| 24 Feb 2024
Suddenly spoilt for choice

Maharashtra's cultural capital, which hosted only Radio Mirchi for six years, has four FM players now. Each wants to reign over the Pune airwaves.

The competition in the FM radio space just got hotter in Pune, the university town turned second IT hub of the county that also stakes claim to being the cultural capital of Maharashtra.

Pune, that spawned its first radio station during the first bidding process six years ago, stayed a single player city till the second quarter of 2008, when a clutch of three new stations opened shutters and spiced up the competition for existing player, Radio Mirchi.

With an overwhelming young population (university students and IT job holders) that's compounded with a high percentage of immigrant population (some estimates put it at nearly 70 per cent), providing a local flavour through FM is one of the biggest challenges the current crop of FM players face.

Radio Mirchi that launched on 18 October 2002, explored the market in the first phase targeting the entire universe of listeners, but has now decided to focus on the 15 to 35 age group. Says Radio Mirchi Pune programming head Ninad Sonawne, "The city mostly comprises the youth crowd and the medium is used extensively by them. Being a medium for the masses, we have to cater and connect to our users and audience."

Radio City that entered the city on 10 April this year, has decided to follow the same strategy. SFM, the latest entrant to launch in Pune on 22 July, says it will target the masses with energy and pep, encompassing the youth in its fold. "We believe in catering to the masses with a youth flavor and lot of peppiness. Even if the maximum crowd comprises college students, we cannot forget the locals. A radio station is a medium of the masses and hence it should click well with them," reasons SFM project head Nisha Narayanan, who oversaw the launch in the city recently.

Radio One that launched its fifth station in Pune on 12 May, is reluctant to divulge its strategy.

One cannot however, forget the overwhelming presence of All India Radio, which has been available on the popular medium wave for years now, and also carried the Vividh Bharati programming from Mumbai in its FM frequency 101 FM. Unlike Mumbai, however, the Pune station does not separate FM channels like FM Rainbow or FM Gold. While 90 per cent of its music content is Marathi, AIR's FM mode conducts one programme in Hindi and one English content program in a week.

The station also airs several social programmes, and according to AIR's Pune assistant station director Sunita Patwardhan, the station has several local advertisers from all over Maharashtra on board.

"We have received very good response from our audience on various social activites and social awareness drives. We believe in catering to the crowd. It's been seven to eight years since we are operating in this city and we have received an overwhelming response," says Patwardhan.

Top Ten Brands on Pune Radio Stations for the Month of July 2008
Rank Brand
Advertiser Total No Of Seconds
Amanora Park Town - The Real Township
City Corporation Ltd. 22169
Castrol CRB Turbo Castrol India Ltd. 15891
3 Huggies Care
Kimberly-Clark Lever Ltd.
4 Pan Parag Pan Masala Kothari Products Ltd. 13776
5 IDEA - MyGang IDEA Cellular Ltd. 10749
6 Colors - Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd. 10580
7 Reliance Mutual Fund - Systematic Investment Plan (SIP)
Reliance Capital Asset Management Ltd. 9994
8 Nike Nike India Pvt. Ltd. 9850
9 IDEA - An Idea Can Change Your Life
IDEA Cellular Ltd. 9528
10 Jet Airways Jet Airways India Ltd. 9120

Speaking the lingo

SFM has decided to add a local flavour to its programming, with the use of 30 per cent Marathi and folk music. Radio city and Radio Mirchi take a different route - the local RJs communicate in a mix of Marathi, Hindi and English. Interestingly, both stations use Marathi 90 per cent of the time, restricting the use of Hindi and English to the remaining 10 per cent.

"SFM is a mass radio station and has to cater to the masses in their language," insists Narayanan. "We are the only radio station in Pune now playing Marathi content. Marathi has some very good folk music and other regional music which forms a part of our strategy. It is very important to connect to our audience with local RJs and the local language. We also prefer local RJs as they have a very good understanding of the city," she says.

Mirchi's Sonawne doesn't agree. "We have RJs talking in Marathi but, we don't have local content. We have found that Marathi music has not clicked with the audience. There are some great Marathi movies, but these don't boast great tracks. We stick our RJ talk to Marathi because our research says that Pune has 70 per cent migrants, out of which 80 per cent are from the state of Maharashtra itself. So, Marathi is not an alien language for the audience here."

Radio City executive VP and national head Ashit Kukian avers, "Apart from giving a local flaour, the regional language gives an upper hand to the communication with the city. Citizens relate to it easily when they hear the local language in a medium like radio. It increases the market value for the station."

Branding and Positioning

Mirchi, that has a six year advantage over the others, now stands threatened by three prominent players in the FM arena. Sonawne says, "People in Pune know FM as Mirchi. We started when no one had even explored the market and we could grip the audience with our presence for six years now. Initially, we started with general outdoor advertising and hoardings, and later got involved with social activities in the city. We have established our brand within the audience."

But can it afford to stay complacent? SFM has positioned itself more like a local radio station while, Radio City caters to its audience through contemporary songs. Says Kukian, "We play melodious songs which have been popular in the last three years. We play more melodious music in our station."

Listenership patterns and advertising

The listenership patterns, on an average, follow that of metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. There's currently a healthy mix of local as well as national advertisers. Radio City claims to have 70 per cent of national advertisers on its roster. The oldest player Radio Mirchi boasts around 65 per cent of local advertising. The newly launched SFM plans to get advertise from corporate as well as the retail market. As the RCS data, just out, indicates, telecommunications and property advertising takes the top slots among the categories that are advertising on FM radio in Pune. Interestingly, education and tobacco and betel nut products also figure high on the list.

Teething problems

The existence of Mirchi in the market has in a way made it easier for the others to find their feet in Pune, particularly regarding manpower and the use of the medium to the advertiser. As Sonawane points out, the cultural richness of the city and its rich tradition of theatre helped get in the right people into the station.

It's still early days to predict how the Pune market will shape up, or if programming strategies will change as dramatically as they did in Bangalore recently. The initial euphoria of being in a new city is high among the new entrants, and coupled with the obvious jolt out of complacency for the existing players, it can only mean a feast of choices for the average Punekar.

Top Ten Categories on Pune Radio Stations for the Month of July 2008
Rank Category No. Of Plays
Telecommunications 2579
2 Property - Housing 2186
3 Television Programme 1788
4 Education 1407
Textiles & Apparels 1069
6 Tobacco & Beetel Nut Products 1002
7 Accessories - Sports Gear
8 Travel & Tourism 848
9 Computers & Peripherals 843
10 Personal Care 751

Data provided by AirCheckTM India