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Ashit Kukian

President & COO | 06 Dec 2011

FMCG and television are the two major brand categories that advertise on radio. Apart from these, telecom is a growing industry that advertises on radio. At the local level, it’s the retail sector that advertises on radio in a big way. However, the real estate sector, which has been witnessing a negative trend, has not picked up well on radio. Apart from this, a lot of brand categories have increased their spends on the medium and have opted for radio in their media plans.

Ashit Kukian’s leadership, industry insight and operational expertise have strengthened Radio City 91.1 FM’s culture of innovation and expanded the company’s operations. He leads a robust team responsible for driving revenues for the brand through traditional and non-traditional revenue streams. Kukian also manages the seamless integration of functions spanning creative sales innovations with programming.

A veteran sales specialist, Kukian’s expertise in sales spans over 20 years. With over 15 years experience in the business of media management, Kukian has had an in-depth exposure in the marketing of print and television media.

Prior to venturing into the radio industry, Kukian previously had a 13-year stint with Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd (BCCL). As part of his portfolio there, he led a significant turnaround at Zoom Television, where within a year of launch, he was instrumental in positioning the channel as a premium Hindi entertainment channel for a high-end urban audience.

During his tenure at BCCL, he was the driving force behind expanding leading brands – Femina and Filmfare, wherein he played a critical role in launching Femina Book of Travel, Book of Interiors, Book of Fashion, etc. During the course of his career, Kukian has also worked with leading brands like Laboratories Garnier Paris, Berger Paints and Johnson & Johnson.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Nair, Kukian shares his insights on the radio industry, Radio City’s culture of innovation as well as the company’s operations over the last one year.

Q. How has 2011 been so far for Radio City? What are the major programming and marketing initiatives undertaken this year?

It clearly has been a positive year for us. Coming out of recession last year, this year we are very clear on what we expect from the market. If you look at the listenership figures, it has been extremely positive across most markets. Revenue has again been very positive for us. We have brought in some aggressive marketing and programming initiatives nationally. ‘Super Singer Dhamaka’ is one such property, which got humongous response. We have also taken up CSR lead activities locally. From purely a revenue perspective, we have added percentage funds in both volume and value. While the industry is growing positively around 10-12 per cent, our revenue is almost double; these are clear statistics to support our positive growth.

Q. What are the major trends in radio advertising seen in this financial year?

I can confidently say that today radio as a medium has established itself extremely well. It is a clear choice of advertisers now for their media plans. This was not the case a few years back; earlier one had to sell the medium, but today an advertiser makes radio as an integral part of his plan to reach out to the masses. Radio has also taken a step further to provide creative solutions. This is mainly due to the fact that the industry has become more mature in the understanding of its clients and listeners. The change has been positive, wherein more advertisers are now advertising on radio as they are confident about the medium and are getting better creative solutions as well.

Q. Have you seen any major brand category entering the advertising space in radio of late?

FMCG and television are the two major brand categories that advertise on radio. Apart from these, telecom is a growing industry that advertises on radio. At the local level, it’s the retail sector that advertises on radio in a big way. However, the real estate sector, which has been witnessing a negative trend, has not picked up well on radio. Apart from this, a lot of brand categories have increased their spends on the medium and have opted for radio in their media plans.

Q. How do you think FM Phase III will help shape the various initiatives of Radio City?

We will play a strong role in the bidding in the next phase. We are very clear about our markets, like in Phrase II, when more number of markets was available, we believed we represented the cream of the market as far as the advertisers were concerned. Likewise, in Phase III the mix of markets we will bid for will be along similar lines – the strategy worked well for us then and we are confident it will work for us in this Phase as well.

Q. According to FM Phase III expansion, foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in a private FM radio broadcasting company has been increased from 20 per cent to 26 per cent. How has this helped you and are there any major plans on this front?

Honestly speaking, the increase is nominal; not much will change as far as our strategy is concerned. When compared to what it was, it is better off today, but we believe it can get better over a period of time.

Q. What the things on your wishlist for Phase III that you think are still pending?

The royalty issue is still a matter of concern. Though a decision has been taken, not much has come into effect. We also wish FDI should be a lot more than the current change, also one cannot have a single way of approaching it. The Government will have its own requirements, but with common consensus we should see a much higher increase in FDI.

Q. Do you see any potential for growth of niche radio channels in India?

Well, it all depends how it pans out. If availability of multiple frequencies happens and if the existing players in each city get more than a single frequency, it is a no-brainer that segmentation of music will happen and formats will be different. Radio players, once they reach out to their core segment with their primary frequency, can later use the available multiple frequencies to go niche. However, with the limited frequency available, we can only wait and watch if this turns into a reality.

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

It will clearly be a geographical expansion with Phase III.

Q. Planetradiocity was one the early Internet radio stations to be introduced in the country. How do you think this has helped you to take Radio City to the next level?

The very idea of getting on to the Internet was to explore every possible platform to get connected to our listeners. We keenly studied the requirements of the market and realised that the Internet gave a strong appeal to the brand more than getting business revenue. Planetradiocity is completely managed by our in-house team. Internet radio in India is still at a nascent stage and I believe the trend will catch up very soon.

Q. Who is your creative agency?

Origin Beanstalk is our creative agency.

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