We are competing with technology: Nisha Narayanan

After launches in Jodhpur, Chandigarh and Amritsar to strengthen its presence in Tier 2 markets, Red FM recently launched 2 new stations in Patna and Surat as part of its Phase III expansion plans. With around 70 stations across the nation, Red FM’s focus is more on having a geographical spread across all state capitals rather than establishing multiple stations in a single city. 

Speaking on the new forays, Nisha Narayanan, COO, Red FM, explained, “Starting with Surat is the most natural thing for Red FM because it is a busy and radio friendly market. Moreover, with our presence already in Ahmedabad, Baroda and Rajkot, it made a more strategic business sense to enter Surat.” 

She further said that Red FM is also excited about entering Patna as this will be their first station in Bihar. Speaking about the challenges faced here, Narayanan noted that there is lack of adequate talent, knowledge as well as understanding of the media industry. She intends to fill the talent gap in the radio sector with fresh faces from different spheres of life, who are interested in this medium, and train them as radio is not looked upon as a serious career in smaller markets. 

Narayanan further said, “Although infrastructure isn’t really a problem for Red FM, but basic hurdles where CTI (Common Transmission Infrastructure) is not ready on time is an issue anywhere. The station is yet to launch in Jammu and Srinagar as it is facing delay from the basal side.” 

On local content in radio 

She added that while the aspiration of brand continues across board, local content and local ethos with its own jokes and twang is very significant for Red FM. Moreover, local content helps in getting more listenership. While Red FM has higher listenership from metro cities, the real growth in terms of talent and business is actually from smaller towns, she pointed out. 

According to Narayanan, “Radio, though a small part of the entire broadcast industry, plays an important role in encouraging many regional players. There are several distant markets which are mostly unheard of and getting radio in these markets is very essential as they don’t have any other source of entertainment and information other than radio.” 

On ad rate hike 

Speaking on how the hike in ad rates affects local advertisers, Narayanan said, “The inventories are overflowing, so the only solution is to increase the ad rates and it’s a natural progression. During basic inflation, the ad rates will accelerate without affecting the business because the retailers have understood the value of radio after experimenting with it with great results. Despite the hike in ad rates, retailers have responded very well. The national progression is to increase the ad rates because we can’t increase our inventories.” 

On radio measurement 

Narayanan also heads the AROI committee, which is in talks for introducing a measurement system in radio, which has become essential now with everyone claiming to be No. 1. Narayanan believes that with measurability in radio, the business will increase as it is in competition with newer technology and media such as television and digital, which are measurable. “The radio industry is coming together to get the measurement tool in place and once it comes, it will only help radio and the advertising pie grow,” she added. 

Narayanan also noted that TRAI has been talking about digitisation in radio and it is only a matter of time that radio gets a digital avatar. “However, we don’t have enough receivers in the country and that is a challenge,” she added. 

“Radio is a conventional medium, it will have to stop selling itself as radio, as we are a brand that does events, concerts, and comedy, while being strong on the social and digital platforms. We are selling brands and audio and not just radio, and as long as we understand that and are in tune with technology, then radio is here to stay. Red FM’s competition is not against any other radio station, but we are competing with technology,” she said. 

Red FM has been taking up various social causes and initiatives, and calls itself a proactive entertainer who believes there are several issues in the country that need to be addressed. The FM player has installed vending machines at government schools to provide sanitary napkins to school girls in Kolkata, raised funds for children in Mumbai, raised funds for upbringing of abandoned children in Delhi and so on. 

While attributing the station’s success to its radio jockeys, Narayanan admitted that it is challenging to retain the top position once a brand becomes a leader. “Consistency and moulding oneself with the changing ecosystem, technology and digital evolution is of core importance,” she concluded.

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