| 25 Jun 2024
FM roundup - east & north east - Riding High

Looking back, 2008 was the year of commencing operations for many commercial FM stations in eastern India. To make their presence felt, these stations carried out a lot of marketing initiatives.

Many of these stations, located in small towns and marked by hefty retail advertising, have managed to escape the current heat wave of the global slowdown and have managed to sustain themselves with satisfactory profits, especially in the last quarter.

SFM's Shillong station is just over five months old, having launched in July 2008. Station head Ian Khongmen puts in, It was a good year despite many hurdles which we had to overcome time and again. The response has been good and music lovers are now hooked on to our station without any difficulty as we played new, good music....

SFM entered the fray in Shillong where the only other player Oo La La had commenced operations a few months earlier.

Over in Sikkim,  Radio High managing director Milon Chakrabarty adds, Having launched in the second half of 2007, last year was a successful and eventful year for us. Business wise, we did well and radio seemed to be a viable venture for our group(High Media Entertainment, a venture of Syntech Informatics). The best sign was that we managed to break even in the first year itself....

Earlier we had to push the advertisers to try our medium and also had to give free trial air time on experimental basis, but today, we are selling air time on our terms....

Like all the SFM station launches, Guwahati and Shillong stations also distributed gold and silver coins during the first month of their launch. Although only a few months old, the station already occupies 30 per cent of market share.

We launched the station in April, so it was a learning experience for us and the station was involved in a lot of branding activities like hoardings for increasing visibility,... states SFM Guwahati station head Debojit Phookan.


Music played across radio stations varies from region to region. Stations targeting the youth in the extreme north east seem to be playing a lot of English music, and on the other hand, some stations resort to playing regional music like Khasi, Oriya, and Bengali to lure listeners.

As Khongmen says, The major aspect that sets our station apart from all other SFM stations is the music content. Because of the target group - youngsters - SFM shillong plays 80 per cent English songs, 10 per cent Bollywood and 10 per cent of regional/ local songs....

Siliguri based Radio Misty's content too is a mixture of many genres - 60 per cent Hindi and 10 per cent English, Bengali, Nepali and Bhojpuri.

Orissa headquartered Radio Choklate director Monica Nayyar Patnaik says, The key thing is to hit the masses and have local content for better connect. Our content is 80 per cent Oriya with 20 per cent Hindi. Also, we would like to venture into music production in the coming year to produce more regional content....

In mid 2008, Big FM Kolkata changed its TG from Sec A, B between the age group 20-34 to Sec A, B, C above 12 years. Also keeping in mind the interactivity aspect, the station organised many ground activities on a moohallah level which is very peculiar in Kolkata.

The station is now focusing on music by accommodating the listener preferences and playing songs on the basis of day parts. Throughout the day, we stress on music and melody, and we play classical Bollywood music in the afternoon, fun filled tracks in the evening and romantic retros in the night,... says Big FM Kolkata station head Ramita Chaudhuri.

Big FM Guwahati station head Swapan Sinha begs to differ. Contrary to the belief that there is no audience for Hindi, Bollywood music in Guwahati, we play 70 per cent of it and remaining 30 per cent of regional Assamese music. In terms of communication, it's the other way round, where Assamese would be 70 per cent and Hindi would be a meager 30 per cent....

Marketing initiatives

Although in their infancy, these stations have turned ground activations into a weapon, that adds to the bottomline and also helps in branding and visibility. Radio being a local and live medium, lends itself very well to activations which weave in interactivity with listeners.

Radio Misty's key initiatives last year were tying up with Radio Netherlands for content and launching a website to reach out to our audiences. The Police Friendship cup, in which 494 clubs took part, gained us much visibility with live reporting from our mobile studios,... says Radio Misty CEO Nishant Mittal. Misty targets about 40 events per month, and ties up with brands for activations. We do not believe in just selling air time, but prefer to come up with new concepts for our clients....

Radio High started its music production wing- �High Music' and produced its own music, thus reducing dependence on outside labels, and payments to licensing bodies for royalties. We shell out only two to three per cent of our revenue towards royalty. We aim to own 45 per cent of the content played on radio this year,... says Chakraborthy.

Radio High also floated an event and artist management company, 10 per cent of whose revenue is diverted to radio. This company is also instrumental in holding ground activities and brand activations for the radio station.

SFM Shillong was one of the few stations in the North East region to partner with major international rock concerts. All the major rock acts and festivals in Shillong have been in collaboration with SFM Shillong. We tied up with White Lion and Firehouse", well known rock bands from the States, Campus Rock Idol, Tourism festivals, Beach Festival, etc All these tie ups has had a major impact on our listenership as well as visibility of SFM Shillong,... points out Khongmen.

On the other hand, Big FM Guwahati made its mark in other ways - �Sone ki Baarish' where gold coins were given every hour and an RJ Marathon, where the RJs went on air continuously, entering the Limca book of records, mentions Sinha.

Fever FM carried its �I love fever' contest to Kolkata where it had just commnenced operations. It was the theme to drive the brand name and the frequency to the houses of the listeners," points out Fever national marketing and promotions head Gawri Kapre.

National player Red FM's Anuj Singh says, After the tremendous success of Red Mike – Red FM's tool of interactivity for the masses in Mumbai, we launched it in Kolkata. Red FM focuses on brand activations as an important strategy to build interactivity and visibility for the brand. Red FM Kolkata tied up with almost all the major events that happened across Kolkata and we have been consistently launching campaigns with the purpose of building a connect with the audiences through activations....

Listenership measurement

One of the important landmarks for radio stations in Kolkata last year had been the introduction of RAM (Radio Audience Measurement). RAM was introduced in Kolkata this year and we could undertake corrective measures in our programming. The RAM data helps us to strengthen our weak hours where we face dips and we have fine tuned our programming based on the results of RAM,... says Chaudhuri.

