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S Keerthivasan

Business Head | 05 Jul 2010

I don’t subscribe to the fact that radio has lost its gravity. All the numbers contradict that statement, and radio is today one of the few industries to project a double digit growth. However, audience engagement is critical for the health of any media house. A lot of effort goes into developing contests and promotions to keep our listeners interested and involved in the product. Innovating with our shows, creating high-engagement contests, having the best talent – all of these are initiatives to create the most competitive radio product and that is precisely where our focus lies.

As Head of this business, S Keerthivasan (popularly known as Keerthi) has been instrumental in fructifying the strategic relationship with Virgin Radio and launching the Fever 104 FM brand in the key markets of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata.

Keerthi is part of the leadership team at HT Media Ltd. It is his vision that has played a critical role in building brand Fever and giving it a distinct identity and character in a competitive environment. Keerthi oversees the entire operations of the company, and it is to his credit that the Fever 104 FM brand has been able to position itself in an enviable position in all the markets. The channel has the distinction of being the leading brand in Delhi today, and one of the top stations in all the markets that it services.

In a short span, Keerthi has evinced an extraordinarily brilliant professional graph – one of the youngest business heads in the country today, Keerthi continues to strive for perfection and excellence in all his pursuits, leading by example.

Fever 104 FM was launched in 2006 and since then it has changed the radio listening experience for listeners with a vibrant, youthful, creative and interactive programming. Fever 104 FM has many ‘firsts’ in the industry – it created ground breaking properties like ‘40 minutes Non-Stop Music’, which achieved high resonance with radio listeners.

In this interview with exchange4media’s Ashish Pratap Singh, Keerthi traces Fever FM growth, programming strategy and radio advertising.

Q. Fever 104 is a result of collaboration between two media giants, HT Media and Virgin Radio. What was the thought behind this creation?

HT Media is one of India’s largest media companies and is known for its quality and innovation. Virgin Radio, on the other hand, had a team of global radio experts with a track record of successful stations all across the globe. From a Virgin perspective, India was a very attractive and developing market. The radio industry had just had its second phase of restructuring, and it was the perfect opportunity for the HT group to expand its media offering. Hence, it was a natural progression for two giant media houses to collaborate and create the brand Fever.

Q. With Q1 FY10 drawing to a close, how has the performance been compared to Q1 FY09 in terms of revenue?

2010 is definitely looking up over the last year. However, for Fever 104 FM, even 2009 had impressive sales figures, thanks to some terrific partnership with our clients, on the back of some strong programming and marketing initiatives. Q1, this year, we are aiming to double our numbers over last year.

Q. What are the growth targets for 2010? How well is Fever on track to achieve these targets?

We are extremely positive about 2010. Fever 104 FM has revolutionised the radio market since the time we entered the scene. We have surged ahead in Delhi last year and are now No. 1 in the prime advertising audience. We have similar strategies in place for our markets as well. Over the years, clients and media partners have seen our approach, and today view our brand favourably as the right fit for their brands. We are confident that with their support and our own brand building efforts, 2010 is going to be a good year. We are constantly working on creating a better and better product, both in our marketing efforts and our programming output, and Fever 104 FM in all our cities is a highly engaging channel, and we believe the product will speak for itself.

Q. With nearly all other radio channels venturing into setting up shop in Tier II cities, Fever 104 has stuck to the four major metros? What is the reason behind it or is your channel planning to enter newer markets?

It has been Fever’s strategy right from the beginning to stick to the main metros. It was learning thanks to our partners in Virgin and also from other leading markets in the world that most of the advertising money comes from the major cities and that is the strategy that we are following. The major advertisers are sitting in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata, and we have our stations there to service their communication needs. While local advertisers do exist in the smaller cities, the costs involved make business unviable. It is sheer numbers that have been defining our strategy in this respect.

Q. Radio is a medium that has lost its gravity in recent times. What has Fever 104 done or plans to do to regain lost radio loyals?

I don’t subscribe to the fact that radio has lost its gravity. All the numbers contradict that statement, and radio is today one of the few industries to project a double digit growth. However, audience engagement is critical for the health of any media house. A lot of effort goes into developing contests and promotions to keep our listeners interested and involved in the product. Innovating with our shows, creating high-engagement contests, having the best talent – all of these are initiatives to create the most competitive radio product and that is precisely where our focus lies.

