| 21 Jun 2024
Harrish M Bhatia: You don't READ Radio, you LISTEN to it!

Looking at the Radio industry from a leader's perspective, Harrish M Bhatia, CEO of 94.3 MY FM, speaks of the problems of the industry, offers advice to the AROI, and lashes out at the fact that a Readership survey is gauging a medium that is listened to, and not read  And more. In conversation with Pavan R Chawla, Director Content & CSO -- Indiantelevision Group, and Editor –

As far as your Media career is concerned, you initially were a print professional who moved to Radio. Please trace your career graph. What achievements are you particularly happy about?

I started my career in Radio with 94.3 MY FM – part of the Dainik Bhaskar Group -- as Business Head in 2007. In less than two years since then, thanks to my efficient team, MY FM has been through 17 spectacularly successful launches. And we achieved an operational break-even in just three years.

My association with the Dainik Bhaskar Group did not begin with MY FM; I was a part of the group since the time of Divya Bhaskar's launch in Gujarat in 2003, and have also strengthened Dainik Bhaskar in Rajasthan.

Prior to joining the Dainik Bhaskar Group, I was with LG Electronics in India as the National Product Head. I have also worked with high-end brands like Onida and Aristocrat Luggage.

I credit myself with three major achievements: the turnaround of LG products by launching the door cooling refrigerators in India, launching Divya Bhaskar in Gujarat in 2003, and making 94.3 MY FM a profitable organization.

Since the beginning of my communion with MY FM, the brand has been bestowed with several awards like the Best Station Launch at IRF 2008, Brand Leadership Award at the World Brand Congress twice in a row for 2009 and 2010 and the extremely prestigious NAB International Broadcasting Award 2010, a first of its kind in the Indian Radio Industry. My extremely talented and reliable team has also enabled my felicitation at the Radio Person of the Year Award by Global Youth Marketing Forum in 2009. I'm also delighted to inform you of another achievement -- the award for CEO with HR Orientation, which I received on 11th December 2010  These awards have not only given us recognition, they have also inspired us to do even better.

Your network is not present in the six metros. Why did your promoters take the considered decision to remain out of the major metros. Do you think it was a good decision, considering more than 50% of the total revenues for Radio come from the six metros?

When the Bhaskar Group decided to venture into Radio, all the other players present in the industry were following a normal trail starting from the Metros to Tier I to Tier II to Tier III cities – the Top down Approach. We intentionally decided to follow the opposite, the Bottom-Up  Approach. Hence, 94.3 MY FM was launched in the Tier II cities of India, owing to the strong connect that the Bhaskar Group already shared with the people of these cities. After a successful and encouraging journey so far, we are all set to foray into the metros and to mark our presence strongly in the same manner as that in the new metros of rising India 

As a Radio Network leader, what are the biggest challenges faced by the Radio industry?

Let me list them out for you:

1.The most important is the Royalty Issue, till the time it is completely solved, it is quite difficult for the radio industry to grow efficiently.

2.The absence of an acceptable radio measurement tool.

3.Phase 3 announcement is still awaited, restricting the growth and expansion of the industry as a whole is another key challenge that the industry needs to overcome.

4.Content restriction is a big restraint for the industry as still we are not allowed to provide any kind of news content.
5.Some media planners and agencies still buy Radio based on the size rather than strength of the network.

6.The cost of the infrastructure of Prasar Bharti is quite high.

The challenges faced by the radio industry in the cities and towns other than the six metros are more or less the same as above  To overcome these, industry as a whole needs to work in tandem.

Where do you see the share of Radio in the overall advertising pie, from today to the end of Phase III to the end of Phase IV that you and the industry would definitely be hoping for?

Radio as a medium in India is still sprouting; even so, I believe it is likely to grow at a minimum of 15-20% per annum in the forthcoming 3 to 5 years, owning to the government policies and Phase 3 roll-out, which I am sure will help radio reach newer heights.

Radio has become a nucleus for all communication related to each and every aspect of the society and audiences. The radio industry is poised to have a massive and gargantuan reach, and I see it growing at a much higher pace in the near future. Very soon you will see big brands breaking campaigns which are only Radio-specific. There is a huge potential for the share of radio in the Indian pie to grow significantly so that it comes closer to the global average of 8 to 9% of media spends.