With RAM providing an hour to hour analysis of listenership across all stations, the advertisers refer to the data before investing. An industry insider says, RAM acts as a double edged sword where it enables the advertisers to plan their investments but on the other hand it might be harmful if agencies completely rely only on that data....

In absence of RAM data in Orissa, the radio stations carry out their own research to position themselves in the market. We gauge our listenership by the number of calls, word of mouth and brand recall. Apart from the metro cities of Bhubhaneshwar and Cuttack, we have listeners calling us from neighbouring areas like Jagatpuri, Puri, Pipli etc which means we are being heard,... says Patnaik.


Being only a few months old, the radio stations have been successful in luring the local retailers in investing monies into advertising.

In terms of advertising, Siliguri based Radio High claims to be enjoying a lead over advertising. The station handles advertising at three levels - local at the Siliguri level, from Kolkata to Siliguri and national advertising, covering metros to Siliguri. Referring to their share of the advertising pie, Radio High's Chakravarthy states, About 30-35 per cent of our advertising revenue comes from local advertisers, 20-40 per cent from Kolkata and the remaining comprises national advertising....

In terms of advertising, local retailers provide more volumes but less money compared to the corporate ones and Kolkata market is strong retail wise and comprise 80 per cent of our advertising revenue,... avers Big FM's Chaudhuri.

Radio in Kolkata occupies about three to five per cent of the total advertising pie and is still perceived as a virgin market. In the next financial year, there would an increase of about two to four per cent, predict media planners.

The current profile of advertisers dominating Big FM's Kolkata station is hosiery brands, followed by telecom and cellular companies and automobiles.

Fever launched in Kolkata in 2008 and the station claims an 8 ? per cent share of the total listenership in the market. We want to achieve a double digit figure by the end of the financial year. We occupy about 18-20 per cent of the advertising share in Kolkata market,... maintains Chaturvedi. Most of the advertising for the station is corporate which occupies 60-70 per cent and local retailers haven't picked up and it will take time to develop.

Our advertising profile for Guwahati station mainly comprises corporate, which occupies about 60 per cent and 40 per cent of local retailers. We have an advantage of being a national player, and so corporate ads flow in but the local retailing will gain mileage in the coming year. They are still in the process of accepting radio as a medium,... says Phookan.

Says Sinha, The local retailers in Guwahati still need to be educated as they do not perceive radio as a serious medium. Our advertising would comprise 50 per cent of retail and 50 per cent of corporate....

"Local retailing will always be our strong point though the market is small," mentions Khongmen. We have overcome that by stressing more on marketing innovative products rather than following the FCT option which is not too appealing. Market recession has not made much of an impact on local advertising....

Referring to her Orrisa stations, Patnaik says, We are more than a year old now in our Bhubhaneshwar market and Rourkela would be completing one year this month. This year, we worked towards activating the local market and have more than 200 advertisers on board.... The awareness drive has resulted in a 70:30 ratio favouring the retail advertiser over corporate. The profile of advertisers includes local retailers, jewellery and educational ads.

Referring to his Sikkim market, Mittal says, Misty has the maximum share of advertisements in local market among the four players, 80 per cent of which is local.... Radio Misty has now tied up Radio One for a sales alliance to strengthen its national advertising from 1 January 2009.

Radio, an innovative medium

In times of recession, radio is a boon as it is cost effective and gives more value for money to the advertisers. With radio, the brand enjoys a variety of platform like airwaves, ground activations etc to increase visibility. Also radio reaches double the audiences than any other medium at a much lesser cost,... says Chaudhuri.

Mittal explains, Although print dominates the north east, things are changing because of regional stations like Agartala, Shillong. With all stations in phase 2 being launched, radio is emerging as a threat to print. Also, radio is innovative and has broken all the barriers and is the only medium to reach out to listeners in remote areas....

Focus for the year ahead

Stations based in the higher altitudes of Shillong, Sikkim, Siliguri and other areas had issues of transmission because of frequent weather changes. There have been frequency transmission clashes in certain places of Guwahati and Sikkim and the radio stations are now getting matters rectified.

The fact that BECIL (Broadcasting Engineering Consultancy India Limited) was not efficient in providing proper infrastructure and electricity to the private players, thereby delaying their launch, is rued by many.

Radio Misty, which is aired in the 94.3 MHz in Siliguri, has been allotted change in frequency in Sikkim. This station could be heard by the listeners even in Sikkim from Siliguri. With the same frequency in both cities, airwaves from both stations were overlapping, making it difficult to catch the frequency of the Gangtok station. So Misty applied for change in frequency and it was granted, now Sikkim listeners can tune into two different Misty channels, one aired from Siliguri and the other from Gangtok.

Says Sinha, In 2009, we would be working towards changing our image for our advertisers and listeners. Also we believe in revamping and refreshing our content, so would be making changes in the programming accordingly following our internal surveys....

In the coming year, Red FM's focus will be on building consumer loyalty through various interactive and engaging properties and content, to ultimately move from being an interactive to an embedded brand in the minds of the audience.

Chaudhuri says, 2008 was a year of consolidation for Big's Kolkata station and this year we would be focusing to increase our market share. Also we would like to attract the untapped advertising sectors like real estate, education, jewellery etc....

We will try fresh sounds in 2009 with a lot of new music to play. The focus is on some genre of music which is rocking Shillong like Metal, Funk and of course local music which is picking up fast. SFM Shillong will be more into events and shows in 2009,... maintains Khongmen.

With their advertising inventory flowing with local retailers, radio operators in east region would be focusing on attracting corporate advertisers.