Our shows like ‘Picture Pandey’, ‘The Fever No. 1 Show’ in Delhi and ‘Burde Blast’ in Bangalore are also examples of some of the other initiatives we have taken to give our listeners a superior radio experience. During cricket season, we tied up with the IPL teams in three of our cities and created many interactive on-air and on-ground initiatives that supported the home teams and enhanced the entertainment experience of our listeners.

Our biggest initiative, however, has been staying one step ahead of the market, Fever 104 FM launched India’s first ever radio loyalty club – the Fever VIP Club. This is a mobile-based loyalty club, which offers listeners the opportunity to register as members and in innovative ways, get rewarded for listening to Fever 104 FM.

Q. What is your TG? Is it shared with digital media? Do you see digital media as a threat to the future of radio?

We do not see digital media as any threat, in fact, we embrace it as a support for our initiatives to reach out to the young and digitally empowered. The entertainment needs and expectations of our audience from both the media are different, and we believe that a synergy between the two will only help improve the effectiveness of our communication.

Q. What percentage typically is the spend on radio advertising, compared to the whole budget? For your channel, what percentage is local advertising and what percentage is national advertising?

Typically 3-4 per cent of the total advertising budget is spent on radio, and this percentage is set to grow according to all media estimates. The split is 30 per cent local and 70 per cent national across all markets.

Q. Amongst advertisers, which categories are the biggest spenders? What time of the day is the busiest for ads?

The corporate sector, which comprises FMCG, telecom, media, retail chains and BFSI, is the top spending category, while categories like education and real estate also contribute hugely in the retail sector. Inventory utilisation is maximum in the morning drive and the evening drive.

Q. A large chunk of Indian radio listeners are housewives during late morning to early evening hours. What has Fever 104 done to tap this section?

The philosophy for any day-part is the same – identify the audiences and their relationship with the medium. This defines the programming features, the contests, the music playlist, and the RJ, who will best connect with the TG.

Anuraag Pandey and Siddhu in Mumbai, DJ Paran in Delhi, Sumesh and Naveen in Bangalore and Arvind in Kolkata are our mid-morning and afternoon hosts, who are immensely popular amongst women listeners. And these are some of our strongest performing hours in each of our cities.

Q. As of now, Fever FM is at No. 6 in Mumbai (11.2 per cent) and No. 2 in Delhi (18.8 per cent). What are Fever’s plans to increase market share, especially in Mumbai?

From the day we started out, our endeavour has been to be in the top 3 of every city of operation, and the same holds true for Mumbai. We have carved a special place for ourselves in Delhi, and now we intend to do the same in Mumbai. Our approach is consistent – give the listeners the best possible radio listening experience, be it via our alliances, via the everyday station giveaways, the opportunities we create for our listeners or just the maniacal attention to every single song choice.

We ensure that we are constantly in touch with our listeners and their changing needs, and we ensure to put listener preferences at the forefront of every action.

Q. What are the various marketing campaigns that Fever undertakes? Please tell us about a few ground activities of yours? Any marketing innovations?

IPL Partnerships – Fever 104 FM is recognised as the No. 1 sports destination on radio today. For three years in a row. Fever 104 FM has been partners with the Delhi Daredevils. This year, Fever 104 FM was radio partners to Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders as well.

From a ‘Date with a Daredevil’ player to a chance to play Holi with them, Fever 104 FM promised a thrilling cricket experience and brought the champions closer to their fans. The much acclaimed ‘Junior Daredevils’ gave ardent and young cricket fans the chance to escort the Delhi Daredevil team personally to the ground, while the Fever Ticket Taxis gave listeners a chance to win free tickets to the match. ‘Daredevil with a Cause’ witnessed our champions stand for and propagate social causes – be it cleanliness, road rage, etiquette/ language.

Marketing Innovations – ‘I Play Fever’ is first ever song request module in the country that empowers listeners to play their favourite songs on Fever 104 FM all day long through their mobile phones by simply sending an SMS. Fever 104 FM decided to go beyond music and today is perhaps the only radio station that has been successful in presenting a perfect blend of music, and subsequently adding a dash of cricket for its listeners.

Q. Who are your creative and media agencies?

Lowe and Maxus have been our partners in growth for a long time.

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