| 24 Jul 2024
Radio Misty CEO Nishant Mittal - We dare to experiment with our content and music

Radio Misty has been one of the few radio stations that has managed to traverse the less trodden regions in the country's North-East. With stations in West Bengal's Siliguri and Sikkim capital Gangtok, the station caters to listeners in neighboring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh as well 

Radio Misty's CEO Nishant Mittal in conversation with Harpreet Khokhar of, outlines his plans for the station for the months ahead.


How has the journey been so far?

The journey has been very good. We have seen our share of ups and downs. When we started, private FM stations were practically unknown in this area. It was a big risk that we undertook. While we were learning the workings of the market, the market was also getting to know the new medium 

Why has the station undertaken major revamp of both stations a year after launch?

We undertake revamps every three-four months because we want to give something new to our listeners. We want to bring in the element of change frequently and not make our programming monotonous and stereotyped. We want to give refreshed programming to our listeners so that they do not lose interest and are glued to the station 

You have undertaken a lot of on-ground activities. Tell us about it.

Radio is a very new medium of entertainment in this region. Hence it becomes imperative to undertake such activities to establish ourselves. Such promotions are basically  done for brand recall  We undertake several ground activities where we go live from the venue. It gives the listeners an  insight into the workings of the radio station and RJs. These activities help in listeners' involvement and also help us get feedback. It is a symbiotic relationship where we know what the listeners want and they also feel connected.

Do these tie-ups help in revenue generation? How much investment has gone into it?

These activities are not undertaken for immediate results but are an investment for the future. We have to spread awareness about this medium today so that we attract potential advertisers and multiply our listener base. Also, when the brands associate with us, they can customize their ground activities according to their need. It helps them to reach out to their target audience and helps us to penetrate into the market. We have invested around Rs two to 2.5 million for both the stations within a period of two months for such promotional activities. We have an in-house team which looks after these promotions. We also hire event management companies sometimes.

Who is your target audience? Is it changing over time?

We do not define our target audience. We do not want to restrict ourself to a small particular segment. From a ten year old to an 80 year old, we consider every age group as our target audience and air programmes targeting them. This region has a mix of culture. Because of the geographical proximity to Nepal and Bangladesh we have a large listener base there as well. We play our content in four different languages including Hindi, English, Bengali and even Nepali. We have a lot of requests pouring in from these regions as well.

People in this region listen to a lot of Hip Hop and other western music as well. In Gangtok, we play 30 per cent English music whereas in Siliguri, it is 10 per cent.

Who are your main competitors? How do you differentiate yourself from the rest of the stations that operate in the region?

In Siliguri, the major players include Red FM, Big FM and Radio High apart from us. In Gangtok, apart from us there is Nine FM and soon Red FM will be launched. We stand out since we haven't categorised our listeners into a particular segment. We target the masses. Our station is for everyone. We also play music in four different languages which no other station does. We cater to the different markets of Nepal and Bangladesh as well. While other radio stations stick to the basic formats, we dare to experiment with our content and music.

What are the problems that you face as an operater in small cities?

The major issue that crops up is the lack of awareness about radio as a medium of entertainment. Radio is synonomous only with All India Radio. Private FM, RJs and other such technical jargons are difficult and new for the people to understand. Hence we also face difficulty in recruiting manpower.

Revenue is another issue. Traditionally, it was local newspapers and local television channels that were the main vehicles of advertisements. Investing in a radio channel was new to them. We had to teach them about the advantages of radio as the cheapest mode of advertising. Even for national advertisers, we have to educate them about the region and town first. Also, national players who want to advertise in this region only look at Kolkata as the potential market. Advertising in north east is restricted to only Guwahati. Siliguri does not even figure in the game. We have to highlight the importance of the market and benefits of advertising in radio stations. Being a  small operator in this area is a big task.

Do you face difficulty in scouting for talent in the region?

Initially, we did face some problem. Radio was a new property for the localites hence hunting for talent was problematic. But now with increased awareness, even they take it as a new career opportunity. We also provide them with in-house training. But compared to the metros, we still face a dearth of talent.

What do you do to add a regional flavour?

We play a lot of regional music to bring in the local flavour. Also, to suit the regional taste buds we hire local RJs who we feel are the best way to bring in the local flavour. Unlike a metro city if a local boy is on air, the whole locality will tune into the station. Hence local RJs help to pull in listeners. The various On-ground activities that we undertake also help us to connect with our audience.

Out of the total advertising in the north east, how much share does radio corner?

Radio earns a very small share of the total advertising pie in the region. Advertisements on radio in Siliguri and Gangtok would only be close to five per cent. Investment in radio is still seen as the last resort even though it is the cheapest. An ad per day in a newspaper will cost more than an ad given on radio for a couple of weeks. We need to educate advertisers and locals about the benefit of advertising in radio.

Whom have you acquired the license to play music from ? You also seemed to have royalty issues earlier?

We have acquired the licenses from bodies like PPL, IPRS and music label T-Series. We had some royalty issues as we complained that the amount we shell out as royalty is way high than our revenues. 40 per cent of our total revenue is going into the payment of royalty. Small stations like us are a small fish in the pond. The amount we earn through advertisements is very less, hence the royalty that we pay should be less. Government needs to be clear on these issues otherwise there will be lot of confusion in phase three.

How difficult is it to spread awareness about radio in the region?

We plan to make radio a medium of entertainment as well as for spreading social awareness. Hence we undertake social welfare programmes. Every weekend in the morning doctors from various fields are on air and people who cant afford to visit hospitals can post us their questions and we get the answers from the doctors. We organise blood donation camps as well.

Do you face transmission issues since it is a hilly region?

We do have transmission issues because of the topography of the region. FM airwaves travel straight but in the valley, the transmission is not clear. If there is a natural blockage, there will be transmission issues. Earlier, both the frequencies of Siliguri and Gangtok used to overlap. Siliguri frequency was clearly audible in Gangtok, hence we changed the frequency in Gangtok. The frequency at both the places was 94 earlier which had to be changed to 95.

Do you have expansion plans in phase three?

We would primarily be looking at regions in West Bengal. We have a hold in this region and we understand the audience needs. Hence, we would be acquiring licenses for this region.

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