AgTalk | We have portable radio stations: Radio Netherlands Worldwide's Amitabh Srivastava
Although government-funded, Radio Netherlands stands apart from official bureaucracy in word and in fact; its multilingual programming is protected by a charter of editorial independence. RNW produces radio, internet and TV for Dutch people abroad but also all kinds of productions for foreign people in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Indonesian, Arab, Papiamento and Sarnami.
RNW already has partnerships with 3000+ radio stations worldwide (especially in the US and Canada, Latin America, Indonesia, Africa, Australia, South Asia.
In an exclusive interaction with Adgully, Amitabh Srivastava, Country Manager - South Asia at RNW, shared his experience with RNW and discussed about the challenges that Radio as a domain is facing today.
Srivastava has been in the media industry for a long time now. Before joining RNW in November 2007, he previously worked as Director - Affiliate Relations at Walt Disney Company, General Manager at TV Today, National Manager at BBC Worldwide, Account Manager at MTV India and Senior Officer at Times TV.
Adgully (AG): You've been associated with Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) for more than five years. How has been the journey so far?
Amitabh Srivastava (AS): Since I have a strong television background wherein I have spent almost 15 years in television with various brands like MTV, BBC, AajTak and Disney, RNW was indeed a new task altogether.
In 2006 when I started by my own, RNW was one of my first assignment and they hired me to do the programme syndication on the FM.
Post this I got few private FM stations which are primarily smaller stations because other big FM stations such as Radio City, Big FM and Red FM all of these are mostly into the metro cities and they only dabble into the Bollywood music which has a region specific programming and doesn't fit into our scheme of things. They don't have the talk radio substance and we were primarily international broadcaster dabbling mostly into the talk radio.
Talk Radio element was very niche and not many takers were there. But, I got few FM stations and after that we did tie-up with IGNOU radio station "Gyanvani' and national hook up with the 41 stations and that was my third deal. Then I got into the cable as well , because through cable also we reach certain number of households, we had a deal with incablenet which had 9 cities hook up in all India level. After that I tried to focus on to new media as there were lot of internet websites which have web streaming music content as well as internet radio.
Two of the major websites with whom we have tie ups are in.com and rediff.com. These two websites use our content such as news and music. After that I decided to step into the mobile service, so in mobile also we have a deal with Reliance Telecom wherein they have the news on html and it's also there in audio format. So, if you go to the R World and if you are Reliance subscriber you can see the Radio Netherland Worldwide on the html as well on the audio and that gave us very good spiel. Post that we launched "Love Matters'- A Sex Education Website.
AG: Give us an insight about your site "Love Matters'?
AS: Love Matters is a great value to a country like India and we are working on it from last two and a half year. We launched this website a year back in English and we are getting an overwhelming response in India, and also trying to reach wider audience with our Hindi website too , which is recently launched . So, we have English website which is www.lovematters.info and www.lovematters.in is the Hindi website. The Hindi website actually became the first website on the sexual education and there's no such website till now. This is not just the translation but the adaptation of the subject in Hindi language. We actually have a dedicated editor in India who is working hard to enhance this website and we do have a team working in Holland. If you see the website, it's quite India sensitive, the top portion of the website says ' Dutch view on sexuality. But in India, we can't go that open about the Dutch view; we have to take care of Indian sensitivity and tradition also and we are very concerned about this fact. Hence we have customized the site keeping Indian sensitivities in mind.
AG: What potential do you see in Love Matters?
AS: We have Reliance with us once again and I am in contact with top 4-5 telecom operators, because we feel that mobile would be the right mode because it is so private and if somebody wanted to have information he/she can actually view the WAP site on their hand held device. We have launched the lighter WAP version also which doing very well. And I certainly see a great future ahead.
AG: How would you describe RNW's growth in today's scenario?
AS: As RNW is a quite well-known Multimedia organisation , we are present in over 80 countries and we work in 12 languages including Chinese and Arabic.
AG: What are you growth targets and plans for 2012?
AS: Currently European economy is going through the down face and as we are state funded there is a huge budget cut that we are facing. It's almost 70 percent and it's a big thing. Lot of regions may would stop and organisation may be drastically downsizing . And the current focus would be the free speech, so we wish to focus only on the areas where the free speech is not there and the two regions that we have shortlisted is the Arabic region and Sub-Sahara region. The reason being for this is that, these are the two areas in the world where the free speech is not that prevalent. Yet, we are in a process of defining our key strategy for 2012. The current focus in India from last 6-7 months is actually Love Matters besides other work that I am doing , anyways .
AG: RNW does not carry any form of advertising neither does it undertake any marketing activity to promote itself.Still we found that it's a strong player in the domain¦
AS: See, we are a state funded company, and we have a limited budget and within that limited budget we have to see that how we optimize that use and also make a difference as far as our presence is concern. I don't agree that we don't advertise, we don't advertise like others because we do not have any radio station but we do program syndication. So, for programmes I don't think advertising is very much required. And with the partners that we work, they do their own promotion anyways, and we are part of it.