What suggestions can you give AROI so that the growth you say can happen, is actually achieved?

I think the need is to get more aggressive in resolving the issues of the industry. My suggestions are:

1.AROI  should work towards a common currency for the measurement of Radio.

2.It can organize educational seminars to get the non-conventional clients on Board.

3.Also, it can appoint an Ombudsman / Independent agency who can carry out researches on different Radio campaigns   and their impact, which can then be presented to the non- conventional clients to bring them on board.

4.It should push the Government for Phase 3 roll-out and resolve the music royalty issue completely as soon as possible.

How long will Radio and Music continue to be at war?

Till we do not see a resolution of the music royalty issue, radio and music will remain at status quo in India. There needs to be a win-win situation for both in order to overcome this situation. I would also like to add here, that the radio industry is actually responsible for spreading and popularizing music all across, and hence plays a vital role in the growth of the music industry. Thus, instead of the royalty, they should partner with us and let both the industries grow mutually.

How has My FM fared on the IRS 2010 Q3 findings, compared to the previous quarter, and on a year to date basis?

To be very honest, we are surprised how some of the radio players are even using  IRS  The IRS is the Indian Readership Survey and not the Indian Listenership Survey. Radio is a medium which can be heard, not read. So why a Readership Survey? I would also like to ask my counterparts: do they listen to, or read radio? I would also like to know who has given the rights to IRS for doing this survey? Have they discussed this with the AROI? Readership cannot assess Listenership,  so unless and until the IRS becomes the ILS, Indian Listenership Survey, We should not use it as a pedestal to judge Radio. This is what I feel but there are certain agencies/ clients, who adhere to the IRS sometimes, as it suits their convenience  

What are your main objections to IRS?


1.The IRS fails to give a precise picture of Radio listenership data in a particular city. The IRS aims at random survey done from house to house and captures the comments of housewives and other adults in the house. Such a way, one would never be able to incorporate the feedback of those who are not present at home during most of the day. With the telecom revolution, there has been a significant increase in the number of on-the-move radio listeners who tune in to radio on their mobile handsets. How are they covering this?

2.The IRS has inaccurately reported an apparent decline or stagnancy in radio listenership. I ask you: Can you conceivably think of an industry which is in its nascent stage and has just gained momentum after the Phase 2 roll-out in last 3 to 4 years, which would start stagnating or probably reaching the maturity stage of its PLC, as portrayed by the IRS? To the best of my knowledge, this is impossible, and on these grounds, I really cannot believe in the reliability of IRS Radio Data.

3.The data used by the IRS for analysis is incredibly stale; it is usually delayed up to a period of 5 to 6 months. This makes it rather difficult to judge an immensely dynamic medium like the radio.
4.Just to quote an example, a sample size of 9 per month decides the fate of radio as a whole in a market like Raipur! I would like to ask my associate planners and clients, is it justified to assess a channel like radio on the basis of such diminutive data?

5.Lastly, unlike print wherein IRS relies on the use of masthead, its radio research relies only on an interviewer reading out the name of the station. In this construct, older players have a distinctive edge over others. This acts as a significant barrier for new entrants to the industry.

I really wonder whether the media planners and buyers are even aware of these facts! The day IRS would address these issues and would be termed as the Indian Listenership Survey, we would start using it 

You aren't in the RAM markets, and you don't use IRS. Most networks use either or both, along with marketing buzz activities – more of the latter if the data doesn't show them in a strong light. What do you use?

We owe our precise research to a very responsible and plausible research agency called Ormax Media, which serves clients like IPL and a lot of TV channels including Times Now, Sony, ZEE Cinema, Zoom etcetera.

MY FM is highly visible and aggressive when it comes to marketing initiatives across all our markets. At the beginning of every year, we prepare a calendar of activities which we follow throughout. On the local level, we do a lot of activities like Ashiayana, Corporate Cricket, College Jock 943, Paison Ki Baarish etcetera.

To be concluded next week, when Harrish M Bhatia speaks more specifically about MY FM – its plans, the kind of advertising it gets and targets, key sales  and content initiatives, and more.