| 25 Feb 2024
Big FM vice president programming Manav Dhanda - We will not force fit a celebrity into the mould of an RJ

Manav Dhanda, vice president - programming for Big 92.7 FM, has been in media for over ten years.

At Miditech, he piloted shows like 'Fame Gurukul' and 'Deal Ya No Deal', and at Radio Mirchi, was instrumental in the station's rapid advancement as programming head. As a freelancer, Manav has also directed serials such as 'Thodi Si Bewafaii' after assisting well renowned television directors, and working as a freelance writer. A theatre enthusiast, he has been involved in theatre in Delhi as an actor and a stage director.

In conversation with's Aaishwari Chouhan, Dhanda talks about different initiatives undertaken by Big FM and plans for the months ahead.


Every radio station appears to have hopped on to the adult contemporary music genre, which was supposed to be Big FM's USP earlier. What is BIG doing to make itself distinct from the others?

We went with that positioning and targeted that age group when we started, because at that point f time, every radio station was targeting youth in the age group of 12-19 or say 12-28 years. Since we wanted to be number one, we had to appeal to a larger segment of listeners. Keeping that in mind, we went on to target the larger base from the age group 12-34 years and thus, programmed our station that way. But considering the fact that the biggest base of our population is youth right now, that too forms a critical aspect of our target audience and great attention is paid to this segment.

Talking about the USP of Big, that's adult contemporary music genre; we are still sticking to that and it is working very well for us.

How has getting in celebrity RJs worked towards adding to the aspirational value of the station?

It has of course added on to the image-building process for Big FM. One, because people recognise the celebrities and hence, turn on the radio to listen to them. For example, Raju Shrivastav is a phenomenon on TV and is well known and people tune into the radio station to hear him and consume him through a different medium. I am not just talking about Big; I am talking about the general radio category. And two, it adds to the aspirational value, which the category lacked. I know it's an altogether different ball game to rope in actors and comedians who have always performed in front of a camera or live audience to make it big on radio, but it has worked for us. Of course there are certain challenges in the training, but as long as they are willing to learn and adapt, it becomes easier.

Do celebrities per se make good RJs?

It will not be fair to say that all celebs make good jocks, but yes, there are a few who are personally very interested, have the capability and are ready to get trained and groomed for the same. They have to be keen on radio, have faith in the medium and give it their best shot.

Which other celebrities apart from the ones already with Big FM are you planning to rope in?

We have Raju Shrivastav and he has received a great response from the audience. We also have Mandira Bedi doing cricket-entertainment, given the cricket season. Regarding new voices, we are still exploring a few options, but we will definitely not forcefit a celebrity. If there is a need and someone fits the bill, then we will have some pleasant surprises for our listeners.

How successful has the Raju Srivastav experiment been?

It's been really good with Raju Shrivastav. Even the listeners have tuned in to listen to him and have appreciated our efforts for the same. Actually, Raju was already liked by the audience largely and hence, with the news of him appearing on radio; even those who never listened to radio were pulled towards this medium. Earlier, it didn't bother people whether it was a Big FM or any other station that provided them with Raju; but over a period of time, they have become our loyal listeners.

Is Big FM planning any modifications, innovations, additions for the Raju Shrivastav show?

Currently, Raju appears every Monday morning on the breakfast show with Archana Jani and Vrajesh Hirjee and snippets of his jokes appear across day parts. Now we are planning an evening slot with Raju for the Delhi Station as the requirement has indicated. We are confident that the people of Delhi will receive our programming offering as well as the Mumbai audience has.

Big FM is also venturing into the mobile and net space through Big Digital. Are you tailoring your programming to suit different platforms across which content will be played out?

Well, Big FM is completely different from Big Digital. I don't think it is required to tailor our programming with Big Digital entering the scene. Listenership is rising now like never before and because a larger base of youth, the FM on mobile listenership is increasing big time too. At least for the next five to six years; the listenership will be on a rise and here, I am not dealing with car listenership. Car listenership will increase but at a steadier pace. Presently, a lot of listenership is happening on the mobile phones, which is on a very steep rise. And our RJs interact with the listeners online by replying to their mails. So in that way, Big FM is involving itself with Big Digital now.

Many of your star RJs have been picked from rival stations..

You are talking about Mumbai, right? Well, yes, we picked the talent from the market in Mumbai. But this is just the scenario in Mumbai.

Elsewhere, it's not the same. In fact, we have picked up fresh people from across the country and trained them at MICA in Ahmedabad for over four months …and this is talent that has been spread across our stations in India.

How much has listenership grown by in markets where you set up stations last year?

We haven't made an overall growth chart since it's just too early for it. Currently, we just have the figures from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and hence, I don't think it would be appropriate to discuss figures at this point of time.

How has Big tweaked programming to suit small towns it has launched in?

Well, we haven't really tweaked our programming but made sure that it is locally designed for each station that we have launched in. We don't follow the format of one nationalized template. Hence, all our shows are locally designed and formatted to suit the town/city and it all develops from the local preferences and the local tastes. To sum it up, we haven't changed or tweaked, but just designed accordingly.

How has the 100 chartbuster formula worked out for Delhi?

Extremely well! Within just three months of launch, we have fared excellently in the RAM ratings.

Are you planning to bring the chartbuster formula to other cities as well?

The Chartbuster format was a requirement specific to the city of Delhi. If a similar requirement arises elsewhere, we will introduce it in that city, however not otherwise.

Right now the format is working excellently for Delhi…

It's getting more and more difficult to listen to differentiated content across radio stations? How is Big trying to stay unique?

I disagree with that. Today, if you listen to radio stations closely, each of them is clearly differentiated from the other. Each of them know what they want and have differentiated and distinct content.

Big FM was to introduce four new properties by the end of this year. Have they all launched?

The four properties began with humor with Raju Shrivastav on BIG 92.7 FM. Then was the Sabse BIG Diwali offering – where listeners got to win BIG this Diwali. Coming up shortly is Chipak ke Jeetho – an endurance test and the New Year will usher in Ek Saal Free Maal.

Do you agree that RJs should be regulated for what they speak on air?

Of course they should be. In fact at Big FM, all the RJs sign a code of conduct before going on air. Radio, being a live medium, it is important to ensure sentiments are kept in mind and the RJs stick to a code of conduct. Of course, RJs need to be allowed creative freedom when hosting their shows which is most certainly ensured.

The RJs represent the station to a wide audience and hence, they should be careful about their words, remarks and opinions on air.