Radio segment continues to transform itself to provide new age content: Ashit Kukian, CEO, Radio City

FM Radio, Radio city, Online radio, digital radio, social mediaRadio is a powerful medium, that has the power to not just entertain but also inspire and bring people together.

Radio City is the first private FM radio station of India, launched 19 years ago and continues to lead the FM radio segment. the launch of FM Radio, revived the Radio industry and offered it a new lease of life. Financial Express Online spoke to Ashit Kukian, CEO, Radio City to understand how Radio as a medium has grown exponentially over the years. Ashit brings more than two decades of cross functional media, entertainment, and management experience to the role to drive continuous business improvement and help exceed the revenue and profitability objectives. Excerpts:

With the industry increasingly moving towards the digital medium, what are the steps you have taken to expand your digital offerings?

Radio City has always been a step ahead, in terms of adapting to the latest trends across the world. In 2010, way before the widespread popularity of the digital medium, we launched our first internet radio station Radio City Fun Ka Antenna. We have evolved in the last eleven years to offer 18 web radio stations, with their own unique and fresh regional content today.

Through our website www.radiocity.in, one can also tune to their preferred radio station and choose from our 39 locations and listen to quality video interactions of our RJs with leading celebrities. The site additionally offers a wide range of entertainment, ranging from podcasts to quizzes to the latest entertainment news. We are also well aware of the great reach of social media and have actively tapped into the portal to bring the best of radio to the virtual world. Our agile content ranges from trendy reels to influencer tie ups, to video interactions with the biggest celebrities across the country. With Radio City’s legacy continuing through the digital medium as well, we are now providing the best well rounded entertainment content.

Take us through the journey of Radio City, which has today transformed it into the country’s leading radio station.

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, we were the first FM broadcasters across the country. With unique and pathbreaking content, we have managed to reinvent ourselves continually. Through the years, we have provided our millions of listeners with just the right kind of wholesome entertainment. Through our well-established presence across big and small cities in the country, we have set new benchmarks for radio content, winning the most prestigious radio awards such as Golden Mikes, India Radio Forum, New York awards, ACEF awards, etc.

Radio City has been a pioneer in the field, with our properties being the premier entertainment destination across the country. According to an AZ Research Report, Radio City reached out to over 69 million listeners in 34 cities in 2019. We are now present across 39 stations, and continue to uphold this legacy, through diverse offerings. As the pandemic continues to change the world, we have brought forth our best shows and digital initiatives, to provide our customer base across the country exceptional content and comfort through our medium.

How do you see radio integrating with other new age media in the coming years?

We have always believed in being the frontrunners in everything we offer. Hence, at Radio City, we began expanding upon the digital domain more than a decade ago, integrating our content across different mediums to offer the very best. While we continue to enhance our social media footprint which is already huge and continues to add to our virtual offerings amidst the pandemic, we have ensured that the essence of our brand remains intact. For us, integration is not just mapping our presence across various mediums, but also ensuring the exceptional content is far reaching while remaining unique and localized.

Tell us about the recovery of the radio segment in 2021, after the uncertainty posed by the pandemic.

The Radio segment continues to transform itself to provide new age content that is relevant to customers and is well on its way to not just recovery, but also growth. At Radio City, with our multiple new properties and digital expansion, we have been able to witness a recovery rate of about 90%, when compared to pre-covid times. A perceptive medium, radio has the capacity to evolve swiftly and offer the very best to consumers everywhere. As the country’s leading radio channel, we are actively playing a huge role in this shift, and are all set to bounce back stronger, through our innovative marketing strategies.

How have you, as a radio channel, innovated to stay ahead of the curve in recent times?

Radio is a powerful medium that has the power to not just entertain but also inspire and bring people together. The pandemic was a sensitive time, and we ensured we brought out the best content to help our listeners sail through the tough tides. Our aim was to not just entertain, but to do our part in helping the community overcome the pandemic together. Radio City remained an extremely relevant medium through properties like ‘Radio City Bazaar’, which acted as a ‘vocal hub for local vyaapar’, giving quality financial and entrepreneurial advice, at a time when many across the country faced not only emotional, but also financial distress. We were able to promote many small and home-grown businesses through this property.

