''Radio needs to become fashionable'' : Sumantra Dutta & John Catlett

It may have lost the first mover advantage in Mumbai, but Music Broadcast promoted Radio City is brimming with the same confidence of storming the audio market as the three players already in the fray thus far.

A few hours into the station's launch in the city yesterday, COO Sumantra Dutta was ecstatic that the fledgling FM channel was winning kudos for its 'better sound and signal quality' and 'much better reach'. Undaunted by the prohibitive license fees, CEO John Catlett is equally positive that the key to breaking even lies in launching as many stations as possible in the country. 91, says Dutta, was delayed for want of clearance from the aviation authorities as the transmission towers are located on the tallest building in the country. Clearance finally came though on 5 May. Wit, attitude and voice marks the eight DJs who have been handpicked for the channel.

Speaking to's Aparna Joshi, both Catlett and Dutta were categorical that the key to 91's success lay in a smart marketing strategy - one that would create a buzz about the brand and help the humble radio become fashionable, all over again.

Sumantra Dutta, on the channel's USP

We have the entire Star library at our disposal. We will shortly be starting with shows from the library including soaps, quiz shows…the works. The long term strategy is to get people habituated to the channel. We are currently the only 24-hour live FM channel on air. Since we are using the tallest building (Shripati Arcade, Nana Chowk) in the country for our transmission towers, our reach is much better than the other channels - we reach beyond Kalyan on one side, and beyond Dahisar on the other.


John Catlett, on content of FM radio, particularly that of 91

Music by far has been synonymous with FM stations, in all the countries I have worked in the broadcast industry. Although FM content need not necessarily be only popular music, it is what is appreciated the most. However, in some cases, like in Russia some years ago, a block of western classical music inserted between hit music shows, drew a lot of positive response from listeners. Even in developed countries, radio gets an ad spend share of eight to 10 per cent, while the figures for India are less than two per cent. Ever since we started in Bangalore in July 2001, we have managed to increase the figure to nearly six per cent. We are now aiming to take it even higher in the next five years. Listenership figures in Bangalore too have gone up by 60 per cent since the launch of Radio City in Bangalore. Tracking listeners in the absence of a monitoring system remains tough, with awareness low among citizens.

Sumantra'Sumo' Dutta
hn Catlett

Sumantra Dutta, on the strategy employed to wean listeners to 91 FM

We put up pre-launch teasers on hoardings all over the city a week before the launch. On the promotions front, TV leads the charge, with the outdoors being employed for a multiplier effect. Bus backs and bus panels are being employed to ensure recall value, and a Radio City mobile van is doing the rounds of the city. A contest that kicks off on 27 May will give away thousands of radio sets to winners as part of the gameplan to get more young people hooked to the radio habit.

The generation that considers radio old fashioned is gone, and the new one is completely open to fresh ideas. Radio now needs a social stamp of approval, needs to become fashionable and we aim to do that in much the same way as Sony did with the Walkman.


Sumantra Dutta, on advertising on 91

Radio City in Bangalore already has 240 brands on air. In Mumbai, we already have 12 to 15 advertisers on board. Thirty per cent of our revenues are coming from the direct retail market. If direct retailers are able to return to us for continued advertising, it obviously means that advertising on Radio City is effective. Advertising is the only source of revenue for us, and given the high license fees that the government has slapped on us, it could take us six to 10 years to break even.

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