Fanboys in Mourning

February 15, 2008

RJ Malavika is getting married as I type this.

If it’s a KT wedding and not a Tam one, I suppose it’s not too late to pull a Benjamin Braddock. Except that I’m happily committed to the perfect girlfriend, and Hari the Kid is in Seattle. So it goes.

Not in Rock Lyrics

February 8, 2008

Who is more deserving of scorn, opprobrium, and calls for jihad? Daughtry, for using the word ‘closure1‘ in a rock song; or the All American Rejects, for using OKCupid dating test results as song titles?

Discuss in comments.

1: Closure is not only psychobabble but financial jargon also. Daughtry has polluted rock with a word used by two despicable groups of people: whiny characters from American sitcoms, and investment bankers.

Before 7

October 24, 2007

Gak! Radio Indigo plays devotional songs before 7 am! Eldritch horror! So much for the biggest international hits.

What makes it worse is that these are all Ram bhajans. I look upon this with  disapproval. India is a Saivite country. Why is Indigo trying to spread Vaishnavism? I demand that the scope of any anti-conversion ordinance that comes up in the future be expanded to a ban on Ram bhajans.

Also, putting gym in the morning rocks. 9.5 Kmph for twenty two and a half minutes on the treadmill, followed by ninety crunches, and a hot water shower, and then directly to office with breakfast in between. Are.

The Perils of Rupee Appreciation and Metro Construction

October 13, 2007

The rupee hit a new high against the dollar today. The interbank rate was 39.3188 INR/USD when I quoted rates to customers in the morning, and it had gone up by 3 paisa more when I checked the news feeds just after lunch.

While the rupee was hitting new highs, the shit was hitting the fan. When importers see news of new highs, they demand to know why their rate is still so high (it remains the interbank rate plus the default margin, but that’s another story). When exporters are quoted the INR rate for their realization payments, they demand to know why the rate is so absurdly low (their rate is also the interbank rate minus the same margin they’ve had for the past year). Meanwhile, exporters who you were trying to convince about the virtues of forwards and options six months ago suddenly panic, land up at office, and demand that their forwards limit be set up by the end of the week. The end result is that both exporters and importers are unhappy about the price of dollars, and react by shooting the messenger who brings them the price. Guess who the messenger is?

Faced with such a situation, the naïve fresh MBA reacts by trying to reassure customers that their margin remains at the wonderfully low levels it has always been, and that the interbank rate is really out of his control. This is a mistake. Customers then demand that their FX margin be reduced, more so if they are Gujew customers. Unfortunately, after ICICI has made a mockery of net interest margins, banks are determined to squeeze every possible rupee out of their FX margins. FX is a new focus area for cross-sell, and 10 paisa is the lowest margin a customer can expect. Confronted with this brutal truth, customers react by shooting the messenger who presents it to them. Guess who the messenger is?


I feel it is important to point out that The Rembrandts were wankers. “It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear,” indeed. Hah!If you arrive at Trinity Circle at 9:50 a.m., you realize to your horror that the turn from Airport Road to MG Road has been barricaded off. You are then forced to drive ahead instead of turning left, going past the Park, and turning left into Ulsoor Road instead. You then spend the next twenty five minutes stuck on Ulsoor Road (which, incidentally, can’t possibly be more than two kilometers long from Trinity Circle to Dickenson Road). The red light on Dickenson Road, meanwhile, has caused traffic to back up along the length of these entire two (or less) kilometers, and moving on Ulsoor Road is done by shifting between neutral and first gear. Second gear is a distant dream. Meanwhile, you are seriously reconsidering your celebrity crush on RJ Malavika after she plays Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake in succession, and then follows up by talking about how excited she is about the Spice Girls reunion. You also mentally abuse your flatmate for refusing to take an apartment in St. John’s Road for the purpose of saving seven thousand rupees of brokerage (this, incidentally, is the same flatmate who feasts at the Oberoi buffet and buys imported breakfast cereal at 300 rupees for 220 grams), and wonder if that apartment is still available, and what the rent on it would be now if it was.