We also launched timely initiatives such as ‘Radio City Pe Scam’, featuring Pratik Gandhi, to urge citizens to get vaccinated on priority. Radio City’s legacy show, Super Singer has launched  its thirteenth season and remains as popular as ever during the present day. With Kailash Kher returning as a judge once more, the historic property has been remoulded to become digital, keeping the pandemic in mind. Its virtual finale aired on 26th September, on radiocity.in.

FM Radio, Radio city, Online radio, digital radio, social mediaAshit Kukian, CEO, Radio City

You have introduced an exciting range of new IPs recently. Please expand upon how these new offerings fit into your marketing strategy.

Many of our new IPs feature a variety of out of the box content, an example being the property revolving around lighthearted couple banter ‘Aji Sunte Ho’, with famous couples such as Karenvir Bohra and Teejay Sidhu as guests. An integral part of our marketing strategy is also to bring motivating and intuitive content, especially during a time when the audiences need laughs, motivation, and quality content more than ever. Responding to the same, we have brought sensitive and life-changing shows that have not just entertained audiences but provided a new perspective. An example of our exceptional content in the post covid world is ‘Little Shots’, which was all about boosting listeners’ morale. It showcased celebrities sharing the life changing experience of being diagnosed with COVID-19, and their inspiring recovery stories.  The property featured celebrities like Sanjeev Kapoor, Urvashi Dholakia, Shantanu Maheshwari, and Rohan Joshi among others. Similarly, through shows like Velaikaaran in Chennai, which features extraordinary stories of people with highly unusual jobs, we are bringing the best regional content to enhance our pan India appeal.

Radio City enjoys a listener base of millions. Tell us about the evolving audience preferences in the years you have been in the industry.

Through the years, we have consistently maintained our position as the number one channel in the country’s biggest cities. The same is a result of our consistent commitment to good music and wholesome entertainment. These are two constants that are always bound to attract listeners, and we have continually provided the best of both over time, which has made us extremely popular with listeners across our 39 stations. Our music strategy is also based on extensive research undertaken by us. We share socially relevant information, and are conscious of our impact across the country, and audiences today have continued to accept our path-breaking content, as we raise the bar for radio.

By when do you expect to see pre-covid engagement levels for the sector?

Post the festive Ganesh Chaturthi season, we have witnessed over 90% of pre-covid engagement levels. While the pandemic has slowed down the world significantly, factors that have contributed to the recovery of the segment include increased consumption of media amidst the lockdown, and the community driven spirit of radio. This has created opportunities for leading entities in the field, to continue innovating and to bring the best of the portal to the forefront Marketers in the domain too, continue to push for dynamic content that is far reaching, to enhance consumer offerings. At the current rate, radio will soon bounce back in a few months to record pre-covid engagement levels.

What was the kind of response you received from Radio City Super Singer this year, considering that it is one of the most popular singing shows in the country? Tell us what was different about Season 13.

Radio City Super Singer has been one of the most popular reality shows of the country, with engagement levels often greater than the highly visual medium of television. Through the years, its legacy has been enhanced with the discovery of some of India’s brightest singing talents. Judges like Kailash Kher have lent their special touch to the show, with the Padma Shree awardee returning to the property for the second consecutive season. Season 13 has taken the legacy further, adapting with the times, which is well reflected through its tagline ‘Ab lagega singing ka naya dose, Radio City Super Singer 13 par’. Our finale this season was a  virtual one, as we continue to put our listeners’ safety first. The finale was witnessed by approx. 2000 people on September 26th on www.radiocity.in and the campaign garnered an exposure of 10.23 crores nationally.

What role will social media influencers have in the future?

Social media coupled with radio will dominate brand communication for clients given its potent combination. Hence it is the future of the business, and social media influencers will play a huge role in steering this shift. They are one of the most important factors in bringing new business, as consumers continue to transition to the virtual medium. However, RJs will always retain their larger role in the ecosystem. Their wide connection and credibility continues to generate high engagement levels even on social media, playing an integral role in radio’s future.

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