FM scenario in Sikkim: Innovation a challenge, but competition heats up

The FM radio market in Sikkim is dominated by three players – Radio Misty, Nine FM and Red FM. The functioning of FM radio in the hilly state presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. exchange4media finds out more from Radio Misty’s Nishant Mittal and Nine FM’s Bobby Gupta.

e4m by Robin Thomas
Published: Feb 25, 2010 7:34 AM  | 4 min read
FM scenario in Sikkim: Innovation a challenge, but competition heats up

After Kolhapur, exchange4media shifts focus to the FM scenario in Sikkim, one of the least populated states in India. The FM radio market in the hilly state is dominated by three players – Radio Misty, Nine FM and Red FM – mostly confined to Gangtok in Sikkim and Siliguri in West Bengal.

Nine FM claims to be the state’s first private FM station. Radio Misty, on the other hand, claims to be the first and only 24x7 FM station of Sikkim. Red FM is currently on air only in Siliguri.

Nine FM targets listeners largely in the 18-35 age group and claims to see the 35-45 age group as the secondary group. Radio Misty targets listeners of age groups, from 10 years to 80 years. In terms of music, Nine FM plays Hindi, Nepali and international songs and its RJs speak in both Nepali and English languages. Radio Misty’s RJs speak in Nepali, English and Hindi and the station airs songs in Nepali, English, Hindi and other local languages.

Apart from local brands, national advertisers from the FMCG, lifestyle and telecom sectors are also active advertisers on radio.

Marketing initiatives

Nine FM has an annual calendar of programming and marketing initiatives which are derived from and are synchronised with the local festivals, cultural events, sport events and other important days of the year. For instance, Nine FM had organised ‘The Tibet Festival’ in Gangtok in November 2009 to coincide with 50 years of Tibetan people's life in exile and to express their gratitude to the state government and the people of Sikkim. Nine FM also works closely with the state's governmental and non-governmental organisations to create messages and activities for welfare of the people.

Nishant Mittal, CEO, Radio Misty, informed exchange4media, “We have undertaken a 360 marketing campaign with local touch and flavor, with the creative also based on local touch. This has given us added advantage over other stations. As our motto says: ‘Local station, local people, local voice, local choice’, we keep the focus on local talent and music.” spoke to Nishant Mittal, Chief Executive officer, Radio Misty and Bobby Gupta, CEO Nine FM to find out more about the FM scenario in Sikkim market.

The market

Mittal noted, “Sikkim is a very good market and we have positioned ourselves as the first and only 24x7 FM station of Sikkim. We air 24 hours in Sikkim. Radio Misty’s frequency is 94.3 FM in Siliguri. We changed the frequency to 94.3 FM from 95 FM, which has benefited us. Other stations have the problem of the Siliguri frequency colliding with Sikkim, but in our case, we changed the frequency and we are the only station heard all over Sikkim without any problem.”

Bobby Gupta, CEO, Nine FM, elaborated, “Sikkim is easily one of the most radio-friendly markets in the country, and the reason for that is the people here – their love for music, their modern values and lifestyles, their friendly nature. All these have made FM radio an instant hit here. Since Nine FM is the state's first private radio station, it can take the credit for creating a market for the medium here. In the bargain, it has got the first mover advantage.”

He further said, “Our marketing initiatives have worked well for us, since they are all based on an extensive qualitative and quantitative research exercise that IMRB did for us. By the time we launched, we had complete understanding of the music preferences of the people, their attitudes, their aspirations, their values, their media habits, etc. So, we created a product – IDs, programming, promotions, presenters, talk – that was totally relevant locally. Of course, we invested substantial amounts on advertising and BTL activities to make people aware of the Nine FM brand and its values and to encourage ‘trial listening’.”

The challenges

Gupta pointed out, “The biggest challenge for us is to remain creative and fresh in our programming and promotions. Or else people will begin to lose interest. We never forget that we operate in the age of iPods and the Internet. We need to go beyond music to have listeners tuned in to our station. That means our RJs have to become and remain stars – they are a big reason for people to tune in. So, we ensure that they perform their best every minute, every hour that they are on air.”

The road ahead

According to Mittal of Radio Misty, “There is no scope for more stations left in this market. We think we have the added advantage of changed frequency and 24 hours live. We have positioned ourselves as a station with local touch station and we are clear market leaders in terms of listeners and revenue.”

Gupta too added, “We do not see the need for any more stations in the state, but at the end of the day, we want to retain our number one position in the market.”

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