'We are an urban metro player and will be operating in seven crucial markets' : Vishnu Athreya - Radio One VP programming and brand

Radio One has changed its positioning from a niche to a mass station. With help from BBC which picked up a 20 per cent stake in the venture, the focus now is to have a presence in seven big markets - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune and Ahmedabad.

Introducing the 'masti fatafaat recipe,' Radio One has introduced a 20-20 format with the promise of quick masti delivered through 20 minutes of infotainment.

In an interview with's Nasrin Sultana, Radio One VP programming and brand Vishnu Athreya elucidates that this is not a mere 'winning the number' strategy but would provide differentiation from rival stations.


Why did Radio One shift its position from being a niche to a mass station?

We were the single station providing only English music. It allowed Radio Mid-Day (later renamed Radio One) to be the niche and differentiated station in the market. But we were catering to only a segment of the listeners and were operating only in Mumbai. When we acquired license for seven stations, we thought why not go for the mass station positioning so that we can cater to the needs of all the people.

What does Radio One stand for now?

We are an urban metro player and will be operating in seven crucial markets. And we have built the young, fun element to it. We were well received in Mumbai. In Bangalore, we were the first station to have a Kannada platform and tasted great success. We took some amount of time in Delhi which is a different market and has a high rate of loyal listeners, making it difficult for new entrants.

How has BBC helped in evolving a strategy for Radio One?

They have contributed at multiple levels - as investors with 20 per cent stake and in providing content. They are also involved strategically with the venture.

What has BBC's contribution been in terms of content?

BBC content definitely acts a push-up for us. They provide us BBC Ek Minute and BBC EK Mulaqat. While BBC Ek Minute provides infotainment every 20 minutes in the new 20-20 format that we have introduced, BBC Ek Mulaqat has Sanjeev Srivastava, the Hindi news editor of BBC, conduct interviews of famous personalities who are not just Bollywood celebrities.

Could you tell us more about how you arrived at your current format?

We conducted a detailed study of the market and found out that listeners know how to differentiate between qualitative and quantitative content. We designed the format according to the requirements of the listeners' information, humour, music and RJ talk/contest. The new 20-20 format with the tagline 'Masti Fataafat' is really a mixture of fun, information and music. Listeners will get to hear two to three hit songs (including a classic), humour capsules of Lallan Talkies, Ehsaan Faramosh and Hema Aunty Ke Tips and a one-minute break away of infotainment news from BBC. Besides, there is the regular jock talk and contest. What we promise is a 20 minute of refreshment. We are not saying that this is the best format. But, yes, we are experimenting with the format based on our research. We are clearly differentiated.

Why is it that all the FM stations are suddenly hooking on to the fun element?

I think we are all stressed out in our work. What everybody needs is refreshment and fun. When somebody tunes into FM, he expects to get refreshed.

Do you think listeners tune in to a particular station because that station provides him a particular format?

Listeners get accustomed to the kind of music and content that a station provides. This is the biggest differentiator. We, for instance, got Srivastava to interview Rahul Dravid during the cricket match in BBC Ek Mulaqat. And we got good response from all over the place.

'The new 20-20 format with the tagline 'Masti Fataafat' is a mixture of fun, information and music. With this positioning, we are confident that the growth cycle will be good for us'

Has BBC's participation made a difference to Radio One in terms of listenership and ad revenues?

The industry is still at a nascent stage and the market has just started to grow. But I am not the right person to comment on our revenues. We are definitely growing as a product and this is getting reflected in our rapid growth in listenership base. With the new format and the `Masti Fataafat' positioning, we are confident that the growth cycle will be good for us.

Could you elaborate on your popular shows BPO Nites and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki?

BPO Nites and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki introduced in Delhi station got us huge listeners. BPO nites is a late night show. The RJ visits a particular spot in Delhi and hosts the show live. The Delhi-Gurgaon -Noida belt is inundated with BPOs and call centres. Our show caters to these listeners. It gives them this feeling that somebody is still awake to talk and listen to them.

Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki was initially launched to meet the need of estate-agents. Now our contracts with the agents, who were sponsoring the show, are running out. But we will continue with the show. It is unique in that it talks about the current real estate scenario in Delhi. Real-estate agents give tips on when to invest and when to sell property.

Do you think that the music industry is charging too high for the content?

Till date, we have no complaints.

Almost all the FM stations are positioned as CHR (contemporary-hits-station). Do you think this boosts up the sales of music industry and music gadgets like ipod?

People of the music industry claim that FM stations have eaten up their market because we provide them with the contemporary hits. But I do not agree to this. In fact we boost up their sales. Films like Jhoom Barabaar Jhoom, Tara Rum Pum have performed badly at the box office but the music has done good business. The credit for this should also go to the FM radio stations. We conduct contests, air songs and promos and have hot interviews with celebrities which pull listeners to the music of the film. The music industry in India is tremendously benefited by us.

FM stations have made youth develop a liking for Indian music. Earlier the college goers and music lovers would always go back to the western music. Now FM stations provide an option. Music lovers are contended with Bollywood music. Why go to Britney or Jlo when they get a better option? FM stations should be credited for popularising Bollywood music in India.

Do you agree that the programming in all the radio stations is cluttered?

There is a great need for differentiation in the content. What all of us are providing is music. The listener is not even bothered about the station he is listening to. Down south, when I asked a couple of people which FM station they were listening to, they weren't able to say which one. So it is the broadcaster's responsibility to create differentiated and unique content.

The current ILT (Indian listenership track) report by MRUC says that the listenership growth has stagnated. What do you think of this?

I am aware that the growth is not so high. Please consider that this is a completely new industry in India. We are just five-six years old. Some of us are much younger than that. We will need some time to grow and mature. You can't compare it with the robust TV or the film industry in terms of consumers.

If you go through the ILT report and compare the last two waves, you will notice that Radio One has gained listeners as compared to other stations. We have lost a good amount of listeners when we had to shift our frequency to 94.3 FM. Now we are gaining as the ILT data shows.

When are you launching your three remaining stations?

We will soon launch in Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Pune to complete our network of seven stations.

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