| Interview with Managing
Director & Chief Executive Officer, Entertainment Network (India)
Limited A P Parigi
share in the ad pie will grow to six or seven per cent in
four to five years"
on 15 January 2004
P Parigi joined the Times group in May 2000, after a stint as CEO
of BPL Mobile, at a time when Indian media was poised at a crossroads.
His shift to media was an unplanned one and one that Parigi admits
was a major shift from a technology driven field to a personality
four years down the line, Parigi has, in his capacity as MD of Entertainment
Network and CEO of Times Infotainment Media, developed the Radio
Mirchi brand as a pioneer in the sector with not many models to
follow and emulate, and has built 360 Degrees, the Times event management
business, into a power brand.
has taken the often frustrating and challenging task of building
a network of radio stations in spite of steep license structures
and government restrictions in his stride. In conversation with
Parigi reminiscises about his years thus far in media and looks
ahead with optimism at the future of the sector.
radio lived up to the expectations around it?
We started Radio Mirchi on 4 October 2001. By June of the same year,
market research was saying, 'Who listens to radio nowadays?' But
by January 2002, the average time spent listening to Mirchi was
123 minutes per day, as compared to 129 minutes of television viewing.
This is India for you, this is media for you, and this also is brand
building for you.
is a huge need out there which we can meet. Radio is a one on one
companion for you. My first learning was that there is a market,
and we were not wrong about the market. From day one, we knew the
revenue would be a problem. We started with 25 team members, today
we have over 250. As of 31 March 2003, we have a share of nearly
50 per cent of the revenues that accrue to private FM.
initially opposed to the word Mirchi, maybe because I was coming
from a managerial, non media background. I thought it would be a
turn off. But this is a unique contribution of Vineet Jain. He said,
"Try it out," so we put it back into market research, and there
again it came only third or fourth in preferred names. But Vineet
persisted. I thought at the time that I would try the name in Indore,
and if it didn't work out, I would try something else. Jain, however,
turned out to be absolutely right. That's the difference in the
two fields - media works on gut feel, telecom doesn't.
But then we found that the rate of growth was not adequate, one
reason was that people had developed cold feet and had started pulling
out. Also, nobody wanted to invest in category development. As a
leader, we also had a certain responsibility - so we started a series
of workshops, in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore for media planners
- Radio Workz.
In a subtle way, we are committing serious resources to these initiatives.
For the Kaan awards, we will have international auditors like PricewaterhouseCoopers
and Ernst & Young, a professional jury, and in two to three years,
we are looking at a very large property.
awards are merely the physical manifestation. What goes unnoticed
is the underlying theme, which is to get the media and the product
owner fraternity to encourage creativity. As in other parts of the
world, radio is a cost effective medium, as the category of private
FM develops, the more Radio Mirchi develops, not the other way round.
that's all going to be possible when the government loosens up some
of the tight regulations….
You know, nowadays it's fashionable for CEOs to take potshots at
the government, because nobody doubts you. But mind you, we have
an enlightened government. My only experience with the present government
was in telecom reforms, but I can say that, when it comes to reform
in radio, they have been very attentive. Yes, they have been a bit
slow, but in any privatisation process, in any country that's run
by a state, don't expect supersonic speed.
industry was as much a party to the bidding process as the government.
Yes, it's a partnership and things do go wrong in a partnership.
Industry overestimated the market, and the difference between those
who continue to be in radio and those who dropped out is that of
the speculative and non speculative. I am not saying I am smarter
than the guy who dropped out.
our intentions, now the government realises it, have never been
suspect. Particularly RS Prasad, whom we met in February and
June had by July, commissioned the task force, that too, headed
by a private sector man. He could as well have appointed a retired
judge or an IAS officer for the job. Not only that, they got the
report out by November, further they have even put it up on the
confident with the speed and transparency with which things have
moved, that the next big bang reform after telecom, which has touched
everybody's life, is radio.
of the taskforce recommendations will provide the biggest impetus
for the growth of the sector?
The first thing is that viability, per se, is now being introduced.
The quarrel around it if at all is how much, how soon and where.
The report is very well worded, comprehensive…yes, some things in
it don't suit us, but then the report is not meant to suit each
individual. As a platform, I think it's solid.
if you ask me to pinpoint any one thing that I would like the government
to re-look into, it's the tenure of the license, because it has
to enrich the viability of the project, so 10 plus five years is
what it should be. What would be advisable for the government is
to have an automatic 15 years -- that would make it an attractive
about the recommendation for a broadcast regulatory authority?
