Jaldi 5 with Nisha Narayanan: Small cities will be as important as Delhi or Mumbai

28 Jan,2014

With its ‘Bajaate Raho’ credo, Red FM has been making an impact – with content innovations as well as embarking on marketing tie-ups and affiliations to gain salience. Red Live, the network’s onground music and events has been very active and according to COO Nisha Narayanan, smaller, regional markets will see growth this year. In a quick Q&A with MxMIndia, Ms Narayanan talks of how 2013 was for Red FM and plans for this year as well as her forecast for the entire radio sector in terms of adspends in 2014.


01. How was the year 2013 for Red FM?

It has been a very busy and rewarding year for Red FM. Even though the metro markets were slow initially, the non-metros compensated by showing good growth. In terms of brand, we engaged our listeners and clients with some very interesting innovations on-air, on-ground and digitally. From our concerts under the Red Live vertical in Delhi and smaller towns like Varanasi and Guwahati to our programming-led activities such as Sachin-200 and Bigg Boss integration, the year has been abuzz with innovations. We have had some very good client-based innovations across our markets, such as Thappa and Tashanbaaz. Our digital wing has been engaging listeners online by continuously giving them interesting content. The Red FM Facebook page reached a milestone of half million likes and is a sizeable community for any brand.


And what plans for 2014?

2014 is expected to be a somewhat slow year in terms of market buoyancy. Regional markets will be very important and one of the keys to growth in 2014. As bigger markets get saturated, smaller towns will emerge with a vast potential which has not been realized yet. For Red FM, small cities across the country will be as important as Delhi or Mumbai.


Most of 2013 was spent in waiting for Phase 3. Do you see it happening before the elections and ahead of the time the election Code of Conduct gets into force?

We are still not very clear on when the Phase 3 will come in, where we are headed, what happens once the present license period gets over, and what kind of migration fee we would have to pay. We have already submitted our recommendations to TRAI.


Though we would be happy to see Phase 3 earlier, but looks like it has been put on the backburner once again and will only happen after the general elections now.


02. You spoke on digital… are you looking at an online rebroadcast of your stations?

Our key focus in 2014 will be on digital engagement. Be it streaming music or offering more differentiated products digitally as extension of the radio brand, digital is one strong wing that any radio station today will have to eventually get into. The competition here will not be between different radio stations, but between radio and technology. The natural progression for the radio industry is to move towards digital. As and when the government policy allows us, we will be more than happy to broadcast Red FM online. It is imperative for a radio brand to have a strong digital presence as most of radio consumers are very active on the digital space and it is important for any radio brand to engage with them there. Digital is the way forward and a leader brand like Red FM will be present in anything that the youth (in terms of age or at heart) consumes. The consumption of internet in India is growing every day, and Red FM believes in remaining in tune with the times. With almost 50% of consumption of internet being on smartphones, it is important to be constantly innovate therefore. Red FM as a brand will keep on extending itself on these platforms.


03. Tell us more about Red Live. And what plans do you have for it? Could it be an independent P/L?

Red Live is Red FM’s IPR, under which we offer Live Super Hit music experiences to audiences in the form of concerts and other entertainment gigs. It helps us have a deeper level of engagement with the audience in a medium (radio) where one hardly gets to see the Voice one loves. Interactions with listeners on-ground help in creating a connect which would stay long after the radio has been switched off. They help in getting the brand and the RJs directly in touch with their listeners. 2013 has been a very good year for Red Live. With Mika Singh in Delhi, Sugandha Mishra in Varanasi and Zubeen Garg in Guwahati, we have had a rocking year in terms of Live music gigs across country.


We will continue to grow Red Live in 2014, organising gigs every quarter, and expanding into both metros and non-metros. The year gone by with numerous successful concerts has strengthened our confidence in Red Live, and we plan to make it bigger and better in 2014. Innovation, consistency and excellence in the experiences offered to customers will be the mantra to success for its success.


04. The adspend forecast for radio for the year 2014 is varied. ZenithOptimedia says it’s 5 percent while that of MagnaGlobal is 11%. Even the MagnaGlobal estimate has gone down from last year. Your comments?

Even though 2013 was not a very industry-friendly year and so most of the agencies have lowered their growth expectations, the sentiments for 2014 are buoyant. Adex estimates suggest radio industry having shown a growth of 15% year-on-year in 2013. All three metro markets have shown a healthy double digit growth due to revival of real estate, BFSI, white goods and retail spending.


We are expecting it to continue showing double digit growth in 2014 as well. With the general elections and elections in several state assemblies scheduled to be held 2014, political parties’ spending will be a substantial driver of revenue for radio. Adcap on TV Broadcasters will also help radio increase its share in the advertising pie as media planners are trying to diversify budgets and take maximum ROI on their money by better media mix of Print, TV, Radio, OOH and digital. Although expansion through phase III is being planned, the impact of that will be seen once we have more clarity on when and how it is happening.


While one can look at healthy double digit YoY growth in H1 of 2014, the H2 should see flat growth till festive season, post which the spends should again pick up. Overall, one can expect radio growth to be in the range of 5-10% YoY in 2014.


05. Is independent news on the FM radio anywhere on the horizon?

The government considering to lift ban from news on private and community radio stations is a step in the right direction. It is high time we relooked at the rules that bar private FM radio channels from broadcasting news and current affairs. Radio, being the most accessible medium, is in fact the most suitable for mass dissemination of news and information. Indian FM stations are an anomaly in that none of the private radio stations in the USA, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Australia or most of the countries of the world are barred from airing news and related content.


News and current affairs are the most relevant when they are localized, so as to suit the requirements of a particular community, city, town or village. It therefore makes sense to de-regulate the Indian radio industry, as opposed to the restrictive Phase 3 guidelines that allow private FM radio only to re-broadcast the news bulletins of All India Radio without any addition or modification. Surely, the 36 news generating units of AIR cannot cater to the local news requirements of over 200 cities that private radio is expected to cover in Phase III.


At a time when all other media are free to broadcast news, including the digital medium where we see numerous news portals emerging every day, radio should also be evangelized a people’s medium, and not just limited to entertainment. The regulations that are holding back radio from reaching its full potential should be re-examined.


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