MEDIABRIEF DEEP DIVE with Shivangini Jajoria, National Head Operations – 104.8 Ishq FM

image-Shivangini Jajoria ISHQ FM speaks with MEDIABRIEF in DEEPDIVEShivangini Jajoria is National Head Operations, 104.8 Ishq FM. And has one of the shortest intros on LinkedIN we’ve seen for a professional as experienced as she is, with around 21 years of workex.  She manages a complex structure at 104.8 Ishq FM which, she believes, is a network that’s ‘redefining radio’.

Shivangini has ‘loved being an entrepreneur – creating and building a new-age design and digital marketing company, Lean Hippo Marketers.’ She’s ‘loved marketing and selling the hottest media brand – Radio Mirchi.’

Shivangini has also enjoyed promoting  telecommunications at Airtel and Escotel, as also selling and marketing engine oils with Caltex (Chevron Texaco). So she brings to her work table, excellent experience across a diverse set of companies and initiatives, and a strongly entrepreneurial bent of mind, which stands her in great stead as she sits at the centre of that most demanding  and satisfying area of keeping all operations of a radio network up and running with oiled-smooth ease.

Remember too, that this is a lady who recalls how she started her career as an Assistant Brand Manager with Caltex Oil India Pvt. Ltd., with the words, “When you start your career selling engine oils in transport nagars, amongst truck drivers and automobile mechanics in the remotest of areas, you know you have started it right!”

Shivangini also describes herself as a ‘Creative Thinker’, and ‘an occasional artist who also loves to doodle, sketch, paint and pen down her thoughts’. Well, we invited Shivangini to pen down her thoughts on a wide range of questions, and we’ve up with this interesting DEEP DIVE.

Shivangini, you head operations across 104.8 Ishq FM, which you joined in 2016. The only people who get their slice of fame at a Radio Station or network are the RJs, who would never be able to do any good a job without the support of operations. I mean — Radio, more than any other medium, needs strong operations support for the entire backend production, packaging, technology and other infra that keep a station live and ticking, day after day…

When you have a quality product that becomes the talk of the town as soon as it is launched, and also possesses a host of talented jocks to hold the product together, one does not give oneself the chance to let anything come in between the radio and its listeners. That is the theory I imbibe.

Quick aside, because I’ve seen this happen at many RJ consoles when they are on-air: Does Ishq FM also help fast-talking RJs blabber on at high speed without fumbling because they have the pre-recording facilities to edit out, re-record, and just play the recordings as if they were speaking live on the mic?

Our jocks are live on the station; they put in a lot of work day in and day out to manage the console, the voice, the content,  and deliver live links in a flawless manner.

What we need is a transparent system of measurement and a strong body like BARC for Radio (audience measurement), says Shivangini Jajoria of @IshqFM @shivangini_j @parthodasgupta @BARCIndia @ibf_india Click To Tweet 

We know the important jobs RJs, Creative heads, CEOs and COOs who are defacto CEOs do. As Head of Operations at 104.8 Ishq, what does your job involve?

I am an enabler. My role is to ensure that a great product is created and is marketed well, so that the right listener / audience consumes the product. I ensure the engineering team is up-to-date on the latest trends and innovations in the industry so that when the product is heard, the sound is extremely pleasing to the ears. I try my best to keep the team members happy and motivated.

Keeping the financials in control and the agreements legally appropriate is also an important part of my role.

ENIL (Entertainment Network India Limited) is our Advertising Sales partner. They sell the product that we create. This requires motivating / inspiring my Ishq FM team to create product stories that sell in the market and provide the ENIL team with enough fodder to be able to sell.

image-Shivangini Jajoria ISHQ FM speaks with MEDIABRIEF in DEEPDIVEIn an FM Radio station’s hierarchy, what are the roles of people who report in to the Operations head?

I am a part of a non-hierarchical organization. Most functions work with me. Since most of the team is young, I try and use my experience to guide them and keep them focused on achieving what we are here to achieve. It is a team of various functions.

Operations is a tough ask in a Radio network, especially if attrition at the network is high. How long do youngsters remain with  the network; what’s the attrition like?

As far as attrition in general is concerned, it is not easy to retain youngsters. It isn’t their fault as the current market scenario is such. The pace of things is really fast and the demands of the job on them could be felt as pressure.

