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Radio One: In the business of bringing Bollywood up close in Bangalore

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Radio One: In the business of bringing Bollywood up close in Bangalore

Radio One 94.3 FM, the only music station in Bangalore to play Bollywood music, has turned four and has chalked out some aggressive plans to surge ahead. The FM station has been busy celebrating its fourth anniversary both on air and off air.

Trailblazer in Bangalore
Talking about the station’s run, Shyju Varkey, National Marketing Head, Radio One, remarked, “I think 94.3 Radio One’s been a trailblazer on the Bangalore FM radio firmament. From being the first station to start playing Kannada music and dethroning a monopolistic No. 1 within a mere six weeks of our launch, to watching every other station play Kannada while we went to be the sole Bollywood station. We’ve serviced a staggering 183 clients in the past six months, giving them cutting edge on-air as well as on-ground ideas, and I’m glad to say we touched our highest ever revenues of Rs 75 lakh in the month of October due to Diwali. We are Bangalore’s favourite radio station today, not because of the music or any particular content aspect, but because of the original attitude we have towards the Bollywood space, which has got engrained in peoples’ hearts and minds.”

“We have created memorable on-ground music experiences like ‘Desi Grooves’. We’ve brought together over 15,000 car poolers to help alleviate the traffic situation in Bangalore. We’ve made on-air characters like Ghanta, Charles and Ulfat Sultan household names. We’ve been able to retain the entire core team of the station, people who love to work for the spirit that Radio One stands for,” Varkey continued.

Bollywood blast
The success of Radio One can be gauged from the fact that the market for Bollywood in Bangalore is today around 14 per cent, and Radio One is the only player in it. Varkey said, “The whole story about Radio One in Bangalore is, indeed, one of success. It’s not any one thing that’s resulted in it, but a combination of everything that we’ve put together and cultivated assiduously over the past four years. Take for instance, ‘Desi Grooves’ – not a single premium night club wanted to host a Bollywood night because they thought it was infra dig. Today, we have almost all of them chasing us to host it at their premises, and it has actually gone on to win the award for the best radio show in India at the International Radio Festival that took place at Zurich in August this year.”

Car pooling
This apart, the FM station has also led other initiatives, including ‘Let’s Pool In’ to promote car pooling, for which the station joined hands with Commute Easy as well as the Bangalore Traffic Police. They claim to have had over 10,000 registrations in just six months after launch. Today, over 10 large IT companies have dedicated microsites on Commute Easy, which their employees use for car pooling. As Varkey informed that the icing on the cake was when they got a request from the Traffic Department in Kolkata to work out a similar plan for them.

“We’ll be replicating this in a few weeks from now. Besides, we celebrated Diwali with three large properties of the Brigade Group this year. The Radio One team went there as part of a solution we were providing to the client. We actually re-branded our station to Fastrack 94.3 as part of another sensational client solution coup. Even from a cost structure point of view, even at a revenue of Rs 60 lakh average a month, we can break even because we have never over-staffed, never overspent – something that other stations have never been able to control,” Varkey noted.

Star characters
Meanwhile, the station has also created humourous characters that have become part of the radio lexicon in Bangalore. As Varkey informed, “We have little kids coming over to the station talking in Urdu a la Prof Ulfat Sultan, and listeners refusing to leave our reception area until they get to meet Chamarajpet Charles.”

The station is placed differently vis-a-vis other players in the market. As Varkey pointed out, “We’re singularly differentiated in that there is no other Bollywood player in the Bangalore market. To that extent, we don’t really benchmark ourselves against the competition. However, we’ve never ever ruled out a scenario where one or maybe even a couple of stations revert to playing Bollywood. It will be interesting to see if 2-3 stations can grow the total Hindi market of 14 per cent or will have to share the listeners. Just like we knocked open the door for Kannada music and the rest followed suit, there’s every chance that we’ll have at least one station playing Bollywood. The challenge for them will be to hold on to their listener base as Kannada has huge numbers and to work out revenues to break even, given the reduced listener numbers. Things can so easily go wrong in their shift, since the total audience numbers in Hindi is quite small as compared to Kannada.”

Growth plans
Moving ahead, the station will continue to raise the bar of their product – whether by ensuring to play more songs than any other station or taking the stance of not repeating songs endlessly, thus offering the listener more choice. Varkey said, “On the business front, we would like to extract more value from the Bangalore market as even though our volume secondages are high, we need to be able to increase rates just like competition already has. We would like to grow beyond the Rs 60 lakh monthly average to at least Rs 80 lakh a month from April 2011. I can assure, however, that there will be a few awesome surprises for the listener as well as for our clients.”


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