They are witty, chirpy and always ready to lend a ear. Whether you want to share your personal problems or need help in times of crises, all you have to do is call them up. Meet our radio jockeys (RJs) who have become an integral part of our day-to-day lives.
RJs are today looked upon as a friend, philosopher and guide. While driving, walking or working they are always there, sharing our problems and entertaining us.
The FM boom has opened up new opportunities for youngsters who have a passion for music and a gift of the gab. Radio jockeying is a lucrative career option for the GenX and with over 300 radio stations coming up in the next few months, the demand for RJs is definitely going to shoot up.
"Today there is certainly a change in perceptions. People used to earlier take the job of an RJ as a time-pass, but it is now seen as a serious career option especially for graduates. If they have a good ear for music and are creative, they can make good money by becoming a RJ.
"Beginners get around Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month and if they become popular their salary keeps multiplying. I know a RJ who is earning Rs 75,000 a month," says Simran Kohli, who has been in the industry for 12 years.
But Simran, who works with Big 92.7 FM, says that being a host is not a cakewalk. She stresses that clarity of speech, good command over English and Hindi and an ability to express oneself in words is a must to be a good radio host.
"Most RJs write their scripts themselves. So it is very important for them to be articulate. Awareness is also very important. They have to introduce new topics everyday and weave their show around it," she adds.
Siddhant, who hosts three shows on Big FM - "Big Request", "Radio, Gaadi and Makaan" and "Salaam-e-Ishq", says: "If you are honest with your listeners they are going to love you.
"If I am upset or irritated with something, I share it with my listeners, and this kind of sharing keeps them interested because real life is more entertaining than anything else.
"But, yes, at the same time we have to be very cautious and alert in the sense that we shouldn't offend anybody with our comments," he notes.
Nabojit Kuila, director sales at Radio Indigo, has a word of advice for wannabe hosts.
"Usually youngsters looking for a shortcut to fame opt for the RJs job. But I feel those who are passionate about music should consider it as a career option. It is not for those who want to be a CEO in the long run because it is a narrow field. Money-wise too it doesn't match up with other jobs," he said.
The transformation from AM (amplitude modulation) channels to FM (frequency modulation) channels has marked a revolution in the radio industry.
It underwent a sea change after 2000, when the government formally announced the auction of 108 FM frequencies across 40 cities. Some popular FM channels are Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM, Red 93.5 FM, Radio city 91.1 FM, BIG 92.7 FM and Radio one FM 94.3.
"This is boom time. Quite a few new channels are coming. It is an exciting career also because people don't know you by face. They are familiar with your name and voice so there is a sense of anonymity and mystery," remarks RJ Ayushman, winner of reality show MTV Roadies 2.
Most RJs have to undergo a training session after clearing the selection process. But with a boom in the industry, many radio-training institutes are mushrooming to help youngsters go on air from the very first day.
All India Radio (AIR) offers a two-month in-house training course to its RJs. The Take One Academy of Broadcasting in Chandigarh gives its students a chance to present a show on the local AIR channel once a week.
Further, the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) offers internships with radio channels like Radio Mid-Day, Red FM and Radio Mirchi as part of its one-year graduate programme in Broadcasting Management.
The Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai, also conducts a course on radio broadcasting.
The current size of India's radio industry is Rs 5 billion and according to a report by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), it will see a 28 percent growth and become an industry of Rs 17 billion by 2011.
"Cities are saturated and so now radio channels are reaching out to smaller towns. And that means more demand for trained jockeys," explains Simran, who also runs her own radio academy in New Delhi.
Besides youngsters, celebrities like Rajeshwari Sachdev and Mona Singh are also doing radio shows.
Radio's popularity can also be estimated from the fact that many big brands have moved on to radio for advertisements. Apart from them, filmmakers too are tying up with radio channels for pre-release publicity. For example, producer Yash Chopra has recently tied up with BIG 92.7 FM for his forthcoming release "Tara Rum Pum".