| 19 Apr 2024
Red FM COO Abraham Thomas - Radio will soon be six to eight per cent of the advertising pie

It's bustling with the colour �red' and why not! That's the Red FM berth for you. It's been a successful radio brand and confidently says so. Following the tagline – �You can love us, hate us but can't ignore us' every Red strategy is designed with a sniper approach and it's working. Red FM COO Abraham Thomas takes some time off his busy schedule to meet's Riya V Anandwala to talk about Red's image, strategies and attitude!


How has the past year been for your radio station?

We have become No 1 in Mumbai beating the market leaders, hence revenues have spruced up. Listeners can now articulate what Red FM stands for. They know what bajate raho means. Our mantra- �you can love us, hate but you can't ignore us' has worked for us. Brand Red has been created!

How has Red FM's standing improved in the radio market over the years?

Currently we are around 23 percent of the radio advertising pie, considering the three markets we are operating in. As far as radio on a whole is concerned, it is three to four percent of the pie and it soon be about six to eight per cent. We have been growing year by year. The consumption has increased over the years which make the presence of radio stronger.

Last year seemed experimental. How did it go?

We have moved beyond radio and that's the key. We did the Bajate Raho awards which will soon be aired on Channel V. Radio is all about content and we don't want to stick to the conventional style. We want to exploit content on as many mediums as possible. From television, mobile, downloads to ground events.

What lies ahead in this year? What initiatives have been lined up?

We will continue to use our content across all mediums. One will see Mantra on television, Malishka and Nitin on events. All of them represent brand Red. Our marketing has been a success. We don't experiment with one campaign and go on with it. We have defined our brand well and play around that. Our three stations Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata localise the content and use it very differently.

This year again, people will see us in a lot of local places. Whether it is on dabbawalas carriers, buses, trains, multiplexes, shopping malls or umbrella stands, the listener will see us five times a day. We roughly do three to four big campaigns a year. We initiated �Bajao for a cause' wherein we pick on a cause and ask listeners to pledge in. We have received amazing response for this and will continue to do that this year as well.

What about introducing some more innovative properties?

We keep playing up innovative concepts. For these mean summer days, we are giving out six to seven air conditioners and refrigerators to our listeners. This will be a week long thing. Every quarter we do inventive programming.

We want to be as local as possible. As far as music is considered, we research our music every six months and get listeners to rate the best. We have a very tight playlist wherein we don't offer great variety. However, you will hear the same kind of music. We don't run different music for the day and different for the night. It's about staying ahead of the curve. We refuse to play a song before it becomes a big hit. I rather be one week in playing Race then okay it first and get mixed reactions. Our strategy is clear.

Any immediate plans of tweaking your brand image or playing up another strategy?

Bajate Raho is our brand and that's the attitude we carry. We don't want to change that at all. But at the same time one must understand that it has many facets. We will keep evolving. We don't want it to get boring.

Does the overkill of songs on radio hurt the music industry sales?

Not really. In fact, music companies say that their sales soar because their music is first heard on radio. And one listens to radio for not more than two hours a day. Hence it is unlikely that he will hear the song five times a day. You may not like our radio station, but at least you know what to expect.

Has in-film placement turned out to be very fruitful?

We have done a few projects in the past. Unless and until the film revolves around a character of a RJ, it doesn't really make sense. We don't want to be heard in the background. In the case of Munnabhai MBBS, Vidya Balan sat with Mallishka to get the hang of her character that worked for us.

Coming to the hotspot of radio controversies, royalties. Is it really killing the radio industry?

If we are looking at the smaller markets, then it is quite steep. It is at a stalemate point where everyone has an interim solution. In international markets, they work the percentage share way. The music industry is suffering from low revenue issues, but they are striking huge bucks – thanks to royalties!

When do we get to hear new voices on Red? Are you planning to build a new set of RJs?

It took us a lot of time building our current lot of RJs. They had to reflect the brand. We don't plan any new set of RJs. But we do encourage fresh talent. One of our biggest strengths has been Suresh Menon.

The Prashant Tamang fiasco must have been itchy for you. Have you sketched out new regulations for your RJs?

Yes, we have to go through such things. We have always maintained a code of conduct when on air. I can't speak much on this issue since we are in the midst of a legal procedure.

How has the AROI (Association of Radio Operators of India) helped in such matters?

It has just started off. We have been meeting up for quite a few legal issues. We need to understand what it can do and what it can't. It's moving well though. It is not a body dominated by either side. We take the diversity into account, what may be critical for one station may not be the same for the other.

Of the cities you operate in, which has had the most successful response to
'bajate raho'?

We were extremely strong in Delhi, say no 2. a few months back. We are different in all stations.

What does RAM say about Red?

We are No. 1 in Mumbai, No. 3 in Delhi and in Kolkata, the RAM is yet to set up. We don't react to RAM's data on a weekly basis. It is certainly beneficial for the advertisers. It's more of a requirement for them.

Advertisers seem to be indifferent to the radio clan. How are you tapping the local or retail advertising in the cities you operate in?

I am quite proud of the radio-advertising synergy. Advertisers spend three to four percent on radio, so that is fine. And the question of them not spending, well, they don't know whether it is right or wrong. It will soon comfortably come up to eight to 10 percent. We do a lot of work with local advertisers and it is quite task. We have to do a lot of work for them, propose ads and jingles but that's how it works.

Lastly, Radio Mirchi has announced an offer of one million dollars worth of FCT for working against music piracy. Will the industry actually join in the issue?

Oh have they? We support every anti-piracy campaign.