03 June 2023 14:34


MediAvataar India Leadership Talk - B Surendar, COO and Director of Red FM Network

From a listener’s perspective , the recent pandemic has proved beyond doubt the credibility and relevance of Radio: B Surendar tells MediAvataar India

Here’s the full Q & A:

1 . The media landscape is changing rapidly . How relevant is Radio in today’s context ?

From a listener’s perspective , the recent pandemic has proved beyond doubt the credibility and relevance of Radio . Whether it is creating awareness , allaying fears , connecting people to essential services or simply entertaining the public , radio stations and RJ’s have played an irreplaceable role . Not for nothing , Radio is considered the go-to medium during major calamities ever since it came into existence in the 1920’s . It’s not surprising that both in India and abroad , research surveys indicated a sharp jump in overall listenership during the pandemic peak .

And from an advertiser’s perspective , after a covid related hiccup in year 2020 things are returning back to normal rapidly with the healthy growth of 2021 expected to continue at least till 2024. Globally , unlike Print media which has seen a dip , other traditional mediums like Radio , TV , OOH , etc have shown tremendous resilience in the light of the digital media onslaught (which only gained more speed during the pandemic).

Radio players across the world are learning to not just survive but thrive by leveraging the audio and digital revolution that is happening around us. Hence it goes without saying that working seamlessly on Radio , BTL , Digital , Podcasting , Music streaming , Content syndication , etc is the only way to face the future and thankfully we seem to have the creative talent and enterprise to do just that

2 . Tell us how has the FM Radio industry has evolved over the years in India ?

In spite of its late arrival in India , FM Radio industry has done creditably well over the past 20 years . They say that there is a good in every bad , delayed launch also meant that it coincided with the mobile revolution in India with FM becoming an integral part of the mobile handset which in turn helped its connect with the youth in particular and also fast tracked its overall growth .

Crippling issues like the steep licence fees in the initial years followed by the high music royalty payments a little later cropped up but got sorted out before it was too late enabling a strong double digit growth in the past 12 years or so except for the covid interruption.

The main genre in Radio is the music one and in India most of us are operating in that space though our non-music content like RJ talk (on various topics like movies , music , social/city issues , sports, etc) , Sparklers (Humour capsules , pranks & characters ) , etc have always caught the imagination of the audience who sometimes look at us like an radio GEC channel .

With the kind of positivity and credibility standards radio stations have maintained in India and the responsible role we all had played during the pandemic , we deserve to get access to other genres like News & Current affairs , Live Sports , etc and even more importantly to digital broadcasting options with low entry barriers . More pro-active steps required from the decision makers to explore the full potential of this amazing medium.

3. Radio ads are very memorable and generate excellent consumer recall and a high call to action. Your thoughts?

While the video route to enter the mind space of potential target audience for any brand is highly impactful it is also a lot cluttered , the audio route in comparison is not all that congested . Thus audio messages which connect emotionally and creatively play in the theatre of the audience mind is sure to leave a strong impact. Radio creatives do work , no doubt about that !

If you also develop a unique ‘sonic tune’ which can help the TG connect to your brand instantly, one can derive optimal benefits . The ‘visual imagery’ effect  (i.e if you manage to create visuals thro audio it is supposed to be five times more effective than normal visuals) can also be put to great use for certain ad categories like Auto , Telecom , Durables , etc

On the ‘call to action’ aspect , Radio serves as an efficient last mile reminder to the consumer thanks to its immediacy . That’s exactly the reason why online/offline retail use the medium heavily to either drive traffic to their websites/apps or to ensure physical walk-ins to their shops/showrooms.

4.Is Digital FM, Satellite radio and other game changers like Spotify and Apple Music making a dent on the popularity of FM ?

While these options may look somewhat new to us in India , the most advanced country with the most evolved media industry USA has already seen the traditional radio FM industry co-exist with other audio options like music streaming , podcasting , smart speakers , etc and exploit the new opportunities created by the huge audio revolution . There is space for every audio option to grow as the audio pie is expanding . Also these non-linear audio platforms themselves offer great scope for audio and creative specialists like us to expand our business .

Digital , HD or satellite radio options are not yet available to private FM operators and we are hopeful that we would be given that option sooner than later on industry friendly terms .

5.How has digital and social media opened up opportunities for Radio hosts and stations?

Red FM network stations and our RJ’s along with a few other radio brands were already popular across cities and towns in India as people look at Radio as an intimate one-to-one medium and Radio Jockeys as Friend-Philosopher-Guides whom they can relate to , identify and interact with very easily . In other words , Radio is the original social media which is not new to sharing , caring , story telling or building communities . Interestingly , Facebook had engaged our services on a big project to identify social stories about unsung heroes around a year or so back At the same time , we do focus a lot on major digital platforms and Red FM’s FB pages in Telugu , Kannada , Hindi & Malayalam and our Suryan FM’s Tamil page regularly figure in the Top 5 to 10 Radio FB pages in the world in terms of interaction competing with the very best .

The advent of social media and other digital platforms has surely helped us reach out to existing as well as newer audiences also pitchforking our RJ’s as bigger local influencers on Radio as well as our digital channels .

6 .Standing ovation on completing 4 exciting years of Magic FM Hyderabad. Tell us a bit more about the journey. What is the ‘magic recipe’ behind the adoration and popularity of Magic FM ?

Magic FM , the exclusive retro FM brand in Hyderabad, has captured the hearts and imagination of the public by playing music from the golden era of Tollywood , the 80’s & 90’s, recapturing the magic moments that era’s super stars and mega hit movies . Our Rj’s talk skilfully touch nostalgia emotions of that era including the lifestyle aspects then and make it relevant to today’s context for our primary target audience aged between 30-50 years .

Celebrities of the past and the present era including the revered , legendary singer SPB and the popular stars and music directors have added a lot of value to our content . Our team there is upbeat about the prospects for this emerging brand in the immediate future

7.The Best Businesses Are Built Around Passion. What are your views on this?

Whether it’s about brands , businesses or the small but crucial moments in everyday work life , without passion you cannot build anything significant .

The case for passion is even more stronger for the Media and Radio business which are primarily driven creatively . I strongly believe it is passion which holds back talented people in the radio industry , everything else comes after that

8.On a personal note, what have been the highlights of your career so far? Your key learnings?

I had started my career with highly professional and structured pharma MNC’s like Hoffmann La Roche and Organon which believed in training industry professionals on in depth product knowledge , marketing and communication skills .

Fortunately , I did my management education after some quality work exposure and was so very conscious about how and where I can put to use the my learnings in the B school . One of the biggest takeaways was to look at every management problem you face from a stakeholder’s perspective to get it right and your main objective is to optimise stakeholder wealth keeping highest standards of ethics and integrity in mind .

Though my entire stint in the media industry exceeding 25 years has been exciting with high job satisfaction , the highlights for me are the industry crisis periods in 2001-02 and then in 2008-09 followed by the mother of all the most recent Covid pandemic . To help your people , organisation and industry tide over the crisis by ensuring the neck is always above water is what makes your entire career worth the while !

Read 3612 times Last modified on Tuesday, 23 August 2022 03:44
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