When the light finally clears, you gain all of thirty seconds of movement at faster than ten Kmph before you end up stuck behind a Government of India Ambassador which has chosen that very minute at stall. After ferociously blowing your horn for forty seconds, the Ambassador finally moves. Unfortunately, Rocinante is a Palio, and has a large turning radius. Few things are comparable to a Palio’s turning radius, though the radius of J. Lo’s backside comes close. It takes another fifteen seconds before you have space to overtake. Once you have overtaken, and are back in the outside lane, you have to hit the brakes again to avoid mowing down a motorcycle rider who has at that very second decided to climb onto the footpath, and found that he can’t do it at all. By the time you hit Dickenson Road, the light has changed again, and you’re stuck for another seven minutes, during which time RJ Malavika plays Robbie Williams (but, in the first stroke of luck you’ve had since reaching Trinity Circle, also Fallout Boy). You then face another jam at the turn onto Residency Road, caused by autos trying to make a U-turn through the gaps between police barricades, and BMTC buses trying to change lanes.

You park at 1045, and walk into office at 1100, a little over an hour after you reached Trinity Circle, which is a five minute walk from office.


I am closer than ever to becoming a smoker or a regular drinker. Yes, these are merely forms of escapism, but I want to escape the crap I’m going through. Gujews bitching about the weakening dollar, ten minute traffic halts, small scale industrialists becoming frantic about their forwards limits- what have I done to deserve this, I ask.

However, I don’t believe in spending money on bad habits. So if I take up smoking, it’ll be beedis, and if I take up drinking, it’ll be country liquor. This will hasten my death, but right now I am in agreement with Legodeath: death will be sweet release.

Local Content

August 17, 2007

Why do FM stations play music?

I’m not being facetious here. Indian FM radio stations have been complaining that the royalties they have to pay on music are squeezing their margins and even driving them bankrupt. Not only that, if your value proposition is good/ popular music, you have to compete not only with other FM stations, but with music channels on TV, satellite radio, and CD/ cassette/ MP3 players (which keep getting cheaper every year). How the hell do you make music a USP?

One way to do this ts the Go FM or Radio Indigo way: differentiate yourself and play music which nobody else plays (Western music in their case). Except that Go FM found it couldn’t make any money doing that and moved out of the niche. I sincerely hope Radio Indigo doesn’t go the same way – evenings without Malavika would be intolerable – but let’s not get too optimistic. In the US, niches are large enough or valuable enough to support themed stations – country, jazz, or rock – in India, they don’t seem to be, or at least radio stations can’t figure out how to crack the market.

Extending this, why not differentiate yourself by not playing royalty and fee-based music at all (or substantially less). Ways to do this would include:

  • Play music owned by smaller companies who don’t have enough bargaining power1 to charge significant royalties. This does raise the frightening possibility of FM radio stations dedicated to struggling Bhangra acts from Doaba, or Bhojpuri film music, but hey, there’s probably a market out there.
  • Chuck recorded music altogether. Get local musicians into the studio and let them play live. This will lead to a lot of crap going out over the airwaves, but will also help in the discovery of true gems. It also has immense branding scope. Radio City Bangalore used to do this on Sundays – I don’t know if they still do.
  • Chuck music altogether. Just have people talking. This could be radio drama, or talk radio. Regulations prohibit private stations from doing news, but they can still do interviews and current affairs. And if the subject is city-specific, the audience is matched to the content. MTV is forced to make shows with an all-India appeal, but FM stations can make shows customised to their own, city-sized coverage areas. This is being done in Bangalore – Indigo decided to run Independence Day specials on people who had made a difference – and they interviewed a guy who had volunteered to become a Bangalore traffic warden. It was completely Bangalore-specific, with nothing to do with the rest of India. I loved it. (In fact, it’s what prompted the post.) Finally, there was quality MSM coverage of local issues. And Radio City has been doing similar stuff for ages, Wimpy assures me.

