| 29 Mar 2023
Local, original content ‘best’ for radio to stay relevant, says Bhutan’s private radio pioneer

MUMBAI: Kinley Wangchuk, famously known as ‘Ganchu’ in Bhutan, established the country's first-ever private radio station, Radio Valley 99.9 FM at a time when global music was not easily accessible on smartphones. Digitisation has opened the door for music today, and Ganchu believes radio now depends more on talk shows and original musical content rather than just playing music to stay relevant.

"I am quite mindful of changing time. We are living in an era where everyone can hear all kinds of songs on their phones and other digital avenues, but people equally enjoy listening to talk shows and podcasts on the radio. They might get international content on digital platforms, but radio is their only source for local and hyperlocal content that talks of their own people, issues and fun topics of day-to-day life," Ganchu told IANS, on the sideline of the Mountain Echoes 2019 interactive sessions.

"I strongly believe that, along with popular music, the best way for radio to stay relevant is to create more original and local content for the listeners. When I started Radio Valley 99.9 FM it was different. We were looking for platforms to have live music and jam sessions. Now it is the time to create original content," shared the man who also started the first live music club in Bhutan called ‘Mojo Park’.

Mountain Echoes is a festival of arts, literature, and culture that completed a decade this year, and is organised by India Bhutan Foundation and graced by The Royal patron Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.

Starting his career at a time when a government job used to be the only dream and desire for a regular Bhutanese youngster, he left his government job to follow his dream and, according to him, society failed to understand his vision initially.

"In Bhutan, ‘job' means a 9-to-5 office job. Being a creative individual, I would work till late at night and sleep in the morning. People never understood that work culture. I started growing my hair, and people looked at me as a drug addict. Again, I do not blame them because earlier only those who are into drugs, would have long hair and a certain appearance! So, you see, the struggle was not just internal and logistical, it was also emotional, in terms of getting social acceptance," added the National Media Award-winning radio host.

Emphasising the importance of struggle, he said, "When you have a dream and you struggle to execute it, you tend to become more creative, more innovative and, to an extent, practical, too, to find your way to live your dream. That is why I keep saying that the initial struggle is important for an entrepreneur to understand if the dream can be achieved in reality. A dream is just a dream without a plan."

Apart from Radio Valley and Mojo Park, Ganchu is working on two start-ups, Karmakora - a T-shirt brand, and AzhaPasa, a mobile app that aims to resolve waste management issues.

On being asked if entrepreneurship is a popular option among the Bhutanese youth nowadays, which is preferred over government jobs, he answered, "I think even the government understands the fact that entrepreneurship is a way to create opportunity for youngsters, for dreamers who have ideas that are out of the box. You see, when someone starts a business, he has to hire people. If I talk about the small businesses I have, so far I have hired around 40 people, besides the freelancers who work with us. This is the number of people who are salaried. Clearly, more business offers more opportunity."

Bhutan is among countries that are decentralising power, transforming the kingdom into a democracy.
Lastly, on being asked if the socio-political change on the country going through a transformation, reflected in his work too, Ghanchu concluded, "As a citizen, I have a dream for my country too like all of us. When it comes to expressing my opinion, at times it is in line with the decision of the government, at times it may not match up. My parameter is simple -- if any government policy that comes with a vision to achieve a larger goal for our people, even though it may not seem popular, is worth supporting rather than the one that can bring an instant change but leave no impact in the longer run.”

The festival Mountain Echoes 2019 concludes on 25 August 2019.