For RadioOne, being different drives its programming decisions. After doing this in different cities across India, its latest move is to go 'international' in Delhi and Mumbai. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Vineet Singh Hukmani, CEO, RadioOne, explained the rationale behind the radio station's strategy to sound different.
You are going international in Mumbai and Delhi, even though you may have lost listeners. Why?
We've just launched; listener responses can be ascertained after eight weeks. But the acceptance is huge as seen from SMSes, Twitter and listener reactions overall. We estimate we will reach between 3.3-4 million people in Delhi and Mumbai because of our non-music intelligent and mature content, and great music content.
What's the rationale behind going international?
There was a need gap in the market and this format is filling that gap. We researched advertisers and listeners about what they thought were the problems in radio. There were common voices that suggested all radio stations sound the same and that all sound 'dumb' (to an educated audience). We had begun to correct this across other markets, and now in Mumbai and Delhi where we want RadioOne to be involving for 'English-speaking' Indians with a global outlook.
What is radio's greatest disadvantage, not faced by other media?
Our research showed that radio reaches all but does not engage a specific profile of audience. It is, therefore, impossible to 'target and engage' a SEC AB 25-40 on radio without a huge spillover into irrelevant audiences. People who prefer their infotainment in English have lapsed or are lapsing fast from radio. Trying to reach everyone, radio today cannot offer a profiled audience to a brand. Radio aims for the lowest common denominator. Every other medium allows fabulous profiling of audiences.
Are Mumbai and Delhi ready for English programming in radio?
There is a huge misconception about English, per say, in radio circles. Famous speeches like 'Freedom at Midnight' or 'Tryst with Destiny' by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were made in English on radio a very long time ago. English/international beckons. The listener and advertiser have already embraced it in other media and they will do so in radio too.
What about the other cities?
If all radio stations are in Kannada in Bangalore, we are a 100% Bollywood station, which allows for a better profiling of audience. In Pune, all radio stations mix regional and Hindi playouts; we stick to a well-profiled person who speaks a certain kind of Hindi only and loves a certain kind of Hindi music. In Ahmedabad, other radio stations talk a lot; we ensure the maximum music every hour. In Chennai and Kolkata, we will target the English newspaper readers who love local and international forms of music. In every market, we will be distanced from the herd and allow the 'highest associative value' to advertising brands.
How will the other players react, given that no differentiation lasts long in the radio market?
The others are networks first and then perhaps cater to individual cities, much like a McDonalds that has to be standardised as it is all about reach.