I am all for a regulator. Having raised private equity abroad for
telecom and being associated indirectly with the financial community,
a regulator signals the possibility of a level playing field. But
I would still say the best form of regulation is self regulation.
was initially opposed to the word Mirchi, maybe because I was
coming from a managerial, non media background. I thought it
would be a turn off"
the permission to allow news and current affairs be the cutting
edge factor for Mirchi?
The pedigree of the Times of India will definitely rub off positively.
But I think Mirchi has demonstrated that as a stand alone corporation,
it has been able to face competition.
is Radio Mirchi's USP in a field where almost all players sound
There are several factors which give Mirchi its distinctive look,
but the first that comes to mind is the brand. I think it's a powerful
brand, terrific brand recall and the product offerings that go with
the brand, endorse what the brand stands for. Otherwise sometimes
you can have a great marketing campaign, and the product doesn't
do too well, you can't sustain it.
a tough medium because it's a dynamic medium. This is not television
where you can shoot 14 episodes of a serial and then release it.
The only thing dynamic about television is the news room. Radio
is not like that. Radio is a genuine medium.
I use the word 'superficial', people get scared. But when I say
superficial, I mean, it does not have contextual depth. Like, you
can have a psycho thriller at 1' o clock on television. But the
same won't work on radio. Radio goes by the bio clock. A morning
show, sunrise, and a sunset show. You can't have a psycho show or
a saas type soap, radio can't do that.
just restating what I have learnt, am learning from radio's 50-year-old
history. Morning shows are morning shows, afternoon shows are the
same. You cannot try these things (experimenting, with genres),
I mean, of course, you can try any stupid thing you want. But radio
is essentially about companionship with the listener.
the listeners who really seem to have built a rapport with the medium
seem to be the SEC C and lower down. So where are the advertiser
No. We have a huge youth component. Otherwise, we would have packed
up long back. We are looking at something between the 15 and 34
age group, across all SECs though we are inclined to the A, B and
Cs. See, India is the only country where there's an upper middle
class, a middle middle class and a lower middle class. Nobody has
actually done enough research on this, but each class is aspiring
to be in the bracket above his own.
all this hype about SEC A, B and C is the great idea of media planners.
India is a unique country, where you have single television households
with all age groups watching the same show simultaneously. You have
to understand media. Even I find it difficult after 30 years in
the industry, it's not easy to fathom the Indian viewer, the Indian
Chennai, too, we are a close second. We are jostling. Take Kolkata,
we are 55 per cent ahead of the competition.
advertising, you couldn't get a better medium that's recession proof.
We are the biggest entertainment medium. It's the only medium, again,
that's free to air. I went to Ujjain, near Indore, the other day,
and I was amazed to see even clusters of over 50 unemployed people
listening to a radio set.
is the only country where there's an upper middle class, a middle
middle class and a lower middle class. All this hype about SEC
A, B and C is the great idea of media planners"
But what about radio's share in the ad pie, which has barely grown
from one per cent to two per cent?
I am confident it will grow to six to seven per cent, in four to five
will the players survive till then?
Yes, because the reforms will come in this year. I always assume
do you innovate in radio, in terms of programming?
If you are ready to pay me in dollars, I will give you the answer
a personal level, what brought you into media from telecom?
My shift to media was one of those unplanned moves. When I decided
to leave telecom, somewhere deep down I knew I was going away from
the big bucks. I was looking at doing something totally different.
I had the same feeling when I joined Vineet Jain, as I did when
I had joined Rajeev Chandrashekhar, both of whom were much younger
to me, brighter than I am, but have a lot of respect for professional
me, the word 'start up' in Indian English, means 'managing uncertainty'.
Particularly if you take up a job like I have, switching from a
high platform to a media platform The kind of license fees that
we had, getting into this industry, you needed a belief in oneself
and in the company that you could change things some day. It's a
huge risk, particularly if you make the change when you are 49 or
said that, the scale of operations is much smaller in media. Two,
media involves creativity, and somewhere, it's also very personality
dependent. Telecom is people dependent, but not necessarily personality
dependent, where you are dealing with consumers, clients technology,
proven revenue models. As far as media is concerned, personalities
matter - on air as well as off air. I think I crossed the hump the
very first year and I nearly ran away from radio. But thanks to
Vineet Jain who told me to wait; because it takes time to understand
the medium. Today, for love or for money, I will never leave this
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