Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A salute to the founders of Mirchi - the original Mirchiites!

Date October 4th, 2011

It’s a very proud day for all of us (who are either currently working or have worked earlier) in Mirchi today! On this day, ten years back, brand Mirchi was born with the first transmission taking place at Indore on 4th October, 2001. The first song played was Ma Tujhe Salaam by AR Rehman. It was a moment that has been permanently etched in my mind as also the minds of the many founding members of Mirchi. Founders, who either continue to work in Mirchi till this day or are part of a larger entertainment industry outside!

Today, we celebrate the success of this founding team that strived hard to launch the first Mirchi station ten years back, on this date, at Indore. The original team comprised the first Station Head of Mirchi, Alok Purohit – who provided exemplary leadership to a nascent radio business. Then there was Viplove Gupte, the first programming head of Mirchi who made sure the brand became so powerful in Indore that a visitor arriving at Indore airport merely had to say “Take me to the Mirchi studios” and he would be taken there! And then there was Preeti Phalke – the first copywriter of Mirchi who scripted so much of the popularity that Mirchi has enjoyed since its launch. The first set of jocks – super stars as all jocks in Mirchi are – including Polly (Mantra), Paragi, Priyanka, Sameer, Kunal (Shardul), Shweta, Sudipta, Abhijeet – were the ones who got the city hooked to this forgotten but sexy medium called radio and the brand called Mirchi. How can one forget the first promo producers – Rakshit Kapoor and Ravi Harry (Rob) who made the sound of the station truly world class? No station can run on pure listener response – at the end of the day, we need to monetize the listenership. The first sales head of Mirchi – Vandana Jain – and her wonderful team comprising Nitin Patodi, Nitul Sharma, Lokesh Kataria and Apoorva Sharma gave Mirchi the very first gush of revenues. We started small – with a cheque of only Rs 14,625 dated 29th September, 2001 – 5 days before the launch of the station! That cheque is still framed and mounted on the walls of Mirchi Indore!

This launch team at Indore was helped in no small measure by the many experts (!) from Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata…..everywhere! How can one forget Sunil Sahjwani and Tapas Sen who designed the structure and contours of every single program? They chose the show names, designed the content, chose the music, trained the jocks, took the first listener calls, ran the first contests on air…..and in short gave flesh and blood to the product. In the first few days, every single RJ link was analyzed and discussed; every single song debated; every single guest interview recorded, edited and re-edited; every single client ad made in our own edit studios; every single sales deal celebrated with samosas and the yummy Indori chaats; in short, every single second of the day was a celebration! There were Gaurav Sharma and Sameep Nanda; Ajay Munjal and Aditya Summanwar, Rahat and Jeeturaaj, Rakesh and Pragya, Erica and AR Singh…..how many of us sweated it out then so that no one else in Mirchi ever had to sweat it out again!

And what a launch in was! There was Akshay Khanna who came down from Bombay for the first launch. He may not have realized this but he set up a trend followed in every subsequent station launch – Sonali Bendre in Ahmedabad (Dec 2001), Aishwarya Rai in Mumbai (April 2002), Amisha Patel in Pune (May 2002), Kareena Kapoor in Delhi (April 2003), Bipasha Basu in Kolkata (May 2003) and Jyotika in Chennai (May 2003). These were the first seven stations where the Mirchi flag was unfurled in the first flush of roll-outs. By the end of this round, Mirchi had the biggest number of stations; it was the only one to be present in all four metros; and it had the strongest presence in developed West India. When the second phase of reforms happened in Jan 2006, and when Mirchi acquired 25 more stations, the Mirchi republic – some call in Mirchistan – was complete. John Abraham, Tabu, Manoj Bajpai…..all of them have blessed Mirchi and have been blessed in turn by Mirchi. Right from its start, brand Mirchi was destined to be a big brand…..make that a huge brand!

From the first cheque of Rs 14,625, Mirchi ended revenues last year (year ending March 2011) at Rs 280 crores. Cumulatively, in the last ten years, we have generated more than Rs 1500 crores in revenues! From losses in the first five years, we have turned the corner and reported an EBITDA profit of Rs 91 crores last year. The market capitalization of the company has risen to more than Rs 1200 crores today. From zero listenership before the launch, today the brand is heard by more than 41 million people (source: IRS). In the major metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, where the listenership is measured by RAM, Mirchi is heard by nearly 20 million people every single week. Mirchi’s listenership today is comparable to the readership of the biggest newspaper in the country. And in most major markets, Mirchi’s listenership is more than the readership of the leading newspaper. In fact, in most major markets, Mirchi’s listenership is more than the viewership of some of the biggest TV channels also!

But the Mirchi story is so much about the people that have made the brand what it is today. Today, there are nearly 775 team members who work in Mirchi and add value to the brand every single day. It’s their dedication and commitment to the brand and the listeners that keeps driving Mirchi forward. In the last ten years, hundreds others have graced the offices of Mirchi – each one of them adding their own special bit to the sheen of the brand. Each one of them making Mirchi a distinct and distinguished brand. One that was destined to become powerful – a brand that would make its listeners powerful too!

