What I Did

For a while there, when I was 17 and still in college, I worked for my father’s cardboard box manufacturing company as a salesman – not many people know this. I didn’t like it much but I needed the money and well, he was my dad. My clients were mostly the small bakeries Bangalore is famous for. Cold calls and regular clients, orders for different shaped boxes, numbers and sizes, a silk screen logo print here, a cut and fold crease there then haggle over delivery schedules and of course – rates. I got paid plus commissions but it wasn’t how I wanted to earn. I wanted to believe in what I was doing, use some unique skill and create money out of that. So I made up my mind – if by the time I hit 21 I was not earning enough through some passion I had then I would resign myself to selling boxes.
Corny as it sounds, I never did need to go back to making money out of boxes but I did end up making a lot of money out of the box, (I mean, what box?).
This is my background:

Radio

1999 – 2012 (13 Years)

I’ve been officially designated Vice President, National Programming Head, Executive Producer and in 2000 started out as Format Controller. Call it by what ever name, for 13 years the job was always the same – responsibility for the success of the product. My work profile covered management of:

  • P&L planning and drawing up business plans.
  • Station policy, brand and programming formats and strategy.
  • Identifying, recruitment, training and retaining programming staff.
  • Development of content generation systems.
  • All internal and eternal production and QC.
  • Music format and policy.
  • Music Research (AMT, DMT and Call Out).
  • All other research including designing product evaluation research techniques.
  • Dealing with IP owners and royalty payments.
  • Marketing communication strategy (though mostly creative).
  • Producing on and off air audio branding and ID packages.
  • Designing and setting up broadcast and production studio suites.
  • Responsibility for the sound quality from production to broadcast.

indigo fm

I started at the BPL Innovasion promoted Indigo FM (today one of the best stations in India now known as Radio Indigo), Bangalore in 2000 as Format Controller. The then COO Vineet Singh called me up to invite me to join. As I was a DJ I thought he wanted me to be a Radio Presenter but instead he asked me to produce and manage the programming from scratch, he said I could go on air if I wanted but really would not have the time and he was right. It was a steep learning curve to climb but as a DJ I already had some of the main principals – find out what they want, play what they want and make them think its only for them – give a sense of personal discovery.

red fm logo

I met Mr Aroon Purie and joined the India Today Group in Delhi where we created Red FM in 2002. As a radio group we only had three stations but as these were the vibrant and diverse Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata i knew i had a challenge on my hands. The original target we had decided on were younger English speaking urban people (SEC A+ 12-24 MF if you like) so I produced a peppy cutting edge CHR sounding type of station in Mumbai. After a year of this and not really pulling in the sort of revenue we had expected, we reinvented ourselves as an older Hindi Bollywood station positioning Red FM up against the younger modern Bollywood formats the other stations had all become. However in 2005 with a new COO we made the switch and went after the more exciting younger urban mass and Red FM added Bajaate Raho as its tag line. The brand was very cleaver indeed giving us loads of space but had clearly defined boundaries too. Muisc was always an issue with me knowing the impact good music can have and the repulsion bad music generates so I brought in Music Research technology never used before called a DMT (Digital Music Test) and based on results I cut down the number of songs on active rotation from over 1200 to less than 300 losing a disgusted Music Manager in the process. I also hired Malishka in Mumbai (easily one of the most talented individuals in India period), took me three months to convince her but I knew she would be one of the keys to Red FM breaking in to profit. We worked hard to join the product with the imagery the tag line summoned up and when ratings finally came out in late 2007, Red FM stood head and shoulders above competition a proud #1 across all demos in Mumbai.

radio one logo

Having succeeded with Red FM I wanted a new challenge, I had no intention of managing a brand only to sustain the #1 position so when I met Tariq Ansari and was asked to take over as Vice President Programming at Radio One the choice was quite easy, it was after all, time to move on. The Indian advertising community lack a belief in radio as an advertising medium partly because they do not understand it and partly because they can’t quantify justifications in their decisions. When RAM (India’s radio diary rating) numbers came out in Delhi, though only a year old, Radio One were a strong #2 over all and even #1 in some younger demos but still revenue was hard to come by. Even though we had the numbers because no one could make sense out of the ratings, no one wanted to put their money down and preferred to go with bigger, more marketed groups even though they had lower ratings. In an effort to break away from the competition while spending less than them we experimented a with new format ideas in Mumbai including a triple header RJ evening show and a “music only” format. Given time these ideas could easily have worked so well in the differentiation game but in late 2008 with the global economic slow down no one was too excited about radio at all. Radio One is the only group to have unique programming formats in each of their 7 markets, an outstanding and gutsy policy that is paying them dividends now.

