| 23 May 2024
"Our competition isn't with other radio stations, it's with technology" - Nisha Narayanan, COO Red FM

MUMBAI: Red FM's newest sibling made a flashy official entry in Mumbai last week with a snazzy outdoor campaign. The funkily christened Redtro aims to woo the 30 and 40 year old Mumbaikar who grew up in the 1990s and still has a yen for music of that decade.

Red FM COO Nisha Narayanan is as confident that Redtro will have the mature Mumbaikar eating out its hands in the next few months as she is about the growth of the 'retro music' space in the country.

In an interview with Suhas Thobbi, Narayanan outlined the network's plans and hopes for Redtro, Red and radio in general.


Before we talk about Redtro, how do you view the competition from elements outside the radio industry – say, the music streaming services and the growth of music consumption on digital platforms?

I have always been of the opinion that the world is going digital. It’s not a hidden fact anymore. The competition isn’t with the other radio stations, the competition is with technology. We have only achieved 30 per cent of what we can ideally achieve. As a conventional medium, radio will not disappear.  We must understand that radio is a brand, not just a medium of entertainment. None of the radio stations have restricted themselves to only radio content. We (the radio industry) should indulge in other activities – events, concerts, on-ground initiatives – to generate revenue. We are talking about 15 years of evolution of technology.

On the other hand, every new policy brings a new step towards progress. It creates change. And every new change has been encouraging on the whole for the industry.

Two existing radio stations in Mumbai revolve around the 'retro' concept. Then why create another entity in the same space?

We carried out five to six months of extensive research before we finalized on the concept for Redtro. When you say ‘retro’, people think about the 1960s and the’ 70s, you know, the Mohd Rafis and the Kishore Kumars. But, when we did digital testing, we realised there’s a huge ‘need’ gap, that ‘90s music doesn’t get the credibility it deserves. There’s a huge mass waiting to consume the ‘90s music. Earlier, the music of that era was consumed only in bits and pieces.

Who would be your target audience?

Our TG would be listeners in the age group of 30 to 40 years; the ones who have grown up with 90's music. For them, it is 'aaj ke zamane ka retro' (The retro of today). A lot of people wrongly relate retro to nostalgic essence, but that’s not how retro should be defined.

How different would the purpose of Redtro be when compared to Red FM?

Red FM is ‘Bajaate Raho’, and Redtro FM says ‘Phir Bajaao’. In both the cases, the common elements would be ‘music bajaana and issues ko bajaana’. (dealing with music and issues). The RJs’ mode of delivery would not be nostalgic in nature. They will speak about relevant content with fun and a humorous vibe to the programming. Cyrus Broacha joins us as an RJ, and with his aggressive in-your-face style of humour, we would define Redtro FM in a few months. 

‘Phir Bajaao’ and ‘Bajaate Raho’ reflect the attitude of Red FM and Redtro FM. Redtro is not a risk. With Redtro,  we will define the universe of the ‘90s. We will deliver it to the ones who agree with us that retro is still cool and it is what they have wanted for so long.

Is there a risk that the concept of Redtro FM limits your catalogue and content to a certain extent?

No. How? We would still cover everything that we do at Red FM. The four pillars of radio in India – Bollywood, local content, sports, and anything that is relevant. Content and catalogue won’t be restricted at all.

Of all the new concepts you could experiment with, why 90's retro?

We do have the option of doing the same (as our rivals) and then do it better than them, like how Red FM does. But, when we compared the different eras of music during our research, the need for the ‘90s score went through the roof as compared to the ‘70s and the ‘80s. We aren’t saying the other eras are irrelevant or lesser important, we are just focusing on the one era (‘90s) that has immense scope.  

So how does sticking to programming revolving around a particular era reflect on advertising on the station?
We are still a mass radio station. We are not saying we are niche at all. At the end of the year, every nook and corner of Mumbai needs to be familiar with Redtro. That would be the goal. There’s no fear of being niche that would drive advertisers away. Hence, launching Redtro in Mumbai made sense commercially.

Radio Nasha is another player that focuses on ‘retro’ music. And so far, it hasn’t been able to top in the cities it operates in. Any observations that you’d want to speak about?

As per measurements are considered (RAM ratings), we do not have the proactive measurements system in place. RAM is only available in three to four markets. On the other hand, it would be unfair to expect any new player to top the market so soon. The retro space is a substantial space. In all the markets, All India Radio (not included in RAM measurements) leads over other stations and the channel has been playing retro music for years. We need to start differentiating inside the retro space.  I do not want to speak about other players, but we wouldn’t be influenced by what RAM shows. Our internal measurement systems would define how we approach our plans every month. When it comes to RAM, there’s no logic to why one show goes through the roof one week, and the next week it’s nowhere to be seen. There’s a certain bias.

What is your view on the next batch of licenses under phase III?

Most of the cities included in this batch are tier 2 and tier 3. Given the current scenario, there are some issues we want to rectify with the government. Otherwise, we don’t think this would be a successful bidding. Only the top few players would benefit from it. Radio is about shaking hands and kissing babies. When it comes to existence in other markets, we also function in the markets that do not generate a lot of revenue – Siliguri, Aizawl and a few others. These regions require more robust business models and support.

What exactly are you seeking from the ministry?

That you won’t have too many bidders if you don’t look at base price issues. As an industry, we need to approach the ministry in order to ensure the smaller players participate and get through the hurdles.

Redtro has just launched, and more stations are in the pipeline for your network. How do you plan to manage the dearth of RJs and the technical talent needed to support stations in all cities?

Take them fresh. Even a decade ago, we did the same with Red FM. Identifying the talent early is vital. Fresh talents come with new ideas. They are well exposed to social media and current affairs. We will then groom them.