Differentiation & Innovation key to success, says Harshad Jain

11 May,2012

As Business Head – Radio and Entertainment of HT Media, a role he assumed last year, Harshad Jain has his role tailormade for excitement. The FM Radio market may be small when compared to television or print, but given the nature of competition is a challenging play. In conversation with MxMIndia’s Robin Thomas, Mr Jain spoke about Fever 104 FM’s radio play – Gandhi, the consistency of the FM station’s leadership position in Delhi, Phase III plans and much more. Prior to joining Fever 104 FM, Mr Jain worked with companies like Pepsico, Worldspace and Airtel to name a few.


Fever 104 FM recently launched radio play – Gandhi… What is the kind of response you have been receiving?

The radio play, Gandhi, has done extremely well. It is currently aired at three different day time slots, and we have extremely good sponsors – Maruti Suzuki, Union Bank of India and Tata chemicals. We have been inundated with thousands of SMSes and calls, along with over 3,000 plus responses on Facebook wherein people have appreciated our initiative. And I do believe this has been one of the finest innovations in the radio industry.


Do radio plays still strike a chord with listeners?

Absolutely, because it drives a lot of appointment listenership. Today, the issue with the radio industry is the fact that it is tough to create differentiation. A radio drama like Gandhi or Ramayan is a high end production which drives appointment listening and, it is very relevant for any target group.


According to RAM, Fever 104 FM Delhi consistently claimed the No 1 spot… What, would you say, are the factors that led to this success?

Today, we are the single largest radio station in Delhi, not only among the private FM radio stations, but we have managed to go ahead of AIR FM Gold – we are the undisputed number one FM radio station in Delhi. The key reason for our success in Delhi is because we are a station which is very much integrated in Delhi. We believe that we have got a differentiated product offering in Delhi, we do a very high level of innovation and we’ve got an extremely strong local connect which makes us very powerful competition.


IRS, on the other hand, seems to have a different story to tell… What would you say are the takeaways from IRS Q4 numbers?

IRS is a readership survey; it is not a survey for radio. Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) on the other hand is an exclusive survey only for Radio. Second, IRS is a quarterly survey whereas RAM is a weekly survey. Third, the detailing in terms of RAM is excruciating as it provides time-band listenership, number of listeners by show, cumulative listenership, time-spent listening, therefore RAM is a measurement system meant to track a certain kind of medium. IRS is principally a tool for print media, it is about readership survey and a readership survey cannot do justice to a listenership survey.


What, according to you, worked in Delhi but did not work in Kolkata and Bengaluru? What is the learning from Delhi for the remaining markets?

The learning from Delhi comes from the fact that we need to be high on innovation, we need to have a differentiated product, and a very strong local connect.


How has the Fever 104 FM Digisound impacted listenership?
We used to be a distant number five in Mumbai, now we are a dominant number three player in the city. This proves that the strategy has worked positively for the station.


What are your FM Phase III plans? Do you plan to expand to newer markets? Any specific cities or towns you are eyeing?

We will participate in FM Phase III, we are still strategizing and only after thought through consideration, will we do what is required. We do have our expansions plans as to which markets we need to expand and depending on the how the viability and economic model works, we will expand.


How active is you online presence – your website, Facebook and Twitter? How do you engage listeners off air?

We do a lot of activities online, a lot of our RJ promotions and other engagement activities are done online. Digital is, therefore, a key part of our strategic mix in terms of reaching out to a larger audience, and we use it very effectively.


How has the year been so far for Fever? And what would you say are the challenges and concerns facing the radio industry today?
It has been a good year for us so far. We have entered the year very well, and we are looking at very strong sustained growth. As far as the challenges are concerned, there are couple of challenges – lack of differentiation in content is one of them. Second, the size of the advertising category is relatively small which needs to grow dramatically in the next couple of years, and third, the licence fees needs to be reduced.


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