Over the years, Mirchi has been awarded many many times. But some of the awards are more special than others. For eg., in 2008, IMRB and Pitch magazine rated Mirchi to be the number 1 media brand in India – ahead of even its legendary parent The Times of India and the number one TV brand, Star TV. More recently, for the last two years in a row, FICCI has rated Mirchi as the most successful radio business in the country. There have been numerous RAPA awards, numerous IRF (India Radio Forum) awards and numerous Ad Club awards which the superbly creative programming team of Mirchi has won for its work. One award that is very special to me is the Reader’s Digest instituted Pegasus award for our work in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) area – a silver in the first year of the launch of our program. One other very special award is the one given to Mirchi at the New York Festivals – our Delhi jocks Anant and Saurabh were proud recipients of this award.

Mirchi has always been a pioneer. Right at the beginning – we started the Mirchi Kaan Awards in an attempt to spur creativity in radio advertising amongst agencies and clients. Today, after completing 8 fruitful years, the Mirchi Kaan Awards is one of the ad industry’s most coveted awards – one in which almost all ad agencies participate – one in which the biggest National Creative Directors are the jury members. For years now, the Mirchi Kaan Awards have encouraged and rewarded the best in radio advertising – even sending two young creative geniuses from the Agency of the Year to the Cannes Ad Festival in France. Mirchi has also been responsible for starting off what is today a standard business model in most radio companies – the Activations business (popularly called MA or Mirchi Activations). In addition, Mirchi pioneered the per-second billing concept where clients can buy spots of any length – not necessarily in units of 10 seconds. This aside, Mirchi has been associated with some of the most outstanding Direct Mailing activities – I still remember the mailer which showed Mirchi’s listenership being more than Star TV’s viewership in Mumbai – we sent a big TV carton to agencies but with a small sized TV set inside – driving home the message that suddenly TV had become so small! Mirchi’s merchandize has become the industry’s standards now – the Mirchi diaries are a story in creativity by themselves; the Mirchi umbrellas that one sees everywhere including in movies are visible in every city….Mirchi’s marketing has been world class – with its TV commercials creating a “sunshine” brand imagery for it. Today, Mirchi = Radio and Radio = Mirchi. Today, research shows that It’s Hot, or Idhu Semma Hot Machi (Tamil), or Sakkath Hot Magaa (Kannada) or Idhi Chala Hot Guru (Telugu) or Sangathi hot aane (Malayalam)…..or now the latest Ee garam ba (Bhojpuri) have become part of the youth lingo!

Today, brand Mirchi is available on the digital platform in addition to FM. Mirchi Mobile is unsurprisingly the leader in the space – available on all major telcos. Today, we have a special Bhojpuri feed available on the mobile platform. Very soon hopefully, the brand will be available online in various avatars. Very soon hopefully, the brand will extend internationally!

And then the Mirchi Music Awards (MMA). Our tribute to the absolutely fantastic music fraternity – our true friends – in the country. For us, the MMA is an emotional event. Every year, we stop in our tracks…..so that we can appreciate and applaud the contributions of the talented industry during the year. The jury of the MMA reads like the who’s who of the entire music and film fraternity. The MMA is now 3 years old but for us its as big and precious as the Filmfare Awards!

But in the end analysis, it always about the people. This is where Mirchi has always stood out. When hundreds of aspirants for the Bombay RJ role had to be turned down in 2001, we threw a special party for them at J49, Juhu! When a Mirchi team member quit and joined a new company, we sent him or her a bouquet on the first day of the new job! When any station head stopped team members from using Facebook or Twitter in office, we stopped the station head rather than stopping the team members! And as we complete ten years today, we celebrated the Mirchi Reunion at Indore last night by inviting all the founders of Mirchi…..from all over the country. What a fun, sentimental, nostalgic and passionate gathering of founders it was! At the end of the day, Mirchi is nothing but its people. Those who work outside Mirchi today are its permanent brand ambassadors. Those who work in the company today are making sure the brand remains perched at the top!

This first decade of Mirchi is a tribute to the founders of Mirchi. The original Mirchiites. Those who gathered at Indore last night for the bash of the decade. Those who work all over the entertainment industry, but consider Mirchi to be their father and mother. The very blood that flows through our veins. It’s a tribute to those who continue to make the brand sizzle every single day even today. To those who have taken it upon themselves to keep Mirchi the strongest media brand in the country. This is the time to salute all those who make Mirchi, Mirchi! The proud Mirchiites!


  1. wowdie! yes i know what a pride moment it is to b a part of Mirchi! cheers to 10 years of music :)

  2. Hi PP,

    It was such a great read, I am with you on every word. I Miss Mirchi!! those were the best years of my working career. Mirchi sure does rock!! and I am a proud Mirchiite :)...

  3. Prashant you made me buy dustbins and i got the most expensive one;s ever! hahahaha those were days that made us who we are today :)