RadioandMusic
| 16 Aug 2018
Ashit Kukian: ''The full potential of radio is yet to be explored''

Ashit Kukian, COO & president Radio City 91.1 FM, is one media professional who understands the roots of the radio business and its dynamics. He firmly defines the goals of the organization and believes in doing integrations that are listener friendly, along with creating innovative solutions for clients. Being associated with the station for over seven long years, Kukian clearly mirrors out the strategy and vision of the station - in a conversation with Radioandmusic.com’s Poonam Ahuja.

Kukian, came on-board as special 'Guest Editor' at Radioandmusic.com's (RnM) office and contributed to the fifth anniversary celebrations.

Excerpts:

How long have you been in the industry?

I will be completing seven exciting years in November. I started with Radio City as vice-president and head of corporate sales in 2005. In 2006, I was both EVP and national head handling both corporate and retail. In 2008, I was heading the newly launched activation wing and became the president and head of revenues and sales in the year that followed. In 2010 I was promoted to the role of chief operating officer managing the entire revenue function along with marketing. This has been the journey so far.

How has Radio City been as an organization to work with?

In today’s media industry seven years with a company and still no signs of fatigue itself reflects on the amazing culture of the organization. This is one thing we at Radio City take pride in; the attrition figures over the years in the media industry, particularly in radio, have shown a different trend. Radio becomes the natural hub for talent sourcing for TV companies mainly due to the similar nature of selling advertising spots, which makes it easy for people to graduate from radio to TV. Despite all this, our attrition is the lowest in the industry. We are amongst the ‘Top 25 Best Companies to Work for' according to ‘Great Places to Work Institute's survey’, and this clearly comes from the organizational culture.

As an organization, Radio City is amazing. I joined the radio industry in 2005, when the second phase was just on, so there has been a lot of learning that has come my way both from the industry perspective and as an individual. My growth as a professional has been parallel to the industry’s growth, so the going has been good so far.

Give us an overview on the industry currently.

While each of us is trying to evangelize the medium, there certainly is room for improvement. Specifically on issues facing the industry needs more collaboration. Each of us is so engrossed in our issues in managing our companies that some larger regulatory issues are still not addressed to. Association of Radio Operators (AROI) started with all the leading players and there is active involvement but I think it needs a lot more coordination and efforts from the industry players.

What are your expectations with the arrival of Phase III?

As and when it happens it will be the best thing for the industry. I cannot comment much because there is enough that is spoken about Phase III. We are waiting for it. We are excited about it and will certainly look for further consolidation of leadership in Phase III.

When do you think it will happen?

From what I have learnt if all goes well, in the first quarter of the coming year we should witness Phase III. We have waited for the last three and half years for this and so we hope there would be no further delay.

According to you what are the challenges that the industry is facing today?

There are broadly two set of markets. The larger radio markets viz., Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad & Pune believe in the efficacy of the medium and therefore all radio stations, muster the threshold business. It is the smaller markets that are a challenge. It is in these markets that Radio is under utilized.

Any plans of Radio City expanding its reach?

We strive for this every single day. In the last phase we had invested in all those markets which made advertising sense to the clients. Our strategy in the next phase will basically take off from there. The reach will definitely be based on how the third phase will come out and it will primarily be the markets where we see there is a potential for advertising.

A snag that is still haunting the radio broadcasters is ‘Innovation’. Comment.

One of the reasons why we think Radio City is doing better than other players is that we have been successful in creating innovative solutions for our clients. Also, we have created properties which have really done well not only for the brand (Radio City) but also for the advertisers associated with the brand.

One of our marquee properties, 'Radio City Super Singer' quest for singing talent through the medium of radio, culminated recently. This is something that we have been doing since the last four years. This year we took the property on grander scale across all our markets and had on board national advertisers like a TVS Motors and Johnson & Johnson to a Bharathi Cements on a regional perspective. We have received a lot of advertiser feedback appreciation for this activity and so both form a marketing as well as revenue perspective it has worked wonderfully well for us.

Another criticism that the industry faces is that radio at present has not been explored to its potential.

I agree, I totally agree with you. Fortunately at Radio City, I would say that we had similar challenge three years back. But today I think we have addressed some of our challenges in terms of quantum and what works for the advertisers. Having said that today I think we are doing what works best not just for us but also for the clients and that’s a win-win situation.

Of course, there are more things that the industry can do and we are leading the path by doing a lot of innovations at our end.

How do you maintain the balance between programming and advertising?

I would want to answer this question a little differently. When we do advertising integration, we only do those integrations that we believe are of listener interest. You will never see Radio City doing anything which is just for the sake of money. So there is a balance, and I think in today’s age it’s important to know that consumers who are listeners don’t mind information which if of value to him/her even if it is advertisement.

So for example, if there is a health clinic which talks about reducing weight and even if it is paid communication I think it is content which is relevant to the audience.

How important are radio jockeys (RJs) for stations?

RJs are extremely important to us; we always believe that a good RJ, reflecting the right brand personality, has a great deal of role to play. If an RJ connects with listeners we will provide him with all the support to continue building up on the relationship.

How is Radio City performing across networks?

We have done well across networks as per Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) and IRS and in our operating markets we are the second largest player in reach.

Does Radio City see competition; if yes then what does it do to stay at par with them?

Anybody who is vying for the same listenership or same advertising space is a competition and I don’t think one can be arrogant enough to say that we don’t have any competition around. I think we create benchmark for competition in most cases and in few cases we do our learning from competition.

And with the festive season coming in any plans of ad hike?

We have already taken the rate hike in the beginning of the year and I don’t think that’s where we would want to differentiate.

The moment you believe that you are delivering far more than what you did last month and a quarter before, will be reason for rate hike. The point I am making here is, not necessarily for the festive season but for the deliverables that the station is giving, validates a rate hike and this is something which I have always been saying. And we believe that when we are delivering what the advertisers are willing to pay for, we will take that rate hike.

Where do you see the future of Radio City five years down the line?

I think we will be a far better established network, very clearly looking at offering 360-degree solutions to our clients in the future and will continue to establish a direct connect with our listeners.