However, the beauty lies in how one breaks down this pressure in order to make achievable for them the desired goals, as well as ensure that their creativity and productivity do not get hampered in the process.

What are the worst operations disasters that can strike a radio station? I’m talking about things like power outages, silence on the air and the reasons for it; prolonged rains and monsoon flooding in, say, a city like Mumbai so very low staff at work, technical problems…

Exactly the ones that you have mentioned! It gives me nightmares to even imagine such a state and it does happen in many instances. Sometimes equipment gets the better of us, and nature can be merciless.

I have faced such a situation here. The city saw one of its worst storms, and in a split second, there was nothing to be heard on the station. Emergency measures were taken immediately and the back-up arrangements ensured that the audio was back on. Then the struggle was to find a permanent solution so that the network is protected in the best way possible should such situations arise again.

While the RJ reaches everyone on-air, it is the operations team at a Radio Network that is the real brand ambassador with the personal touch for people and institutions it contacts for its day to day work. How do you ensure your people are well prepared for, and conscious of, the importance of their role with the public?

It depends on both — the process of hiring, and once hired, the training that the team goes through. The team goes through a rigorous training program; one that makes them thorough with the product, the brand positioning, and the brand representation on air and off-air. So far we have had no issues whatsoever with the people in the team – both on- and off-air.

Overall, what are the challenges to maintain the credibility for the station?

Keeping true to the product promise.  At 104.8 Ishq FM, we have maintained less ads and more music – the very promise that we made to the listener in order to keep them engaged and happy!

From a market once comprising 4 to 5 players to the much larger market now, the game has changed. Today, it's about find your niche and still not be there for only a select listener base, says @shivangini_j of @IshqFM Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about Marketing. You handled the marketing of the existing Phase 1 and the launch of Phase 2 stations of the region with Radio Mirchi. When was that, and what was the experience like?

That was in the beginning of October 2006. Based out of Delhi, I handled the marketing of Mirchi stations in the North and the East. This included the launch of many new stations of Phase 2 as well.

Mirchi was the hottest brand then and being a part of it was exciting and challenging at the same time.

The aim was to continue to keep the brand abuzz with fresh entertainment for each city. Radio being a hyper local product, you could not simply replicate marketing ideas. One was always thinking on one’s feet in order to remain connected to the peculiar listener of a particular city. To make sure this happened, I would travel to all my cities quite often to understand the dynamics of each city. It was amazing to be doing this.

How have things, in the way you market a Radio network, changed?

A lot!

From a market once comprising 4 to 5 players to the much larger market now, the game has changed. In today’s scenario, the key is to find your niche and still not be there for only a select listener base. That is exactly what we have tried to achieve at 104.8 Ishq, and we have achieved it to a large extent.

image-Shivangini Jajoria ISHQ FM speaks with MEDIABRIEF in DEEPDIVEIshq is the only station that is based on emotion and not on the era of music. It is India’s one and only Romantic Music Station, and the content on the station appeals to the upwardly mobile audience and makes for a great listening experience.

Another very important change is the importance of being a multi-media brand. Digital is huge today, and Ishq has created some fabulous work that is there to be consumed on the internet. From Calling Karan with Karan Johar to What Women Want with Kareena Kapoor Khan, Ishq has established that it is a team that creates great content – both on its primary medium as well as on Digital.

Shivangini Jajoria: The level of celebs @IshqFM celebs – @KaranJohar, Kareena Kapoor Khan - beyond comparison. For delivering the quality of (celeb) shows we do, kudos to our awesome team. @PavanRChawla @KareenaK_FC Click To Tweet

Also, how has content changed over the years?

10 years ago, content on Radio was super hyper-local. Traffic updates were an essential part of radio programming. Listeners used to call in to share alternative routes in case of traffic jams.

Today, you have Google Maps (smiles)

Life is on the phone, on social media, on YouTube, on apps. So what do we do? We make Radio and its content available on the phone. Ishq and its jocks are on social media, they are on YouTube and soon you will be able to listen to Ishq on your phone – whether you have radio or not!

Today, the equipment on which Radio can be accessed is not limited to the two-in-ones or the car stereo. We, as a radio station, create great content, and we expose it across all media platforms.

image-Shivangini Jajoria ISHQ FM speaks with MEDIABRIEF in DEEPDIVELet’s switch to Industry matters now.  What are the problems with Radio that have remained even today, since the early days?

