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Rana Barua

Business Head | 11 May 2011

We know that radio is more of a habit medium, and unlike television, it is about at least three to four weeks of radio that shows some kind of numbers that need to be reported. So, our belief was that radio should be reported more on a monthly basis and not on a weekly basis, because that tends to give wrong information to clients or players or media people. We personally feel that the RAM reporting should be on a monthly and not on a weekly basis.

Rana Barua, Business Head, 93.5 Red FM Network, is an innovative professional with nearly 18 years of progressive management experience in Media and Advertising Communication across diverse categories, with demonstrated initiative, creativity and success.

He has worked for 13 years in advertising with some agencies such as Ogilvy, JWT, McCann, Rediffusion Y&R and Bates, and partnered with both large and small Indian/ global clients, winning over their respect for being not a linear thinker, but always someone who would create and think ideas/ solutions across varied media. Barua had worked in planning, understood media (all forms), ran and mastered new business, initiated some amazing creative solutions and also created a lot of integrated communication.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shubhangi Mehta, Barua speaks at length about Red FM’s journey, regional radio, radio audience measurement and more…

Q. What were some of the highlights of the last year for Red FM?

I think some key highlights for us have been the consolidation of the group. We integrated our brand in 2010 in the other markets into brand Red. We have a more integrated way of working, a more centralised approach now. So, one of the big achievements is that we have managed to share the knowledge from the big markets with the emerging markets. The second big achievement has been in the creative brand integration part, we are very strongly involved in the brand initiatives for clients. Apart from regular advertising, we have created a robust creative team that specifically works for clients and for their brands. The third would be, somewhere down the line we brought in some kind of method to the madness. We internally adopted a very strong background research approach.

We follow a brand track philosophy where we track brands on a quarterly basis. This has also given us a lot of insights and inputs in the emerging markets. Now, we not only track markets where RAM exists, but we also have an internal benchmark, where we know our TA better. What changes need to be done? What marketing inputs are needed? What deviations need to be made as per marketing requirements?

In terms of numbers, we have had a fabulous year. We were very strong in the South, we are the largest network, and now we are working more seriously on our network strength capitalisation over the next 12 months. We still have the fundamental challenges that we face, but we are working on overcoming the hurdles.

Q. What are your thoughts on regional radio stations?

Regional radio stations are the way to go. If you are in a particular market where there is predominantly another language being used, you have to be in the language of that particular state or city. There are influences of Hindi in certain markets, but in places like Gujarat, Pune or any part of South or East India, there is a very strong influence of the local market or the local language, along with a little mix of Hindi. In order to be a very strong local player in such markets, you have to be relevant by adopting the regional language.

Q. What is your overall view on the radio industry?

There is too much of information floating around. I think one of the calls that we have taken this year is – and we will be strongly advocating it at the India Radio Forum – that we are on a very strong wicket as an industry and that it is poised for growth. Yes, there are a lot of issues and we are aware of them. I think if we stay focused and do a reality check, we can overcome a lot of challenges that we as an industry face. There is a lot of opportunity, we are awaiting Phase III, we are awaiting resolution of the music policy and broadcast of news and sports, we are awaiting networking and multiple licenses as a philosophy. The growth will happen if these things are taken care of.

Q. Any major practices in the radio industry that the players really should adopt?

One of the key suggestions that one has always optioned is the reporting of research. This was supposed to be more of a monthly reporting of radio audience measurement, which we were aware of. We know that radio is more of a habit medium, and unlike television, it is about at least three to four weeks of radio that shows some kind of numbers that need to be reported. So, our belief was that radio should be reported more on a monthly basis and not on a weekly basis, because that tends to give wrong information to clients or players or media people.

We personally feel that the RAM reporting should be on a monthly and not on a weekly basis. Somewhere down the line the dialogue is still open, we have not come to a conclusion yet. RAM is also getting into 7-9 markets apart from where it already exists. We feel that instead of once in a year, it should be at least twice in a year in order to create a benchmark, especially when a few of these markets are the potential markets where the growth is going to be higher. If not, we will still see the anomaly between RAM data and IRS data.

Q. Who is your target audience and what is your USP compared to the competition?

The great thing about Red is that it probably is the only brand that clearly has a brand identity or a brand personality. If you look at any other brand, there are differentiations that they would highlight. We are the only one that is ABC 12-34 brand, it’s always been that and the station has an identity for expression, which is ‘Bajaate Raho’, it has never deviated from that. It is a more youthful kind of space. Our music format is the same everywhere, which is contemporary hit radio (CHR). We are much more dynamic and innovative in our ideas and in programming than any other player.

Q. How do your foresee the radio industry five years from now?

It’s a Utopian world. There are a lot of ‘dos’ that need to happen for the industry to grow. We are all talking about international growth, international revenue figures. We are 4 per cent of the advertising pie as of now. The question is whether we have the potential to go up to 8-10 per cent in India. Yes, we do, since India is such a large country, and with Phase III around the corner, the opportunities are enormous, but there are those few fundamental issues which include the extension of licensing or music royalty, and the entire networking that comes into play, etc. which are going to impact radio’s growth. If these hurdles are overcome, then the next five years will see a huge boom.

Q. Which are the strongest markets for your radio channel?

We are very strong in Chennai and Mumbai, very competitive in Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. We don’t always measure it with the overall share that people keep referring to. Instead, we look at the reach. Therefore, the more you grow, the better it is for the entire category growing at a much higher pace. So for us or radio per se, the key markets would be the metros and the 7-8 emerging markets; like a lot of cities in the South, Hyderabad, Indore, Bhopal, Pune, Ahmedabad, and so on. I think each and every city is going to add to the overall numbers.

Q. What are your targets for 2011?

We have pretty strong and steep, yet achievable targets for the year ahead. We plan to be really strong in the events and activations part; we are taking it step by step. We do not wish to burn our fingers by involving ourselves in 10 different things at the same time. With integration and network coming together, I think the important part to see would be getting innovative solutions and ideas for clients through on ground activation.

Q. Who are your creative and media agencies?

Our creative agency is Ogilvy& Mather. We do not have a media agency.

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