Interviews

Indira Rangarajan On Mirchi's Audio Revolution: A Journey Beyond Radio

By Ojasvi Kapoor
September 13, 2023
Indira Rangarajan On Mirchi's Audio Revolution: A Journey Beyond Radio

Indira Rangarajan is the EVP and National Content Director – Digital at Entertainment  Network India Limited (Mirchi)., which involves Original Content, Podcasts &  Communities, Web Radio and Digital IPs. Having spent almost 17 years in various  roles in Radio Mirchi from heading content creation to curating and managing  across multiple stations in India, she has an in-depth knowledge of the Indian  film/non-film content ecosystem.

She has worked closely with labels and  musicians as well as regional and national content creators to design the soundscape  and programming for two distinct brands - Radio Mirchi & Mirchi Love. Her  expedition also involves creating award-winning celebrity shows like Calling Karan &  What Women Want with Kareena Kapoor.

In an Exclusive  Conversation with Loudest.in, she takes us on a journey through her life and shares intriguing insights into the world of Mirchi business.Here are edited excerpts:

Q1.Mirchi has a rich in the radio business, but in 2020, the brand dropped the term 'radio' from its name. Could you elaborate on this decision and how it aligns with Mirchi's expertise in curating content across digital, social, and on-air platforms?

As a brand, we came to a significant realization. Historically, our focus had been primarily on creating content for radio. However, we began to see a shift in our approach. Our talented radio jockeys (RJs) started expanding their horizons by actively sharing content on various social media platforms. This marked a turning point for us as we began to explore content creation beyond the confines of traditional radio broadcasting.

We ventured into the world of YouTube, establishing channels that showcased not just our radio events, but also the diverse range of content we were producing for our clients. This included coverage of events, concerts, and a variety of other programming that resonated with our audience. We felt a growing desire to diversify our content offerings and connect with our audience in new and exciting ways.

In this journey, we sought to blend our core identity with the evolving interests of our audience, particularly focusing on creating marquee content IPs such as ‘Shape of You’ and ‘What Women Want’.

Our transition into a multi-platform entity was, in many ways, a natural progression. We had already established a strong presence in numerous cities, earning us a dedicated and diverse audience. It was only fitting that we continued to evolve and adapt to better serve this audience across various platforms.

This transformation has allowed us to defy rigid definitions and embrace the dynamic nature of content creation. Our commitment remains steadfast: to deliver exciting and engaging content that resonates with our audience, whether it finds its form on the radio waves or in the digital realm. We are dedicated to staying true to our roots, remaining hyperlocal, and adapting to the ever-changing landscape of media and entertainment.

Q2.Mirchi has a diverse range of shows and IPs, such as Mirchi Murga, Mirchi Awards, and What Women Want, which cater to different audience segments. How do you manage to create content that resonates with such a wide audience?

In today's media landscape, the paradigm has shifted dramatically. We've moved beyond traditional mass media to embrace the realm of micro-influencers and other nuanced channels.Our main philosophy is to create exciting/interesting content that people will consume whichever form or shape it takes – if it is on digital then we are catering to an audience that is digital-first, that is consuming content directly on , whether it is in short form video, long form video, or branded.

We put the consumer in the center of the entire piece while we develop and design the content and then figure out which medium to use. Take, for example, our endeavor to create content tailored to young women. We sculpt an entire show around their preferences and behaviors, delving into their daily lives and aspirations. Consequently, a substantial portion of this content finds its home on the radio waves, ideal for those who tune in during their travels, while the rest is made available on YouTube for those eager to watch at their leisure. Our objective is to seamlessly align content with the audience's consumption patterns, bridging the gaps in their multimedia journey.

Placing the audience at the epicenter of our creative endeavors is our North Star. We meticulously design our content like a well-crafted magazine, ensuring it caters to their tastes and preferences. This approach allows us to cast a wider net, appealing to both discerning, thoughtful listeners and younger demographics, providing an array of options for brands and clients who partner with us. 

A client or a brand that comes onboard with us is given a plethora of options/various options. We give them actual touchpoints onground – we have concerts, we have events etc. If they want to create a concept which is purely for radio in a background kind of environment we have concepts for that. The flexibility that the brand now is able to offer to both the client as well as the consumer is exactly what young people want today.

Q3.The launch of Mirchi Plus in 2022 marked a significant step in your digital journey. How does the audio OTT app enhance Mirchi's ability to provide entertainment, and what role does it play in your strategy of bringing audio stories to the forefront of content consumption?

Mirchi has always been a storyteller at heart, and this isn't new for us. Nearly 15 years back, we were spinning captivating tales on the radio, back when radio was the king of audio platforms. Remember shows like "Bheege Mirchi" with stories woven in the monsoon season? Those were the days.

But times have changed, and we've realized something essential. We're constantly creating content, day in and day out. If we let it stay confined to radio, it's like letting a beautiful story fade away once it's been told. The concept of appointment listening, where you tune in at a specific time, isn't as popular as it once was. People today want content on their terms – whenever and wherever they choose.

So, we had a thought: Why not take all this fantastic content, not just the classics but also our knack for crafting new stories, and put it to use on our own platform? It's all about being where our audience is. Whether it's content on YouTube or any other social platform, our plan is to create a treasure trove of content, making it easily accessible on our app.

Let's say you heard something hilarious on the radio, a fantastic story, or a captivating celebrity interview, but you missed it. No worries – you can catch it again on our app. Plus, we've gone the extra mile by curating content exclusively for the app, creating a unique environment for our audience.

