Alpha readies to woo Gujarati hearts

MUMBAI: Zee's regional offering, Alpha Gujarati, is getting ready to tackle the enigma that is the Gujarati viewer.

While Gujarat accounts for one of the highest number of cable and satellite home connections in the country, its viewership of regional channels remains abysmal. One of the peculiarities of Gujarat is its affinity for Hindi mainstream channels and contribution to the high TRPs that go to make the success story of 'saas bahu' sagas; a trait which Alpha Gujarati business head Vidyadhar Khatavkar attributes to the 'adoptive' mentality of the Gujaratis.

The four year old satellite channel from the Alpha herd has now decided to step away from the sitcom and soap routine that had been thus far employed to entice the native Gujarati population. "10 of our shows, which feature in the top 20 in Gujarati channels, are all interactive shows," says Khatavkar. The top rated show on the channel is Aapni Rasoi, an interactive cookery show.

Analysing the peculiar mindset of the Gujarati viewer, Khatavkar says it is the more mature audience (age group 34+, male and female) which tunes into regional channels, while the younger set prefers Hindi satellite channels. Post 9.30 pm, it is de rigour to find audiences switching to mainstream channels, changing prime time definitions for the Gujarati channels in a huge way.

Alpha Gujarati has now decided to leverage its infotainment and current affairs programmes, leaving entertainment a mere 20 per cent of the programming mix. While the channel attempts to unravel what appeals to the quintessential Gujarati viewer, it has already launched and plans to unleash experimental genres on viewers. An interactive comedy Aap Hasao Gujarat Ne and an interactive show Ek Diwas Gammat No are already on air. Soon to launch is a travel show that will showcase family experiences of travel, both domestic and overseas. "The Gujarati mindset is changing," says Khatavkar. "While earlier he used to earn and save, now he is willing to spend, travel...even if he sticks to his kind of food!"

Top 20 shows across Gujarati channels in February 2004-

Program Channel
DHAT TERI KI ETV Gujarati 2/8/04 3.74
AAP NI RASOI Alpha Gujarati 2/5/04 1.65
JAI GANGA MAIYA ETV Gujarati 2/13/04 3.32
DHAT TERI KI ETV Gujarati 2/22/04 3.61
MASI MAA ETV Gujarati 2/27/04 1.01
AAP NI RASOI Alpha Gujarati 2/24/04 1.16
AAP NI R Alpha Gujarati 2/14/04 1.94
VAGDA NA PHOOL ETV Gujarati 2/8/04 2.63
AAP NI RASOI Alpha Gujarati 2/10/04 2.17
HEADLINE NEWS Alpha Gujarati 2/5/04 1.5
AAP NI RASOI Alpha Gujarati 2/6/04 1.57
GFF MAA BAAP NE BHOOLSO DD11 Gujarati 2/22/04 7.1
DHAT TERI KI ETV Gujarati 2/15/04 5.45
HEADLIN Alpha Gujarati 2/7/04 2.84
AAP NI RASOI Alpha Gujarati 2/7/04 3.08
SAU DADHA SASU NA ETV Gujarati 2/11/04 1.96
GFF BHAGAT NARSINH MEHTA ETV Gujarati 2/14/04 3.24
AAP NI RASOI Alpha Gujarati 2/13/04 1.85
HEADLIN Alpha Gujarati 2/6/04 2.06
SAU DADHA SASU NA ETV Gujarati 2/13/04 1.92

Regional programming needs to be value based to succeed, he argues. So, instead of concentrating on entertainment led soaps, the channel plans to launch an interactive show that will hear consumer grievances and try to resolve them with the aid of an expert panel. Alpha Gujarati has also beefed up its news room, increased the number of news bulletins from two to nine daily, set up a local studio manned by 65 news people in Ahmedabad, armed with three robotic cameras and an editing studio with two editing suites. All of which has taken up a considerable chunk of the channel's annual budget, but which Khatavkar believes, will reap huge dividend in the months to come in terms of brand loyalty.

The interest in news and current affairs in Gujarat could also have been spiked by the spate of natural and manmade calamities that have marked Gujarat in the last three years, and the channel is capitalising on the interest. It is also catering to the native sense of business with Aap No Dhando, a business related feature that will showcase unusual career options, business ideas and the like.

Among the Alphas, Gujarati has a long way to climb. By steering clear of the beaten path and trying experimental genres, however, it has already charted its course.

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