‘It’s easy to make a promise but to deliver that is always tough’

23 Jan,2019


Big FM, the radio station network from the Reliance Broadcast stable, announced its big change last week. Change in the form of the channel identity, credo and its programming. Sunil Kumaran, who returned to the Big FM fold last as head of its inhouse advertising arm THWINK, is leading the agenda on the transformation – specifically in terms of content, experience and marketing. MxMIndia caught up with Kumaran last week for a freewheeling discussion.


The reason behind moving from Suno Sunao Life Banao to Dhun Badal Ke Toh Dekho:

‘Life Banao’ has been the proposition for Big FM for many, many years. Life banao was all about how can we enrich people’s lives. A great proposition which held us for a good many years. The product was fairly differentiated in the market for a very long time because of the music.

Retro music, you mean?

We played the timeless kind of music which actually withstood the test of time so by default we could attract a slightly more mature, evolved audience… which was great. There was a differentiated positioning in the market. Also, from an advertiser perspective that is the most lucrative group that most advertisers would go after. So it worked very well for us for many, many years. We realised it was a time in the journey of Big FM that we need to refresh the brand. Primarily because radio’s role in people’s lives is changing. Radio is now not the only destination for music. From your playlist to online sites, you can curate your own music very easily given the easy digital availability. So, people are not necessarily coming for only music though music remains one of the biggest reason why people come to radio. We realised it’s important to talk about what the brand stands for which is not just about music. But beyond music. I think that’s very, very important. It’s very important for a brand. What does the brand stand for?

When people come to a brand, they want to know what is the reason of your existence. What do you bring to me as a brand rather than tell me about the product feature which is music. So that’s the understanding with which we started this journey, two-three months back saying we need to actually play a meaningful and relevant role in the life of our consumers and not just be projected as a music offering, because radio has much more to offer than music. That music is a mainstay. There is an amazing amount of credibility that jocks (radio jockeys) carry with it. There are strong influences in their own right and they are credible voices in the market that they operate. Radio is extremely localised. Radio is very flexible as a medium in terms of communication. It’s very here and now. There are many strengths of the medium. The platform and the medium has stayed with time, adapted itself. That strengthen can be leveraged very, very effectively. If you want to position yourself as a brand. That’s how the journey [of the refresh] started.


You mentioned that music will not be the mainstay

Consumers are going through a massive disruption that is happening all around us. There is so much chaos and confusion that comes with this rapid amount of growth that has happened.  The consumer is going through lot of stress and anxiety. And the media is fuelling that in a large way. If you look at any of the media platforms, most people end up taking very strong positions in the market. Even if it is a small issue you will have very small debates and discussion happening and people taking positions. Now if that is the state of mind that the consumer is going through and this is where the medium stands in terms of what are the roles mediums can play. The sweet spot is where the purpose can be defined. You can actually play a meaningful rule in the life of the consumers where you help them navigate through this chaos that is happening in and around us.

Does that mean more talk and less music?

Not necessary. It’s not about quantity of conversation, it is the kind of conversation.

In specific terms, is the quantity of talk v/s music has that changed?

Not really. It’s the kind of conversation that is changing.

The kind of conversation also means people like Vrajesh Hirjee who don’t come cheap. Does that mean spends on talent goes up?  

It does go up. Because you invest in good talent. Because talent makes a big difference. We value the role that an RJ would play in the lives of the consumers. When we started this journey we asked what can we do as a brand. How can we distinguish ourselves from the rest in the market? So we said that we as a brand need to have a purpose. Given the fact that this is the strength of the medium and what the consumers are going through, let’s play a role in what the thoughts inspire in the lives of people. It’s very important that when a brand makes a promise, the promise has to be very trustworthy and also able to deliver on a day-to-day basis.

It’s easy to make a promise but to deliver that is always tough. Finally, what the consumer is going to see is not the vision statement that one comes up with. But what s/he is finally experiencing on a day-to-day basis as per the product is concerned. So we came up with   this whole proposition of big FM from now on will become the thought inspirer. We will probably not take a very strong position and say that everything is in black-and-white but we will make people look at issues form different perspectives. Because our philosophy is if you really want to bring about a change the change starts here in your mind. If you want you can make people think differently from different perspectives that’s where progress and growth happens. That radio as a brand can play the role brilliantly. It’s a companion medium, the jocks are very credible. It’s very local here and now. All this allows you to play that role very effectively not just a promise but a promise that you can deliver.

Who are your new jocks? One is Vrajesh who has replaced Siddharth…

Siddharth has moved on so Vrajesh has come in. In Bengaluru, we have an evening jock called Pradeepa

Who is the evening jock in Mumbai?


Same as before.

Yes. Our morning jock in Delhi is RJ Nitin. He has been with us for quite some time but very, very credible names…

Of course, Anu Kapoor continues to be there and so does

Neelesh Mishra…. All these shows will now start reflecting the philosophy because that’s the change.

Can you give me an example how Annu Kapoor’s show will be different?

Annu Kapoor show will now look at how movies have started impacting lives. How movies have reflected on society and how society has reflected back on movies. So that’s the perspective he will bring to his conversation which was more information-based earlier. So now it will be more perspectives-based. He will hence have a view on why, what happened in a particular movie. The premise remains the same, fantastic take on yesteryears which people love. But now it will be a reflection on those stories on society. Neelesh Mishra for instance is a great storyteller and he has been doing stories from the heartland for quite some time. He will also bring in forms of storytelling. So there is an interesting format which he has come up with. He picks up a common premise and he will come up with six different stories with that common premise. Opening the minds of people thinking that listen if you look at things form different perspectives the endings will be very, very different.

Do you think some of these goody-goody, change-the-world stuff can bore listeners?

It actually depends on how you deliver. We are not saying we will change the world. We are saying that we will make you start look at things differently. We are very clear in our heads that we are not making these extremely lofty promise of ‘we are out here to change the world’. Not at all. We are here to make you think because that’s what we can play as a role. Very, very effectively. You are listening to me on an everyday basis. We can trigger some conversations in your head. The thoughts in your head. Whether it becomes boring after a point in time completely depends on the way you treat it. I am in no way saying that we are going to become a very serious preachy channel. Far from it. The entertainment remains the core and we look at things from a lighter here and now perspective. It is not going to be a serious CSR kind of thing. It’s not going to be that kind of thing at all because radio is entertaining. If you look at Vrajesh’s show, it’s packed with fun and entertainment.


Read the rest of the interview with Sunil Kumaran on MxMIndia tomorrow.


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