The question is, why aren’t more stations doing this more of the time. Some reasons I can think of are:

  1. Supply side issues for music: playing local musicians requires local musicians to exist in the first place. Even if they exist, setting up a system to find, filter and record them is going to be long and painful.
  2. Supply-side issues for non-music: this is going to be a real problem. Doing radio dramas or current affairs or talk shows means you either have to hire stars or create them, whether it’s drama stars or journalists or presenters. So first you’ve got to fight to find talent – a massive problem in India especially right now – and then you’ve got to fight to prevent TV channels from poaching it.
  3. Demand side issues for music: Gut-feel, this is probably the most major issue. I don’t think India has developed a long tail consumption culture yet. Eardrums2 might all be chasing Himesh Reshammiya rather than the neighbourhood rock band/ Carnatic singer/ school choir. But is this just an issue of bad marketing?
  4. Demand side issues for non-music: Gut feel again, this is probably the most minor issue. Going by the success of TV news channels, as a concept there’s probably enough demand for talk radio or current affairs, especially if it’s localised. The problem is going to be with the level of localisation. In Bangalore or Pune, one city affairs channel should be enough. But Bombay will have different audiences and advertisers for town, for the western suburbs, for the central suburbs, and for Navi Mumbai. Delhi will have similar problems, though perhaps not as extreme. Perhaps this is why stations in Delhi and Mumbai are so homogenuous – chasing 20% of the music listening audience is still going to give you a bigger audience than chasing all the current affairs listeners in Delhi.

To a limited extent, localised non-music content has taken off, even if it’s just small segments like traffic and weather updates. These are low-investment and replicable, though, and I’m waiting for differentiated content to come up.

There are two more posts I can make on this topic now that I’ve started off: one on the regulatory changes that would make localised content spring up faster, and another one on why localised content matters so much. Sadly, my post backlog is massive, and I’m making no promises about when/ if I ever write them.

1: Or as it’s called in Punjabi, aukaat.
2: If the unit of TV viewership is the eyeball, shouldn’t the unit of radio listenership be the eardrum?

Dear Radio City,

August 12, 2007

I have taken Wimpy’s advice and started listening to your breakfast show on my drive to work. While Vasanthi is not as awesome as Indigo’s Malavika, there is no denying that she is very good indeed. Listening to her in the morning helps a corporate ho like myself face the numbing reality of his life one day at a time.

Considering your promos advertise Vasanthi rather than the music, you seem to have realised that she adds substantially higher brand value than the Bollywood songs (which all other stations have anyway) or the traffic report (likewise). So I fail to see why you don’t give her more airtime.

I first have to sit through five minutes of ads. Then you play a promo pitching Sunshine Girl Vasanthi. Then, to my utter annoyance, instead of hearing Sunshine Girl Vasanthi, I hear Deedar De or something equally useless. Followed by another song on the same lines. After fifteen minutes of ads and songs I don’t want to hear, Vasanthi gives a two minute traffic update or contest, after which the cycle repeats itself.

For the love of FSM, end this madness. I want to hear Sunshine Girl Vasanthi, not Bollywood songs. Please. Give her more airtime. Instead of going straight to the songs, let her speak for a while. And also please stop playing songs that are more suitable for a party in Patiala than for a morning commute. If you do this you can rest assured that I will switch permanently from Cindu and The Big Breakfast.



Arising Out of Radio Indigo

July 23, 2007
  1. I’m suffering from an RJ Malavika overdose. She had taken over on The Big Breakfast last week because Sindhu was on vacation. So Malavika on my drive to work, and Malavika on the drive back home. I don’t know if she picks the music or the producer does, but if she does, then maybe the extra hours made the music suffer. There was nothing on either The Big Breakfast or The Big Couch I enjoyed since Monday.
  2. I wonder if Oasis wrote Champagne Supernova just to be one up on Tequila Sunrise.
  3. Faith Hill’s This Kiss contains the lyrics ‘It’s centrifugal motion/ It’s perpetual bliss’. Geek that I am, I couldn’t help wishing that it had been flipped about to ‘It’s perpetual motion/ It’s centrifugal bliss.’ I wonder what centrifugal bliss would be like.
  4. Radio Indigo has this show on Saturdays for louw songs only, and one hour of which is given over purely to requests. People kept calling in with messages for their exes like ‘Baby, I’m sorry. Come back and I’ll never break your heart again.’ Blech.
    I wonder if they have a commitment to run every request or message that comes in. It would be hilarious to dedicate Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter to someone on that. Or even better, break up with someone over the radio instead of asking them to come back.
    Oh, and Prarthna, who’s the RJ for that show, sounds – well, nowhere in the same class as Malavika to put it charitably. In facts she sounds like Geeli Giselle (a reference which only junta from my batch will understand, but then that’s probably the majority of the readership).
  5. The ads for the Pantaloons End-of-Season Sale are bad, bad, bad.