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Mr. Brij Bhalla

General Manager | 26 Jul 2010

"Our target group is the malayalis and tamils from India who are settled in Dubai. They yearn for something from their homeland and thus have an instant emotional connection with our radio channel. And this is by no means a small number. There are more than one million malayalis and tamils in Dubai and nearly 2.5 million in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), making them the single largest expatriate community in this part of the world."

Mr. Brij Bhalla started his career in the tobacco industry with Phillip Morris where he worked for eleven years. He entered the media industry in 1994 and started the radio station for asian languages catering to the South Asian Diaspora. Brij was also instrumental in expanding the business into the FM Radio in 2004. As a part of Radio Asia Network, he is involved with obtaining new licenses and expanding with other languages. He was also involved with the creative side of programming and various marketing campaigns that made the channel the most popular brand in the Middle East. The channel now has the distinction of being the leading brand in UAE today.

Radio Asia Network (RAN) is the No. 1 Malayalam & Tamil content provider in the region, bringing listeners a wider variety of quality programming than ever before. With this novel two-pronged approach to radio programming- with FM and AM stations, each with its own flavor, content and audience in psychographic and geographic terms, RAN offers advertisers a connection of unmatched width and depth with substantial Malayalam & Tamil- speaking population across the Gulf region.

Our own experience mirrors that of broadcasters all over the world that radio is a powerful, focused and cost-effective medium for reaching a target market, and there is no doubt that Oxygen 102.4 FM, Radio Asia 1269 AM & Ungal Shakthi 1269 AM provide excellent opportunity for marketers to deliver their message to the largest single audiences in the region.

Q. Tell us a little bit about Oxygen Radio

We have bee in the market for 15 years. We launched the first Malayalam channel in Dubai. There are more than 1 million malayalis in Dubai and thus we saw an opportunity. We launched the channel on the AM band and it has been five years since we launched Oxygen on FM band in Malayalm and Tamil. Oxygen was rebranded as Radio Asia FM. Radio Asia Network (RAN) is the number one Malayalam and Tamil content provider in the region.

Q. With Q1 of this financial year ending, how has the performance been compared to Q1 '09 in terms or revenues?

Revenues had dropped over 2009 but 2010 is looking much better. This was primarily because of the economic slowdown that the world experienced last year. However the overall performance has improved and revenues are up 5-10 per cent over the same period last year. However, these are the summer months and they have been traditionally very slow in terms of revenue. The overall performance and revenues have shown great improvement and growths, considering budgets are cut across various categories of products. This is teamed with strong marketing campaigns and creative programming.

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

Our growth targets look optimistic for year 2010, as compared to last year. Radio advertising in this period of recession has shown considerable growth. With the growth and our constant marketing and sales efforts we will be able to achieve our targets. The growth also attributes to the Dubai Government initiatives in terms of promotions during the year.

Q. Radio is a medium that has lost its gravity in recent times. What is it that you have done or plan to do to regain lost radio loyalty?

Radio in Dubai has gained immense popularity in terms of listenership and revenues. Advertisers are also sitting up and taking radio as a serious avenue to reach their target audiences. I believe that the loyal listeners' base is only increasing and will so in future.

Q. What is your target group? Is shared with digital media? Do you see digital media as a threat to radio?

Our target group is the malayalis and tamils from India who are settled in Dubai. They yearn for something from their homeland and thus have an instant emotional connection with our radio channel. And this is by no means a small number. There are more than one million malayalis and tamils in Dubai and nearly 2.5 million in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), making them the single largest expatriate community in this part of the world.

Our target group is typically the age group of 20 to 45 years, mostly graduates and post graduates with an income category ranging from middle to the high segment. Therefore, this target group is shared with the digital and it is gaining popularity, but radio's positioning is different.

Q. In Middle East, what percentage is typically spent on radio advertizing from a company's budget?

The advertising budget spent on radio is typically 5-10 per cent of the total advertising budget. The split in our business is 60 per cent direct and 40 per cent from advertising agencies. This continues to grow year on year.

Q. What are the various marketing campaigns that your company undertakes? Could you name a few marketing innovations that you might have done for your clients?

Our marketing campaigns are based with our events calendar. We have two major campaigns i.e Onam & Eid during the year. We are also engaged in as a radio partner with AMMA - 'Asian Malayalam Music Awards', which is a yearly event. We also do an Onam Event, which is with United Malayali Organization.

Q. How is the Indian audience different from the Middle East audience in terms of target audience, advertisers, marketing campaigns, etc?

The Audience in the Middle East (Asian expats) are very attached to radio because we deliver news, cover local events in India and this gives a nostalgic feel. Some of our programmes are also tailor-made (India specific) which we run on a daily basis.

Q. Who are your competitors and how do you differentiate from them?

We have two competitors. Our programming is based on infotainment. We give a lot of emphasis to news, science, legal matters, sports and medical programmes. This is applicable for our AM Station. Our FM station targets mainly the population of age group 25 plus. Our music policy is also based on that so it's a mixed bag of music and information.

Mr Brij Bhalla can be contacted through email- brij@radiasia.ae

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