such media help reach out to new listeners and attract them to radio?

Radio Misty has not yet used this medium. Yes, Internet and mobile help reach a new listener base, but this may create a niche market. However, these mediums are now in the early starting phase, so as time passes, we will be able to see the actual situation.

Q. What kind of response has Radio Misty been receiving to its website? Are the audience same as the listeners on radio? What are some of the features on your website and how does it help Radio Misty?

We are getting wonderful response to our website as well. Our website, www.radiomisty.co.in, gives a full view of the happenings on the radio station, along with profiles of the radio jockeys and other members. Apart from this, people can see all details about our ground activities. People can send in their suggestions and feedback. As I had mentioned earlier, we receive nearly 5,000 letters per month and selected letters are displayed on our website. Our website receives about three lakh hits per month. We receive suggestions from people who are from the region, but have settled around the world as well.

Q. What are your Phase III plans? Will Radio Misty participate in the FM Phase III bidding? What are your expansion plans?

There are several issues that have hampered the radio industry’s progress in the country. Once these issues are sorted, we are planning for expansion. We will look forward to have more stations in West Bengal and the North East.

Q. Where do you see the Indian radio industry a few years from now?

Today, radio is the fastest growing medium in the country. The radio industry has been struggling a lot on different issues. We expect the core issues like music royalties to be solved in the coming years. We are seeking an extension of the licence period from the current 10 years to 15 years, opening of multiple frequencies and allowing airing of news and current affairs on FM radio, hike in FDI level from the current 20 per cent, tax holiday for radio stations too. If these issues are sorted out, I see a very vibrant future for the radio industry in India, which has won the hearts of millions.

Q. Who are your creative and media agencies?

We are the station for local people, so we have all our creative made in local flavour. This has done wonders for us. DPPL is our creative agency, while our public relations is handled by Samband PR.

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