AG: According to you in what manner can social media be a enabler in radio industries growth?
AS: In Social media we have a strong presence and we are trying to grow it further. All the flagship programme that I have of my company also have a dedicated fan page including Love Matter, which is growing at very fast pace. And now we are trying to be more interactive on Facebook page and that is getting very good response as well. So, I guess we would stick to the same and will try to publicize this fact so to get more and more people. Social media is there everywhere now, so we would rather take this advantage than doing a hoarding or a radio jingle or doing other cost 'oriented thing.
AG: Where do you see radio industry heading today and what according to you are the factors hampering its growth ?
AS: Radio internationally and globally is a mass medium including India, which everyone can afford and everyone has it. India is a peculiar place where radio is not radio as it's there internationally. Radio in global market is more talk radio, and over here in India we actually use it for Bollywood songs which is not the case globally. The one thing, which is happening since last 5- 7 years is that, Radio is not Radio anymore. People hear radio more in the form of car stereo actually when they are driving. People hear FM channels on their mobile handsets. So, all the new technological advancement is enhancing the radio experience. It's not the transistors or the radio set at home. Radio is progressing and graduating due to the new technology. Most of the people including me hear radio on the internet as well, and now days all the smartphones and I pads have the inbuilt radio app and features. So, there would be a change in radio, but it still remains as the mass medium. How I see radio is that, after phase 3 is implemented and stations has different licenses, I don't think the stations will do the same music again and again. There will be certain innovations and the innovations may be online with the Talk radio element as well.
AG: Where do you see Radio industry 5 years down the line?
AS: With Talk Radio I can see some development happening on the international standard. Five years from now I see Radio will not diminish its value . It would still be the mass medium. The reason is that, each radio station in India is actually running in the periphery of 100kms. If you take any metro city having 13-14 radio stations, each of them depend upon the revenue from the retail market or the local market and everybody plays the same song i.e. the current hit of the time. If I switch 10 different stations I will hear the same song on the 4-5 stations. So, the radio state is not what it should be, it needs to progress and this needs to be changed soon with innovation .
AG: What according to you is the Indian Radio industry lacking today ? How can we change the scenario?
AS: There is lack of interactivity in radio. I mean keeping one RJ and making them talk non-stop for hours is not interactivity. Interactivity is when you participate, and when you actually go down to the field and talk to people and that is what needs the most in the days to come. To get more interactive, they can work on the concept of Talk-radio. From last 5 years I am trying hard to get FM stations into Talk radio but nobody is ready. The reason being for this , that there are 10-15 radio stations in one city and everybody says that if we take a plunge we would actually lose out the potential revenue coming to them , in anyway. Stations say that we don't know how people will react to it and nobody is taking this initiative. If I talk about stations of smaller cities, they are very forth coming and they are ready to take the risk but they are only 2-3 stations that too with limited listenership
AG: Besides listening to music, what other roles can it play ?
AS: The radio content depends upon the countries, as in UK people listen to radio not for song but for the discussion on political arena; there is a lot of listenership for weather. In Europe and UK people hear radio more for radio forecast but here in India it's not the same case. The information need to be authenticated and interactive. People do listen to radio for local issues, offers and happenings and these are the issues which are more prevalent then listening songs.
AG: What are key strengths of RNW?
AS: We have portable radio stations, so if there is any calamity anywhere on the earth we can actually shift those portable radio stations to the destination. We erect the towers and it caters the area of atleast 10kms. So, even during these kinds of situations radio is the right medium to convey the message to the masses. Where there is no electricity no power and the message should be sent across to all the people and that's what we do.
AG: Any advice for young radio professionals?
AS: Innovation is the key, keep technological advancement in mind and do certain innovations in terms of interactivity with the masses. And that is the key which is going to sell like hot cake. Television used to be known as "Idiot Box' because it was one way communication and audiences were just grasping it. We can do live show with the radio where people can participate via mobile and smart devices , also due to technological advancement.
AG: What are the current key partnerships . Any important tie-ups partnerships that you are working on for the year ahead?
AS: We are into internet, mobile, private FM stations, state radio, AIR, university radio, community radio stations.
For Love Matters I am trying to get to certain newspapers and magazines, because each newspaper has this side has dedicated section for relationship and sexual education. We are renowned and have a respectable brand name. Regarding Love Matters, we are very much within the boundaries and for such information we need credible brand name and authenticity as different people may have different opinion on the sexual matter, so how we define the line. Hence we have designed this website post serious research and efforts to make sure that the right message goes across to the masses. We are trying to partnership Hindi or English magazine and newspapers. Also other efforts such as SEO / WEB marketing are on to reach out effectively.