Radio players should invest in streaming services & podcasts to resonate with GenZ: Ashit Kukian

In an exclusive conversation with BestMediaInfo, Ashit Kukian, CEO, Radio City, said that collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders, advertisers and measurement agencies can facilitate the establishment of benchmarks and best practices, enhancing transparency and reliability in assessing campaign effectiveness

Sakshi Sharma
New Update
Radio players should invest in streaming services & podcasts to resonate with GenZ: Ashit Kukian

Ashit Kukian

The recommendations put forth by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) addressing the major challenges within the radio industry was met with a sense of relief among private FM radio players last year. These suggestions have kindled optimism, fostering an expectation for the industry to not only overcome existing obstacles but also to flourish further.

TRAI recommended a series of reforms for the FM radio sector including the removal of an avoidable clause on annual licence fees, enabling private FM radio players to create news and current affairs programmes and making it mandatory for mobile handset companies to offer in-built FM radio.

Ashit Kukian, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Radio City, asserted that if these recommendations are implemented, it will be beneficial for the radio industry in many ways as these initiatives will collectively pave the way for enhanced revenue and heightened visibility.

While highlighting Radio City’s growth over the past year, Kukian in an exclusive conversation with BestMediaInfo said that in the fiscal year 2023, Radio City not only demonstrated robust financial growth, marked by an 18% surge in revenue to Rs 198.9 crore and a substantial 54% increase in EBITDA to Rs 42.8 crore, but also showcased innovation through its 'Radigitalization' strategy. This strategic approach, emphasising high-quality content and audience engagement, played a pivotal role in the company's success.

“Moreover, Radio City stands out in the industry with the introduction of ‘RC gennarative,’ offering personalised content experiences, while also boasting the highest number of digital intellectual properties (IPs) in the radio sector,” Kukian said.

“The company's commitment to regional engagement is evident through its robust presence on social media handles and a focus on linguistic regional content. As Radio City looks towards 2024, the convergence of financial strength, innovative technologies and regional content strategies positions the company for sustained growth and influence,” he added.

While speaking about plans for further expansion, Kukian said that Radio City currently operates in 39 cities across 12 states in India and expansion considerations are a part of the channel's strategy to continually enhance market reach. Moreover, Radio City will continue to increase its presence through collaborative tie-ups with other radio players wherever the channel is not present.

On being asked what sets Radio City’s content apart from other industry players, Kukian emphasised that the radio station has an innovative content strategy that reflects its position as India's inaugural private FM radio broadcaster.

“Our brand's commitment to local cultures, encapsulated in the philosophy "Rag Rag Mein Daude City," showcases a unique connection with our audiences across diverse regions. The recent introduction of #CityKiNayiVibe and an engaging jingle caters specifically to the vibrant Gen Z demographic, aligning the station with contemporary trends,” Kukian said.

Furthermore, he went on to say that Radio City's impact extends beyond entertainment to include socially relevant and impactful programming, demonstrated by a partnership with the Jagran Institute of Management and Mass Communication (JIMMC), bridging the gap between theoretical learning and practical radio operations.

“Embracing digital platforms through the "Radigitalization" strategy further positions our channel as an industry leader, providing holistic solutions to both advertisers and listeners. Strategic collaborations with cricketing teams, initiatives like #CityKiNayiVibe, Radio City Business Titans, and the IPs like Radio City Freedom Awards, Radio City Super Singer and Radio City and Mid-Day Hitlist OTT Awards highlight our brand's versatility, ensuring a captivating and dynamic experience for audiences all over,” he added.

In the industry, there's been talk about how a channel's effort to be more personal might clash with the use of AI-led radio jockeys. Kukian shared his thoughts on finding a middle ground between these two and how he believes it will influence the future of radio broadcasting.

The introduction of AI Radio Jockey 'Sia', by Radio City, has met with enthusiasm from the audience, marking a significant innovation in Radio City's approach to content delivery. AI RJ 'Sia' has brought a unique blend of curated playlists and personalised recommendations, enhancing the overall music experience for listeners. Her role as an AI-driven RJ in the non-fiction show 'Say Na SIA' has garnered positive feedback, with audiences appreciating the wealth of lesser-known insights and captivating narratives she brings to the airwaves.

“In terms of our radio channel’s overall performance, the inclusion of AI technology has highly contributed to the station's progressive and forward-looking image. While AI-driven RJs offer efficiency and personalisation, the essence of human connection and emotional resonance remains integral to radio broadcasting,” Kukian said.

Furthermore, he said that striking a balance involves leveraging AI to enhance content curation while ensuring that the warmth and authenticity associated with human RJs are preserved.

