FM scenario in Kolhapur: Small town charm served with big ambitions

Kolhapur in Maharashtra may have only two FM stations – Tomato FM and Radio Mirchi – however, the music royalties issue is just as much a challenge here as in any metro. exchange4media takes an indepth look at how FM players are tapping the small town market and the roadblocks that they face.

e4m by Robin Thomas
Updated: Feb 19, 2010 7:41 AM
FM scenario in Kolhapur: Small town charm served with big ambitions

Kolhapur, an upcoming town in the south-west Maharashtra, which is rapidly developing into an industry hub, has only two FM stations – Tomato FM and Radio Mirchi. However, the music royalties issue is just as much a challenge here as in any metro, which industry players say, is bleeding the industry, especially those FM stations, which do not have large networks.

Mirchi offerings

Radio Mirchi, for instance, which caters to the 15-35 SEC AB target group, has been reaching out to the people of Kolhapur through various on-air and on-ground events. These activities include associating with international film festivals, and partnering with one of the biggest football tournaments in the town, thus reaching out to its listeners through various touch points.

While the radio jockeys speak in Marathi, Mirchi plays music in both Marathi and Hindi. The station claims to be providing ‘variety’ to its listeners with a wide range of music, depending on the mood of its listeners. For example, the day begins with Marathi devotional songs from 6-7 am, followed by fast-paced cotemporary hit music. During afternoons, the FM station plays more melodious, softer tracks, while from 9 pm to 12 midnight, it’s the popular show ‘Purani Jeans’.

Tomato’s ‘Baburao’
Pudhari Publication’s radio division Tomato FM has a property called ‘Baburao’, which is said to be quite popular in this market. Tomato FM, which caters to a TG of SEC AB in the 25-45 age group, maintains contact with its listeners via a lot of OB (outside broadcasting) activities. Like Radio Mirchi, Tomato FM, too, plays a mix of Marathi and Hindi songs from all eras, while its RJs speak in Marathi.

Some of the advertisers that have come on board include Idea, Airtel, BSNL, Colors, Zee, HUL, LG Electronics, UB Group. Virgin Mobiles, and Tata Indicom, besides quite a few real estate clients.

exchange4media spoke to both Radio Mirchi and Tomato FM to find out more about their programming and marketing initiatives for the Kolhapur market, their concerns and the advertiser response.

What they say
Sushant Nayar, Station Director - Kolhapur, Radio Mirchi, said, “Kolhapur is a very important market for us, whether it is to cater to local retail advertisers or corporate advertisers from the bigger cities, who want to reach out to the local population here. We are very pleased about the fact that we are the preferred choice of advertisers here.”

Radhieka Kale, Corporate Ad Manager, Tomato FM, noted, “Kolhapur has shown tremendous growth economically in the last decade, wherein brands started taking Kolhapur as a market seriously. Mercedes to Nikes, football to tennis – everything started pouring in as the market spends increased. Similarly, the lifestyle changes demanded upbeat music, which the traditional channels could not match up, thus entered the CHR format of Tomato FM, which was accepted with open arms.”

What differentiates them
“Since we are a big network, we are able to offer listeners in Kolhapur content that a local channel cannot provide. For example, being present in Mumbai helps us get a lot of Bollywood based content, interviews with stars, musicians, opportunity for listeners to meet and greet these stars, etc. – something which a local radio station finds extremely challenging to offer. This differentiates us from the competition,” mainained Nayar.

Advertiser & listener response
Nayar added, “While the advertising response has been good in this city, too, we believe that there is a need for more market development for radio. We want more and more advertisers to realise the cost effectiveness of this medium vis-à-vis other local mediums, and thus park a higher percentage of their advertising monies on radio. We have achieved fair amount of success in this and would continue to partner with and educate our clients.”

Kale pointed out, “Private FM is gaining a constant market share due to cost effectiveness and ATL plus BTL modulation, therefore, advertisers are increasingly opting for FM stations. This apart, experimentation can be done in the field, so a good response is captured and the listeners can also get more information and gratification for free. So, this medium is also preferred.”

Small town concerns
Nayar of Radio Mirchi highlighted, “The biggest challenge that any non-metro, smaller city radio station faces is actually the same – music royalty. At the current royalty rates (which do not distinguish between a city like Mumbai or Kolhapur), every radio station in a city like Kohlapur will be unviable. This eventually impacts the listener, because loss making radio stations find it difficult then to invest in resources, which can continuously improve the listener experience. This problem is even worse for stations that are not part of a larger network.”

The road ahead
“We believe this industry can grow only if we offer more to the advertiser, which in turn is possible only when more people consume the medium. While FM radio has high level of penetration, it can be even better if we can offer more variety in content. For example, a radio station playing only retro music or a radio station playing Marathi music throughout the day, would add incremental listeners. However, this is possible only if the number of frequencies in a city like Kohlapur are increased, but more importantly, if the current players are allowed to have multiple frequencies. Only when a station has multiple frequencies will it be able to sustain offering a niche product or content,” explained Nayar.

He further said, “A single station offering this might not be able to generate enough returns, since it would not be catering to the biggest base of listeners. With multiple frequencies in a city, cost synergies would allow this model to work for a station, which has mass content as well as niche content on two different frequencies.”

On the other hand, Kale of Tomato FM, said, “There is no need for more stations, as both the FM stations cover up the market listenership and advertising revenue pie in the Kolhapur market.”

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