Feature

Going gaga over radio

Why Radio Mirchi is the happiest FM network in India

Soumik Kar

Talk about the perfect radio face. Mumbai RJ Jeeturaaj makes it a point to remain hidden from sight, even when he’s photographed with celebrities. You may see his back, his headphones strategically placed in front of his face, his arms decked with a multitude of beaded bracelets, and his surprising taste in clothes, perhaps an occasional side profile or a view of reflective sunglasses, but you won’t get a glimpse of his face. The Radio Mirchi RJ is so fanatical about staying anonymous that a few months ago, when he performed live in Zurich after winning the Sound of India contest, he wore a cardboard boom box over his head — still, people took it in their stride since the boom box head is the symbol of the International Radio Festival. “Brand Jeeturaaj is very different from Jeeturaaj the person. What you hear on radio isn’t the person,” says Prashant Panday, CEO of Entertainment Network India (ENIL), which owns Radio Mirchi. 

His most popular RJ may shun the limelight, but Panday has no qualms about tom-tomming the company’s achievements. Well, he does have plenty to exult about. With 32 stations across 14 states, Radio Mirchi may be only the third-biggest national player, behind Red FM (47 stations) and Big FM (45), but it is the leader in the Indian radio market, with over 30% revenue market share. More importantly, this 15-year-old subsidiary of Bennett, Coleman (BCCL) group company, Times Infotainment Media, is among the very few profitable FM radio firms in the country, alone accounting for nearly 75% of the industry’s Ebitda. “During my tenure as CEO, we have doubled our revenue compared with the next broadcaster and have perhaps grown our Ebitda five to six times. Our clients are happy with the fact that we are a solutions provider rather than a mere vendor of free commercial time and our shareholders have got good returns on their investment,” says Panday, who has been with ENIL since inception and took over as CEO in 2007. Sounds like a perfect symphony, doesn’t it? So, what accounts for ENIL’s golden run and can it continue winning at the same frequency as the FM radio industry heads towards phase III?

Tuning in

But first, some background. While FM radio in India has been around since 1977, it was the monopoly of the state-owned All India Radio until July 1999, w

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