“The future of radio broadcasting is likely to witness an evolution where AI and human elements complement each other. AI can handle repetitive tasks, streamline content recommendations and provide data-driven insights, allowing human RJs to focus on deeper emotional connections, creative storytelling and live interactions. This symbiotic relationship between technology and human touch is poised to shape a dynamic and engaging future for radio, offering audiences the best of both worlds,” Kukian added.

Kukian emphasised that from April to November 2023, real estate/properties, pharma/healthcare, and automobile categories have emerged as the frontrunners in radio advertising, collectively commanding a substantial 40% share of ad volumes.

Following closely are consumer durables, foods/soft drinks and finance, contributing to a 20% share of ad volumes. It's worth noting that the top 10 sectors together hold a significant 75% share of ad volumes during this specific period.

“We have actively collaborated with clients across various categories, including real estate/properties, pharma/healthcare, finance, automobile, retail, services, education and public sector companies. Anticipated growth in radio advertising volumes is expected to come primarily from Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets. Sectors such as retail, e-commerce, real estate/properties, education and services are likely to contribute significantly, along with the established top sectors in the radio industry,” Kukian added.

He also shed light on the factors that have caused the decline in government advertising on radio channels in the past few years, saying that this can be attributed to factors such as a shift to digital platforms, budget constraints and a lack of awareness about radio's relevance and effectiveness. To address this trend, collaborative efforts are needed.

“The radio industry is jointly raising awareness through various campaigns, offering tailored solutions, providing research insights and collaborating with government agencies for effective communication. Closely working with the government and policymakers, advocating and encouraging government spending on radio advertising. By working together, the industry and government can revitalise radio advertising, ensuring impactful communication with the public,” he added.

While highlighting some of the biggest challenges the radio industry is facing today, Kukian said that one notable hurdle is the struggle to resonate with GenZ, particularly teenagers, in the digital age.

“This generational gap presents a crucial challenge for the industry, given that engaging with young adults is vital for sustaining its future as an influential medium. To collectively overcome these challenges, radio stations should invest in streaming services and podcasts,” Kukian said.

“Interactive content, social media and data analytics for individualised experiences boost engagement. Industry collaboration and best practices are vital for overcoming problems. Strategic marketing stressing radio's local connections and tailored content can change attitudes and attract a varied audience. Technological adaptability and collaboration can help the radio industry survive in the changing media landscape,” he added.

Kukian also pointed out that effectively measuring campaign effectiveness is another big challenge for the radio industry but strategic approaches can be adopted to navigate this hurdle and ensure sustained growth in the advertising sector.

Firstly, employing advanced analytics and data-driven insights can provide a more comprehensive understanding of audience engagement, allowing advertisers and radio stations to gauge the impact of campaigns. Additionally, the industry should focus on developing standardised measurement metrics and methodologies to create a consistent framework for evaluating success across various campaigns.

“Collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders, advertisers and measurement agencies can facilitate the establishment of benchmarks and best practices, enhancing transparency and reliability in assessing campaign effectiveness,” Kukian said. 

Embracing innovative technologies, such as AI-driven analytics and attribution models, can further refine measurement processes. By addressing these challenges collectively and proactively, the radio industry can strengthen its position in the advertising sector and foster sustained growth,” he added.

Meanwhile, he also highlighted that in response to the government's rate revision for advertisements on private FM radio stations, Radio City has experienced significant adjustments in its advertising revenue structure. With this, Radio City is likely to see a positive impact on its revenue, aligning with the recommended rates by the rate structure committee.

“The adjustment, reflecting a substantial increase in the base rate to account for rising costs between December 2015 and March 2023, not only ensures parity with current market rates but also benefits over 400 community radio stations in operation across the country. The continued use of the existing pricing formula further enhances the revenue potential for Radio City and other private FM radio stations, considering factors like city population and listenership data,” he said.

Furthermore, he said that the recent recommendations from TRAI for the FM radio sector present a promising outlook for private FM radio players in India. The removal of an avoidable clause on annual licence fees alleviates financial burdens, providing private players with more resources for content creation and technological advancements.

“Allowing private FM radio players to create news and current affairs programs opens avenues for diversified and engaging content, potentially attracting a broader audience base. The mandatory inclusion of in-built FM radio in mobile handsets ensures greater accessibility, expanding the reach of private FM radio. These reforms collectively create opportunities for increased revenue, station expansion and heightened visibility, fostering a more vibrant and dynamic landscape for private FM radio players,” Kukian said.

categories TRAI recommendations TRAI campaign FM Radio ad rates challenges revenue real estate campaign effectiveness measurement healthcare pharma GenZ digitisation Radio City Ashit Kukian Growth