| 06 Jun 2023
Radio Congress 2011: Objectives, Achievements and the Way Forward

A special overview by Uday Chawla, Secretary-General, Association of Radio Operators For India (AROI)

We conceptualized Radio Congress 2011 as a continuation of our Vision 2010 event held in Nov 2009 which got together the various interest groups in Radio together to discuss the future of Private Radio in India – stakeholders -- both   Government and private -- Radio professionals, media, advertisers, studio- and infrastructure suppliers, etc.

The agenda, as articulated by AROI's elected President, Ms Anurradha Prasad, was: Showcase Radio on a much larger scale than Vision 2010 did. In the various strategic sessions with her, the idea of Lifetime Awards to Living Legends was conceptualized. A list of Living Legends was then shortlisted and approved of by  the Jury – i.e., the Governing Body of AROI.

The event was planned as a 3-dimensional Congress: four intellectual panel discussions with the best brains, an industry perspective presentation by KPMG,  an exhibition for OEMs, and an entertainment-cum-awards evening. We spoke to over 50 OEMs, the government, over 40 large advertisers, the over 25 Radio operators, etcetera.

The response, initially, was poor. The OEMs had their own sources which indicated to them that Phase 3 policy was still far away and hence their involvement would be of little commercial value to them. The advertisers were more dismissive – Radio is not top-of-mind to them. Only Vigenshwara Developers, a repeat sponsor and a major advertiser on Radio in NCR, extended support. The Government was also supportive, and BECIL continued their relationship of Principal Sponsor as per their last event.

The silver lining was that almost all sponsors of Vision 2010 event extended their support. UNICEF also continued its support; in fact, almost doubled it. The ones who had been associated earlier were more than willing to continue their partnership, having seen the delivery of promises earlier.

The only real new add-on sponsor was a last-week entry by Unisys, who approached us to cultivate a partnership between Radio and their music company. That they had two film music launches adding a lot of new glamour to the evening function was an add-on.

The sad case was the no-reply no-communication approach of Sun Group (Red FM etc) which, for some reason, refrained from any communication on public appearance of their nominee in the panel.

The response from Speakers was excellent. Mr Prabhu Chawla, Mr Madhur Bhandarkar, Ms Mrinal Pande, Mr Sam Balsara, Mr G.Krishnan, Mr Pawan Agarwal, Mr Tariq Ansari, Mr Prashant Panday, Mr Tarun Katial, Mr Sunil Dahiya, Ms Kiran Bedi, Ms Apurva Purohit,  Mr Rahul Gupta, Ms Sharmila Tagore, Ms Angela Walker, etc, all confirmed. A few could not make it due to last-minute emergencies , but overall the result was one of the best ever panel discussions on Radio in a forum in India  AROI is indeed grateful to all eminent personalities that shared their ideas and visions in the Congress. As in Vision 2010, the Congress was inaugurated with dedication to Mahatma Gandhi as Father of the Nation with his famous quote on Radio –  I see Shakti, the Power of God....

The two-stage event divided (but actually multiplied ) the Government participation  The Minister inaugurated the Awards ceremony and the Additional Secretary (with Secretary being incapacitated due to  a throat infection ) inaugurated the morning session  With a string of ministers , celebrities, actors – Om Puri, Ila Arun, Madhur Bhandarkar etc, actresses and dancers (Katrina Lopez from USA and Zangoora from Kingdom of Dreams), the evening event was houseful and spectacular  It more than made up for an almost endless five weeks of tireless effort – where every day was like a  year of work -- especially as a team had to be created alongside and trained on the job and then used; all in 40 days.

There were many objectives that remained  unfulfilled. The Government did not announce much on Phase 3 – except, mainly, that the policy is  postponed by another 3 months. Many advertisers were conspicuous by their absence. We could have done with a fuller house in the morning session, but a workday and the distance to Kingdom of Dreams from Delhi centre resulted in a shortfall of about 30% (293 against 350 expected in the morning). The evening, however,  made up (500 against expected 450).

The mainstay of Radio is Advertising. AROI has initially focused on policy. We have been able to influence Phase 3 to a large extent – some remaining issues remain and are being addressed. However, AROI now  needs to focus on Brand Radio – increase listenership, increase advertising. It needs to showcase Brand Radio to the Advertisers. The importance of the only medium that can be consumed even while being involved in work  or play or driving etcetera cannot be underestimated. The importance of the only medium which can be cut and pasted into towns and cities and regions and re-grouped into a focused advertising combination can only be considered a boon in a country that is still divided into multiple  consumer habit differentials, but with  a common underlying way of life.

AROI wishes to place on record its thanks to the various partners who made the grand event possible -- BECIL, Unisys, Kingdom of Dreams, Vigenshwara, Harris, HBE, Wheatstone, Jampro, Technomedia, Big FM, Radio Mirchi, Radio City, Radio Oye,  Radio Dhamaal,, Concourse and Wizcraft, among many others.