Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Local to the hilt

It was only recently that a senior executive from DB Corp mentioned that the media conglomerate is a non-metro house by design and all it's verticals are aimed towards small town India. This also ties back to the most popular radio jockey, RJ Karthik, at MY FM, DB Corp's radio arm. “RJ Karthik is also the most followed RJ on Facebook with over four million followers and he hails from Jaipur, a tier 2 city,” says Rahul Namjoshi, chief operation officer, MY FM.

As per DB Corp's internal analysis, MY FM reaches over two crore listeners across 30 non-metro cities and seven states and is targetted at 18 to 45 year olds. The radio station’s identity is built on tailored regional content, keeping the family in mind, hyperlocal presence and the popularity of hosts.

“Till date it is perceived that FM is a source of music, mostly Bollywood songs but it is not so. The morning starts with bhakti music followed by spiritual lessons. This is followed by expert analysis and commentaries on the popular news updates both national and local, assuming that the news has already reached the people by then via social or other digital platforms. We also initiated a new property 'Fun Me hai Vishwas' with Dr Kumar Vishwas given his popularity in the Hindi belt,” Namjoshi says.

There are other programs that run through the day, such as 'Mafia Stories with Hussain S Zaidi’, a thriller series inspired by the underworld.

'Mafia Stories with with Hussain S Zaidi'
'Mafia Stories with with Hussain S Zaidi'

However, ‘Fun Me hai Vishwas’ is delivered in short one minute capsules throughout the day instead of airing as a scheduled program. When asked why so, Namjoshi explains that people today listen to radio as per convenience and it is very difficult to get radio listenership by appointment, a key radio feature of the past. “There are various timelines of listenership, such as getting ready for work or school at home, on the road, at office, etc. The multiple capsules of a program target listeners at various times of the day,” he adds.

Radio is the only live medium in the local market.

Speaking about the advertising side, Namjoshi mentions that over the years the industry has overcome the challenge of educating and pushing advertisers about the utility of radio. “Today, there are innovations around content integration coupled with digital presence of RJs and the brand. Radio is the only live medium in the local market,” he says.

However, there is a rising trend among FM brands to diversifying into digital distribution mediums via content, especially videos by RJs, to extend their programs. So, how important is it for a radio station to latch on to digital mediums? “In our markets I would say radio is doing good as radio itself. Despite the availability of mobile data the live interaction of radio is still preferred in smaller cities,” he shares.

He goes on to elaborate that in key markets of MY FM, radio isn’t a car audio medium. “There is not much drive time in tier 2/3 cities given the short distances. The average travel time is 10-15 minutes. It is a fixed listenership and switch on/off medium. Listeners don't change channels,” he says.

MY FM also has college jockeys who are RJs from popular colleges. This in addition to the hyperlocal nature helps build brand salience.

“In small town India preferences change every 40-50 kilometres. That's why we don't have RJs doing national shows.” Rahul Namjoshi

However, local reach demands localised content and also affects the relevance of umbrella content. “In small town India preferences change every 40-50 kilometres. That's why we don't have RJs doing national shows,” Namjoshi says.

Sharing an example of two Rajasthan cities — Kota and Jaipur, he elaborates, “Several years ago, during one of our 'music dipstick' programmes, we found out that the music preference of small town Kota was more updated than that of Jaipur. Listeners in Kota preferred western music. We then realised that since Kota is dominated by students who are mostly prepping for their entrance coaching, we started playing upbeat Bollywood music along with Western music.”

He further mentions that in Gujarat, the dialects and culture of Ahmedabad is different from Rajkot which impacts the taste for content. "Humour properties, such as sparklers which would do well in Ahmedabad may not work in Rajkot. Even the top-of-the-hour jingle for the two cities is different. The Rajkot jingle is also sung by a local singer,” he adds.

Namjoshi says that MY FM sticks to local talent, familiar with the local dialect. “A guy from Ahmedabad hosting a show in Rajkot will never work,” he says.

“Now, the challenge is to get the right kind of advertiser at the right rate.” Rahul Namjoshi

On being asked about the major shift in challenges over the years, he shares, "Five years back, the challenge was to fill up the inventory at the right rate. Today, advertisers are getting into radio and our inventories are choc-a-block. Now, the challenge is to get the right kind of advertiser at the right rate. We have a limited inventory and we can't increase the advertising duration. Thus, the challenge is to increase the ad rates, which will in turn help to generate revenue, to grow and provide the right benefits to the advertisers.”

But why is it difficult? Namjoshi responds, “Barring one market, we are commanding rate leadership in all the others. And that's on the back of product leadership. We aim to provide better products that align with our content and RJs to get better rates alongside a smaller inventory so that we can provide a better experience to listeners, too.”

He further mentions that different target age groups listen to radio at different times of the day and ads can be tweaked accordingly. Five different creatives of a single ad can be played at five different timings depending on the listener TG.

We asked Namjoshi if he has a FOMO moment when the world is going gaga over topics, such as programmatic advertising, targetted video, etc. “The fear of missing out in the digital space luckily doesn’t exist in our market yet. But it will pick up and we are building our digital presence and gearing up accordingly. We are doing decent digital business although the share is negligible at the moment. I also don't see much happening in the next year or two,” he confides.

Though MY FM isn't pushing it's digital presence aggressively it plans to launch an app very soon.

“FM music is unpredictable and the element of surprise and unpredictability is actually a USP. The OTT science is different to ours.” Rahul Namjoshi

Radio in the age of Spotify.

Many digital audio platforms, such as Ganna, Jio Saavn, Spotify, etc. are trying to build their user base, which many claim to be in the millions in India. “A listener does not consciously maintain a list of favourite songs and will usually have to pause and think hard after recalling the fourth favourite. OTT platforms track user habits and provide a familiar playlist. OTT listening is a kind of mechanised listening. FM music is unpredictable and the element of surprise and unpredictability is actually an USP. The OTT science is different to ours,” Namjoshi responds.

“Apart from that, listeners can also interact with RJs. Many a times, celebrities and music artists are present at the radio station interacting with listeners. All of this makes radio music different and more exciting,” he concludes.

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com