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Madhukar Pandey

Founder | 21 Aug 2012

Statistically speaking, we have noticed a continuous drop in FM radio listenership numbers and significant growth in Internet usage at the same time. This clearly indicates that people are spending more time on the Internet and hence, quitting traditional radio sets. Increased usage of music sites also told us that audience are not tired of music, but just spending more time on the Internet.

Madhukar Pandey, Founder, Radio Whiskey, has over 14 years of experience in media across organisations like MetLife, HDFC SL, ICICI Prudential, NIIT, CMC, Informatics, etc. Prior to Radio Whiskey, Pandey had a stint with Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd as AVP and Business Head.

In an interaction with exchange4media’s Saloni Surti, Pandey speaks about what motivated him to start India’s first mainstream Internet radio, the challenges faced, audience response and the road ahead...

Q. Online radio being a relatively new concept, what motivated you to start Radio Whiskey?

That (new concept) exactly was the motivation – bringing something new, unseen and unheard to India. We certainly aren’t the pioneers of web radio concept, it has been there in the West, but we surely take pride in being the first mainstream exclusive Internet radio in India. The motivation was to be the first one in this challenging and attractive space. Another key motivation was to be able to cater to the youth, who are predominant users of Internet in India.

Statistically speaking, we have noticed continuous drop in FM radio listenership numbers and significant growth in Internet usage at the same time. This clearly indicates that people are spending more time on the Internet and hence, quitting traditional radio sets. Increased usage of music sites also told us that audience are not tired of music, but just spending more time on the Internet. We thought of joining these three concepts together and giving them a convenient radio experience while they are on the Internet.

Q. What are the major challenges you faced in establishing Radio Whiskey?

The challenges were many. To start with, almost no one knew about the concept of Internet radio. It took us quite some time in making people believe that such a thing is possible and viable. Next, almost no one in India had the desired full technical expertise on setting up the infra and servers for us. After trying a lot, we decided to invest in our own people to research and then set this up for ourselves. Today, almost all our set-up is programmed and managed by our own people. Another challenge was not getting enough bandwidth and reliable servers in India. We resolved this by placing our servers in the US. The next challenge we faced was the music positioning. We asked ourselves why would people come to the Internet to listen to us? We got many answers and drastically reduced commercial breaks and RJ talks, which today are key deterrents for FM stations.

But something inside us still told us that unless we have something unique which is not available anywhere else, gluing audience would remain a challenge. We then coined a music policy of taking a completely different route. We dropped Bollywood music and decided to play only fresh, unheard and exclusive music sourced from independent artists from across the world. Next set of challenge included finding such great talents with song quality good enough to pass our jury test. We were initially forced to reject several artists and songs as we didn’t want to sound like a mediocre station. We want to be a class apart and a one-stop destination for music lovers, and we’re willing to cross all limits to be that. Today, Radio Whiskey has artists on board from across India, Pakistan, Dubai, the UK and the US. As of now, several artists are queued with requests for promoting their music on our station. In fact, one of our artists on board has received an offer from a Bollywood movie. We are glad to have become such a credible platform in such a short span of time.

Q. What has been the response to the concept of online radio? Have your expectations been met?

The response has been very encouraging. The hits on the site are more than what we had estimated. While we assumed our initial markets would be non-metros, we are surprisingly getting very high responses from Metro cities. We have also received a lot of encouragement from the music industry and fraternity. We have been approached by filmmakers to be their online radio partner. We are already signing deals for being the online radio partner for upcoming albums of several artists. Many renowned bands want to get their music on air with us. We are also amazed at the kind of very senior profiles from across the radio industry pouring in our mailboxes for getting associated with us in suitable capacities. Put together, this is overwhelming. But more than anything else, this tells us that everyone recognises the potential of Internet radio platform. This gives us further confidence in the concept.

Q. Radio Whiskey being only a few months old, what are the marketing initiatives you plan to take to create buzz? Please share your marketing mix.

Radio Whiskey went on air with test signals and beta site just about 20 days back. We are planning a lot of buzz around the concept to create awareness and make people sample us. Thankfully, our returning audience statistics are very high. This tells us that if you tune in to Radio Whiskey once, you like the music and become a loyal audience soon. Hence, our only motive currently is to make more and more people sample us. We are currently in the process of rolling out a detailed marketing action in cinemas, print and outdoors. Our tie-ups for a lot of events would also help us in directly accessing people on ground. Further, we are in talks with a couple of TV channels for strategic partnerships with them. We also expect our movie partnerships to give us some great impetus.

Q. Are you looking at digital marketing? Any innovations undertaken or in the pipeline?

We have already been actively promoting ourselves via our Facebook and Twitter platforms. Going forward, we intend to intensify the impact by digital mailers. However, digitally we are currently focusing more on developing apps that can give our listeners easy access to our transmission. We are developing apps for Blackberry, iPhone, Android, etc.

Q. Please elaborate on your content and programming plans.

Our programming is focused on the single line vision of ‘Unheard, exclusive and fresh music from across the world, with minimum breaks’. We are currently in the process of signing more talents from across the world and give our listeners a truly global music listening experience. Going forward, we intend to have show based programming. But we are committed to limit our RJ talks to not more than 30 seconds per 10 minutes. We also intend to bring interesting content based on audience preferences, like movie reviews and interviews.

Q. What are the five elements that make an FM station a hit amongst its listeners?

1. Give them more music, less noise. Reduce your ad breaks, RJ talks and unwanted integrations.

2. Do not underestimate your audience. A lot of FM channels today undermine their audience by believing that they would like whatever goes on air. Focus on your listeners. Make your strategies by being on ground and not in board rooms.

3. Decide who you want to be. And then stick to it. Do not confuse your audience by changing your positioning every quarter.

4. Be relevant and local. Talk what’s relevant.

5. Pioneer something new. Give listeners something fresh and unheard.

Q. What are your plans/ strategies for the next year?

On the technical front, we are empowering our listeners by publishing ‘Now, Next, Later’ playlist tabs on our site. We are also all set to promote our artists on our new site that is releasing next fortnight. We plan to hold concerts in key cities with our artists. We shall bring new and interesting shows. We also intend to become content provider by the end of next year. Frankly, we want to be the No. 1 destination for all Internet users.

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