| 21 Feb 2024
20-TEN Year-ender: Rajeev Nambiar, CEO & President - Hello 106.4 FM

* Sheer heart-sell grew our Radio business by 30% in 2010

2010 meant a 30% growth in our business of Radio. One can't just attribute this growth to growing maturity in the way the market consumes Radio; rather, complement the sheer heart-sell effort by the sales force, and their being at the right place at the right time. There has been a sizable increase in the client base with very few that moved out of the Radio space.

Retail / domain markets collectively are the major contributors, with the national kitty dropping to a mere 30 to 40%. Inability to work on quality creative and tactical campaigns – tailor-made for radio, by the advertising pros --  is still a concern. For lack of understanding for market-specific approach, Radio is often shelved. The retail clientele, thanks to Radio being cost-effective, often demands Radio spots from the station. The push and pull to augment advertising traffic needs further effort from We - The Radio Evangelists, which eventually shall bring in larger brands looking at wooing Radio audiences in a more consistent manner. Yes, most product categories do have select brands that swear by the effectiveness of Radio, which could be either due to the simplicity in approach, or the fervor with which the creative team had approached to exploit Radio. This challenge of making a communication plan work for a brand on Radio needs more takers.

What worries most -- which is often seen as a setback to getting the number-crunching media buyers and planners in all forms for a nascent medium such as ours -- is the hangover of an earlier polarized Radio medium. The Phase I story was about a 2-player market related to more by the persona and imagery of the brand. The choice, largely, was one of the two. Then we, the Phase II brands stirred the Radio market, and in reality, today, a majority of the audience has no clue what it has tuned in to and is unable to distinguish amongst frequencies, names, shows, etcetera, and yet relate all these to the earlier two that had had the head start. This in effect is an occupational hazard in the Radio space. Strangely, the clutter in the primary two and the surfing (migration) syndrome is yet neglected by the media investors. Retail reigns as they buy the mediums they consume,  and popularity results through experiencing the medium.

Retail traffic is ruling and expanding even as niche programming is unexplored, as being mass is the mantra. Differentiation, however masterminded, is unnoticeable for an average listener. Programming design has its gestation period to grow into the core audience. Demand for music hit after hit, with less talk, has proved to be the popular strategy for greater shares. Radio, as witnessed here, should adapt itself to be an ipod for those who do not own one. The right formulation of contemporary or retro, masti or melody, the sequencing formula and its perfection, is sure to yield results.

Since Hello FM is adapting quickly to these learnings, we have two shows worthy of mention. A complete departure from the core content and prime shows, these two are talk format shows with high-voltage sonic confetti to fill in the needs to be dramatic on air. Our special for the 20-20 domestic cricket season and now in an abridged format for the 50-50 World cup fixtures, Solli Adi, is a Hello FM-patented property. This live contest when T-20 cricket is in progress even jams the telecom service providers' switch with over 3 to 5 lakh callers attempting to reach our studios!  Over 12 million rupees have been given away as prize money in the last two seasons. It's a show best experienced, and not described; in fact, it's a formatted show not easily replicable as the resources at work hold the key. This World Cup, Hello FM goes with the claim of being the official Radio partner of cricket lovers. This association with fast paced cricket is something that we have built to cherish.

From the love of cricket to love of dedicated social service, Petral Than Pillaya??  - All Children our Children, is a mission to ensure and extend medical facility to HIV-positive children in Tamil Nadu. This project has been co-founded by Hello FM in association with Population Services International and Actor Padmashri Kamal Haasan. Till date Hello FM with the support of over 10000 donors has raised over  Rs 50 lakhs -- a response so phenomenal it drives even greater passion to script and emulate the achievement year on year. The plea in Kamal Haasan's voice bears testimony to the effectiveness that Radio can deliver all around.

Arguably the best show on Radio, Hello Magazine, packed with a healthy platter of content, is also a proud produce of Hello FM. Devoid of the regular number of songs, this three-hour format show is an experiment for the time being on the weekends for obvious reasons. Interestingly, this show has the entire network contributing, with over 18 voices used for its various segments that include  voico-graphy, story telling, audio serials, cover stories and all the paraphernalia for rich content impactfully presented.

These experiments excepting in the case of our Cricket specials are in not-so-Radio-friendly time bands as we dare not keep the music away -- a learning from the current popularity / readership / listenership research. A more robust measurement mechanism that captures the true connect of the brand and its listeners is the need, should such differentiators occupy primetime charts.

Going forward into 2011, innovations that we execute for top line growth shall not displace the traditional Radio programming, unlike practiced in the last couple of years. The way to grow would be through traditional means of dependence on FCT sales and price-hike to optimize inventory management at threshold levels. Replacement of shows to fit in sponsored activity would be an indulgence dealt away with. Editorial / Content adaptations would be minimal; that ensures better listener experience. Efforts would be to build audience and never replace. It's time to better exploit the space outside of our Radio, within reach, such as websites, BTL engagements, events, etcetera. Having achieved a set of satisfied clientele and sustainable shares, catering to greater audience experience would be the guiding principle.