People may duplicate our formats but we don’t duplicate our formats: Tarun Katial

As Big FM completes a decade, Tarun Katial, CEO, RBNL gets talking on the re-launch of the station in Delhi this Diwali with a sharper positioning in retro and need to refresh the retro space

e4m by Priyanka Mehra
Updated: Sep 21, 2016 9:12 AM
People may duplicate our formats but we don’t duplicate our formats: Tarun Katial

“We keep our edge through the local insights and one of our key advantages is a differentiated format, our approach has been to play a unique format in every city which is driven by local consumer insights. Moreover, we don’t duplicate formats, people may duplicate our formats but we don’t duplicate our formats and that is our clear attempt in every market,” shares Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL), when we quiz him on Big FM’s differentiated offering. 

“If something is working well for somebody in any market, then it is working for them, but if we are going to do the same thing, it is highly unlikely that it is going to work for us too, because the consumer is already getting what he wants to from them.  We will only be able to do marginally better than them. So, unless we have a radical idea of how we can do it differently we won’t do it,” he adds.

Katial believes that one can never create a winning product with marginal differentiation. “We are clear that we don’t want to play the marginal difference game, because as per my experience, we took leadership position only when we took the unique position in the market,” he explains.

92.7 Big FM from the RBNL stable which saw a revenue growth of 30% and EBIDTA growth 37% in FY2015-16 compared to the previous year, completes a decade of existence this week. (The station was launched on September 2006 in Delhi followed by other cities).

The operator made a marked investment in the Phase III auctions held a few months ago by increasing its coverage footprint and adding 14 new frequencies, to the earlier 45 in addition to sales tie-ups in Ahmedabad and Siliguri, taking the total number of frequencies to 61 cities in all.

Currently, Big FM gets 30-35% of its revenue out of small towns and mini metros with an aim to increase this to 45% with the launch of the proposed stations. Mini metros clearly play a pivotal role in the radio network’s growth strategy.

New additions include Pune, Nagpur, Lucknow, Patna, Varanasi and Kolhapur, among others. The overall network now covers all four ‘A+’ category towns, 7 out of 9 ‘A’ category towns and 12 out of 17 ‘B’ category towns.

Changing its format to retro has undeniably been a game changer for the radio network. The channel adopted the retro format in Delhi in 2011, later in Mumbai in 2013. This resulted in a steady leadership for three years in Mumbai with one of its flagship shows ‘Suhaana Safar’ hosted by Annu Kapoor being one of the most listened to shows.

The risk of going retro paid off giving a boost to the business and a jump in ad rates.

“In the last ten years, we have done a lot of things to make the organisation more nimble and forward looking. We have changed the game on branded content from creating content to creating insights driven content. We have used a lot of technology to upgrade our productivity both on the product side and the sales side. On the sales side, we got the new productivity tool called CRM Next, which allows us to measure client relationships, inputs etc. Even on the content, programming and research front, we are making use of the latest technology. So, we have put in a lot of technology in every part of our business,” reveals Katial on how the network has evolved in the last decade.

Speaking about the strategy for the new bouquet of channels, Katial opined that Big FM will make it a point to do only things in line with consumer expectations.

“The strength of radio is in its local understanding--local consumers and local network. There will always be shows which are high impact shows like ‘Suhaana Safar’ which will find their way in all our radio stations, but largely the formats get decided on the basis of local consumer insights and needs. We don’t want to impose a format on to a city just because it is successful in another. We believe consumers differ from each other in every city and we are not going to make that mistake,” he explains.

The station’s research investments have gone up by 2X to 3X in terms of usage of technology, manpower among other things, and it is also on the look-out for long term tech solutions for music research.

Edited Excerpts from a free-wheeling chat with Tarun Katial, CEO RBNL on the re-launch of the station in Delhi this Diwali with a sharper positioning in Retro, need to refresh the retro space and more………..

What is your plan of action to gain leadership in the Delhi Market?

We are planning a complete overhaul for our Delhi market. We have roped in a new programming head, we are going to do a whole new line of talent and curate music in a differentiated position within retro and launch it this Diwali.

We have gone through a new set of research across our Mumbai and Delhi markets to look at some finer sets of positioning within retro for music. So we are building a new need gap and re-launch our Delhi retro station basis these new insights. It will have a new line up for music and a new line up of talent.

Big FM has been topping the Mumbai market for three years, but has been the gap in the offering in Delhi?

The Delhi market is very different from the Mumbai market. The mistake we made was to use the cookie cutter approach of retro in Mumbai and Delhi is equal to each other.

Some of our research is showing that the Mumbai consumer consumes retro very differently from a Delhi consumer. A Delhi consumer is more mood and tempo-led rather than depth and understanding led. So, he is a happy consumer who wants to consume things on the fly, rather than in the depth of music, mood, research, trivia and artist. We are changing the kind of RJs, the kind of music and the kind of tempo. Our positioning is going to be very different for Delhi compared to Mumbai.

We tried to adapt too much of Mumbai to Delhi and it is not working for us. But you live to learn and learn to live.

Why haven’t you got another radio station in the same city like your competitors?

We are already at the maximum cap of 45. So when we were making the choice, we were already missing mini metros and key metros, so we had to get that footprint right. Within that available list, we didn’t have anything left. But given a choice, we would, and if there were new frequencies opening up, we would look at Mumbai and Delhi as an opportunity.

Is that a disadvantage from a sales perspective?

You can sell in two ways: one, where I’m selling for that geography locally to retail, I can get some advantage by having two radio stations. But 70-80% of our revenue is national and corporate where people are not looking at having two stations in one city, but they are looking to buy network coverage across the country. I have the largest footprint in the country and that sets me apart from others.

Retro has become a new trend and everyone is doing it, so is it time to re-invent even within the retro space?

Advertisers buy audiences and not formats. Yes, I think there is a dire need for every business to reinvent itself regularly. Our retro format worked well for us because; not only were we unique in the marketplace, but both in Delhi and Mumbai, we are on a path of re-invigorating, re-inventing or re-launching. We are currently sharpening and deepening our understanding of retro music, the meaning of lyrics, the meaning of how music gets created, creating curated playlists, and doing some very different things.

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