| 16 Jun 2024
20-TEN Year-ender: K Sanjay Prabhu, MD - Radio Indigo

* 2010: The hope of sweet optimism for Radio

Radio today is considered a mass medium, especially when you consider the age group that it primarily caters to in India. More than 41% of the FM listenership in India is in the age category of 15-29 and generates revenue of US$ 200 million-plus and is set to grow in excess of 20% annually. Although we have repeatedly termed the industry as nascent, I truly believe that it is time to sit up and take notice. We are on the threshold of being in an industry that one should reckon with!

Radio sets are a common thing in Indian households. Today about 99% of Indians own a radio set at home or in their car. In Mumbai and Delhi FM penetration is highest in the SEC A segment, which clearly suggests an embryonic trend which will ride the waves in the future, however, surprisingly, all the impressive data does not lead to an obvious healthy ad spend.

In 2010 the FM Industry has had little more than 2% of the total advertising pie in India which remains a matter of grave concern, given the popularity of FM stations in India. However, we remain positive, especially after a successful year in 2010, which has, for most radio stations, observed a steady positive growth in revenue after the negative growth during the economic slowdown of 2008-2009.

2010 left a hope of sweet optimism for 2011 when compared to the �not so great' 2009-end. Personally, it was a satisfactory year for Radio Indigo, and I have no qualms attributing this success to our programming and sales strategies that have been in evolution since 2009.

In 2010 our station has been most active especially in terms of programming and marketing activities. Round the year we have had really innovative content and an aggressive team bent on making things work for them.

One of the major challenges that the general Indian radio industry faces today is the lack of content differentiation; however, for us, that is not the case. We have had the pleasure of being the only International and English-speaking radio station in the country since our inception in 2006, until recently when a couple of players have also followed in our footsteps. However, we remain the only international radio station in Bengaluru and Goa. While our challenge does not lie in differentiated content creation, we are driven to take on the challenge of creating newer and more listener-engaging content, which will really set us apart from all radio stations-English or non-English.

2010 helped us set a new benchmark in content creation. We successfully engaged our listeners in projects like the â€?Save The Tiger â€?, International music festival travels and the Christmas special â€?The Indigo Jingle Jam'  Each of these projects had been carefully crafted to suit the urban Bengaluruans -- our core TG -- and offer them the unique Indigo experience. These not only created excitement among the listeners but left our listeners asking for more. We in turn have already announced these as annual events in Bangalore.

2010, like above, witnessed many â€?firsts'. We introduced 360-degree  interactive listener-jock communication, thus bringing our jocks closer to the listeners. Our audiences now have the option of interacting with their favourite RJs real-time through chat windows, during the show, and pass on their requests. Besides that, we have been able to create unparalleled technological synergy between our online and on-air presence where a listener can actually preview the upcoming song on radio. Our online presence has grown over the last 10 months, especially after the revamp led by our American Programming Director Kenny Jones, which has brought about various sections by which a listener can enjoy the Indigo experience even if one is not in Bengaluru or Goa.

On the other hand we have also been actively taking our live studios �on location' with which we have been able to reach out physically to a large cross section of our audience -- from schools to retail. We have been able to successfully create temp studios at a school, at a store or a food outlet, or even a chop shop, and broadcast live and invite our fans to come and meet us.

Similarly, on a macro level, the industry has done well in the last 12 months, considering the persisting challenge of fresh content development. The local advertisers who are recuperating after a dismal 2009 want to consolidate businesses and have identified radio as the most cost-effective means of reaching out to their consumers, and therefore the market has seen a rise in the share of the advertising pie as well. The FM stations in India, although marginally, have also shown a creative thrust on their content, not fearing to alienate revenue. I have personally noticed, especially in the Bollywood-music-playing radio stations, their focus on generating jokes, information and gossip, creating characters on radio, etcetera rather than playing 100% Bollywood music.

As far as marketing is concerned, we have made some really interesting B2B campaigns over the last 12 months. One of the most successful one was �Free Lunch Friday'. Although the larger stations have depended heavily on larger and national clients, we stuck to the reality that radio stations primarily caters to the local businesses and had therefore tied up with Ammi's Biryani and offered Biryani treats to large corporates over some very cool programming on air. Today, after less than a year, Ammi's Biryani has more than 6 outlets and has a great story to tell about its success with Radio Indigo.

Taking lessons from Ammi's Biryani, we tied up with giants United Breweries to do Indigo Red Romanov Party Patrol, which followed the same format where our jocks visited local house parties with a bonanza of adult beverages. These two remain the most memorable campaigns of 2010 for Radio Indigo as it brought in opportunities for our jocks to interact with our listeners week on week in the B2b and the B2C spaces respectively.

Our sales brigade has had a satisfying year bagging at least one â€?live on location' studio shift each month throughout 2010, besides meeting their targets comfortably. We have tried to offer innovative business solutions to the brands that work with us. One such brand that we have worked very closely is Hard Rock Caf?©, which has partnered with us for more than a year now in our prime time 8 pm rock show. We play unadulterated HRC-branded rock music through the hour and promote Hard Rock Caf?© as a preferred destination for rock lovers.

At Radio Indigo we believe that we have given our listener an experience over the last four years that they cherish and therefore have stuck with us ever since. We consider that as a greater measurement of our success rather than RAM ratings. Unfortunately the measurement systems are anything but perfect and we consider them as a reference point only, and not as the undisputed report card of the media industry. Also it does not truly throw up ratings, which are consistent with the impact in the marketplace. Various industry leaders have raised questions at various occasions on its practicality. I am sure as the radio industry in India gathers moss, we will have a more exhaustive measurement system in place. We have preferred to carry on our daily business of entertaining listeners through our interactive and unique campaigns, and that has worked for us so far.

Looking forward,  2011 is expected to be a great year. The Phase III licensing will create growth for the industry, especially if TRAI's recommendations are considered seriously and the Copyright Board royalty issues are resolved. Proposals like increasing of FDI limits from 20% to 26% and ownership of multiple frequencies will create a more competitive market in India.