While Radio, as a medium, has stood the test of time by constantly evolving and adapting itself, there exist certain issues that have not been taken care of.

Radio’s potential is stunted due to the fact that government regulations do not allow the freeing up of available spectrum.

The curbs on the type of content broadcast on Radio is another disadvantage that radio suffers from, unlike the medium of television. In my opinion, News and Sports should be opened to Radio as well.

What kind of synergies do you see between Radio and Music in India? Has the rapport and cooperation between them ever been as good as it can, or should, be? Why do you think that is the case?

Radio and Music go hand in hand. The variety of Music that Radio gives to you, along with interesting content through RJs and sparklers, and NATIONAL and local useful information through ads, makes it a powerful medium. It has been one of the fastest pipelines through which music reaches the listener, and the trivia that jocks share on songs and movies… that makes it even more enjoyable.

Music labels work very closely with the Radio industry. Radio becomes even more important when the music is targeted to particular geographies. In such cases, Radio is the best bet for the Music industry!

 So even though Radio and Music are mutually complementary, they seem to have been at loggerheads for ever on issues like royalties stemming from the Copyright Act. Why don’t both sub-sectors get together to resolve the issue once and for all? Has that been attempted? Is that at all possible?

The Copyright Board order is not followed by every music company. And since the Copyright Board is not in place, this causes a huge issue in the royalties to be shelled out to music labels. This leads to arm twisting by a few labels and that is not a good situation. We need a uniform rate under the statutory license scheme. The industry needs to be on the same page to address and solve it together.

There are historical issues with measurement of Radio. But nobody seems to be doing much about it. What is the scenario there – what is your understanding of the problems in measurement?

The diary method used by RAM is flawed in many ways, and this has been highlighted by various industry players time and again. What we need is a transparent system of measurement and a strong body like BARC India for Radio, though that might be expensive given the much smaller size of Radio compared to Television. The measurement must be basis Day-After-Recall, as that is how the medium (of Radio) works.

image-Shivangini Jajoria ISHQ FM speaks with MEDIABRIEF in DEEPDIVEFor how long will radio stations and networks keep selling themselves purely on perception in the largest parts of India? Aren’t marketing rupees being wasted in the absence of trustworthy, accurate measurement?

We definitely need an appropriate measurement system that is followed by the industry as a whole, and which helps advertisers take better-informed decisions. Having said that, marketing is not a waste of money. Ishq has built itself on the strength of its product and its innovative marketing, and we take absolute pride in it.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that you get from your listeners, the planners and the clients. There is no point in creating a great product and not letting the world know about it.

How do you manage what must be extremely challenging scenarios emanating from super-celebs-driven shows? See, I’m sure the Karan Johar show, which is fabulously created, styled, packaged by the network and brilliantly delivered by Karan himself, must be an operations nightmare! When a superstar like Karan Johar — who, by the way, to my mind, is at his best on his show with your network — unfortunately cannot give you enough time and wants you to complete the entire recording in just a few hours across maybe a couple of days, the preparations your teams have to make at the ground level, with real callers and situations, all discussed with creative heads internally and prepped and timed to call, record, interact and hopefully remain supported by the mobile-broadband-heat-light-power infrastructure… that has to be a crazy job!  How do you manage something like this? Any heartbreak- or thank-God moments?

Shows with celebs are not easy to manage for all the reasons rightly shared by you. This is where people strength comes in to play. Ishq has a fantastic team that is driven to deliver the very best.

Other stations have done shows with smaller celebs, but the level of celebs on Ishq – Karan Johar, Kareena Kapoor Khan – is beyond comparison.

To deliver the quality of the show that we have delivered is all kudos to the awesome team at 104.8 Ishq FM. Sleepless nights, detailing to the T, handling the celebs within the limited number of hours, the sets, the recordings… everything is planned impeccably. Issues still arise, but the beauty is in taking the difficulties as they come and to move on and deliver a great show.

And yes, let me re-iterate to you that you know of the show also because of the marketing monies that we’ve we spent on it.

Who are your favourite presenters on Radio?

I am an old-timer so my Radio days go way back to the time of BQC (Bournvita Quiz Contest) with Derek O’Brien… used to be my favourite show. In the private FM space, my all–time favourite has been Sarthak of Battle of the Sexes fame, who is fortunately now with Ishq! Naved, Sayema, Anant-Saurabh were my other favourites.

Your thoughts, please