That's how the idea of Mirchi Plus was born. We've got a legacy of incredible audio content, both old and new. And we've got the right mix of talent – exceptional writers and a tech-savvy team – to craft a stellar audio experience for our audience.

During the pandemic, we all had a hunger for content since many of us had more free time on our hands. We were glued to YouTube, Instagram, and various platforms. So, we thought, why not create a similar OTT (Over-The-Top) platform but purely for audio? It's like getting a daily dose of your favorite TV show, but in audio form.

Our goal is to offer a variety of content, from daily shows to rich storytelling, mirroring the experience of watching your favorite soap opera on television. We're here to bring you an audio experience that's nothing short of fantastic.

Q4.Mirchi has introduced audio shows voiced by celebrities like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Neena Gupta, as well as regional audio shows. How do these initiatives contribute to the brand's overall appeal and reach, and what role does celebrity involvement play in attracting listeners?

Celebrities have an incredible ability to draw in their dedicated fanbase, no matter where they go or what they create. It's like a magnet – people are naturally drawn to their content. But here's the thing: while having a celebrity on board is fantastic, it's not the entire essence of our app or the content we produce.

The foundation of great content starts with a solid script and an engaging story. Whether there's a celebrity involved or not, the story has to stand on its own and be compelling. It's not all about the celebrity.

Let's take the example of the Kareena Kapoor show. Yes, Kareena is a well-known figure, but the real strength lies in the concept of the show – 'What Women Want.' That concept resonates deeply with our audience, and Kareena, as a modern woman, brings her unique perspective. It's not just about who Kareena Kapoor is; it's also about the topics she discusses and the guests she brings on board.

Similarly when we looked at the shows we were trying to create for audio as well we used the same method. First, let it be an interesting story.Take 'Hazar Crore Ki Lash,' for instance. It's based on the story of Sheena Bora, also known as Kiran, a story that captured significant media attention. However, we realized that there were untold aspects of the story that people were curious about. We aim to shed light on such intriguing narratives, giving a platform to voices that offer a fresh and captivating perspective.

In a nutshell, we combine the star power of celebrities with the core of engaging storytelling to ensure our content always hits the mark with our audience.

Q5.With the success of Mirchi Plus and the focus on audio storytelling, could you share your perspective on the evolving content consumption patterns in India, particularly when it comes to audio content?

We find ourselves in an incredibly exciting era, and it's abundantly clear that the spotlight is shining brightly on audio. This moment belongs to audio, and particularly, it resonates strongly with the younger generation. They've embraced audio as a rich source of learning and enrichment.

We found in our research a lot of edutainment, a lot of podcasts – what we call podcasts in non-fiction content – which is primarily based on something that I can learn; whether it is on stocks, or whether it is on crypto or whether it is on how to succeed in an interview. A lot of that young people are consuming in a dedicated manner. 

Audio has evolved into a potent vehicle not just for entertainment but also for edutainment. Young minds today are voracious information seekers, keen to extract valuable insights even from a brief 30-second reel. This thirst for knowledge extends even to Tier III markets, where the hunger to learn and attain new benchmarks is palpable.

It's here that entertainment and edutainment have beautifully bridged the gap, delivering content that not only entertains but also empowers individuals to expand their horizons and achieve their goals.

Q6.Mirchi not only creates entertainment content but also collaborates with brands and advertisers to help them reach their niche audiences. Can you provide some examples of successful customized solutions that seamlessly integrate content across radio, digital, and on-ground platforms?

Our versatility across multiple mediums offers us a distinct advantage—one that allows us to craft bespoke solutions for our clients, be it on a regional or local scale. This flexibility is a significant asset, enabling us to seamlessly piece together tailored strategies to meet our clients' unique needs.

In the past, we've demonstrated our ability to innovate by creating a dedicated radio station for a brand, such as the campus radio project for Britannia. This showcases our capacity to bring ambitious ideas to life.For instance, we have done a show which is a show on interiors, which is a Gauri Khan show,where she unveils the design secrets behind celebrity homes. In this context, numerous brands have seamlessly integrated with us, offering a highly specific platform to target a discerning design-oriented audience.

Another example is our "Shape of You" show, focusing on fitness, which draws audiences from various platforms, including YouTube and Instagram. This multi-medium approach ensures we reach a diverse audience interested in fitness and well-being.

Behind the scenes, our dedicated client solutions team plays a pivotal role. They excel in crafting -made solutions, aligning our capabilities with the precise requirements of each client. This commitment to customization is at the core of our service, allowing us to create unique and effective campaigns that resonate with audiences across the spectrum.

Q7.Looking ahead, what can we expect from Mirchi in terms of innovation, expansion, and further diversification of your content portfolio, considering the evolving media landscape and changing consumer preferences?

Exciting times lie ahead as we embark on a journey filled with promising opportunities. At Mirchi, we're fully committed to amplifying our efforts in the realm of audio, firmly believing that audio is the future. Our dedication to this path is unwavering.

Additionally,doing a lot of work in the space, working with independent artists to create content with them and for them, doing lot of Bollywood-centric content as well. That always works. Bollywood is back. Big theatrical blockbusters have happened this year, great for the industry, so we will definitely do a lot more content there.

Our city-centric approach will continue. Because we believe that the audience has a requirement for content that is tailored to their both - language and cultural bedrock. 

So, anticipate a wealth of captivating and audio content on the horizon. We're dedicated to bringing you an auditory experience like no other, as we double down on our commitment to audio excellence.

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