oye fm logo

I went back to the India Today Group in 2010 though this time joined TVToday (who own Hindi TV news channel Aajtak and English TV news channel Headlines Today). The idea of a radio group on the cusp of reinvention and looking for new format strategies excited me but (against my wishes) top management adopted a target group that had the most competition. Eventually what was once Meow FM (all women all talk format) became another Bollywood something-for-all Sabse Filmi format Oye FM! It was a great team, now 104.8 is managed by another radio group with another format.

DJ

1989 – 2001 (12 Years)

house music

I started working as a commercial professional Night Club DJ in 1989 at Bangalore’s Knockout Disco on Brigade Road. From there three years later I played at one time or another at almost all the night clubs in India. I played what the dance floor wanted but nurtured a passion for House Music and the new wave of Trance which I played as much as I could. I did everything from parties to functions, from raves to corporate events but whenever I could I would give the floor a healthy dose of what would become EDM. There was no digital music format back then so I learned old school, two Technics 1200 mk2 turn tables and a primitive mixer in between. I also had two manual pitch control enabled Nakamichi tape decks. For the first 6 months no one came to the club so I would practice hours and hours every day, I never became a grand master but it was an awesome experience to learn the craft on a full club PA. I gained so much knowledge about planning an 8 hour set flow with what became a packed club on the weekends with private parties on the weekdays.

gharana logo

I carried on working as a DJ for the next 12 years and only stopped when every youngster with a Case Logic CD case called themselves a DJ. Then I knew it was time to re-invent my dance music passion which drove me to adorn the role of muisc producer. As a producer I have worked with many wonderful singers and produced some quirky recordings. As a partner in the Gharana project with Ashish and Sharmon, we produced a Bollywood Remix album in 1998 and an original dance music album featuring the A’s yet unheard of Vasundhara Das in 1999. We ran CakeWalk Pro Audio v6 and Sound Forge v4.5 on a Windows 98 assembled Pentium 2 computer with Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold sound card connected to a Roland MC-303 Groovebox via MIDI.

Events

1986 – 1999 (13 Years)

dandpg

I worked for my mentor, Prasad Bidapa and his event production company D&PG Productions, for 13 years from 1986 managing the technical side of countless fashion shows and entertainment productions. These included full productions of musicals Starlight Express (where I was the understudy for ALL the singing parts, this was 1986 or so and the wireless mikes would just stop working so I would grab my mike at the sound desk and just sing my heart out) and Cats. Its one way to learn audio engineering and event production, probably not the best way but there were very few professionals around in the 80’s. Apart from sound my work included selecting music, stage design and management as well as light designing. Sometimes I also worked on stage in the corporate, private or club productions sometimes as MC sometimes as a singer for an entertainment part of some shows to allow for change time.

Interactive TV

1999 – 2001 (2 Years)

innomedia logo

At interactive television company Innomedia I was Creative Director responsible for all the content and the look and feel of all channels under the brand name CHOIS. There were various entertainment and information channels which included the likes of a music channel, a local news channel, a movie review channel, a geography channel, a history channel. All this was controlled interactively, using a land line telephone. I found it fascinating that I got all the data about what users wanted in terms of entertainment. I found out that though we had hundreds of songs on the server only about 30 of them were played 90% of the time. This knowledge turned out to be invaluable later when I decided to turned Red FM in to India’s first full on CHR station in Mumbai…

Voice Over and Singer

1986 – 2018 (32 Years)

christ collage

I joined Christ College with one intention – to sing for the college band where I took care of Led Zeppelin and Rush covers as well as early experiments at writing some of my own jams. Our first gig was a huge college festival in the heart of Bangalore with what must have been 5,000 kids, seemed like 50,000 but with sound enough for 500. I loved being up on stage, I belonged there and knew it was something I would always need to do, performing hard rock and heavy metal is just in my DNA I suppose.

kcuf logo

I sang with many bands after that but I guess of them all, my favourite name might have to be Goa based Raw Head. There were a few other bands I was part of in the 90’s like UVZ and Stylus but lets not forget Bangalore’s first and I think only ever punk rock band, the near legendary KCUF, yeah go on, read it backwards. That freak show performed only once at a cinema in Hassan where we did the stage set up and line check with the movie still going on, no, no one seemed to mind.

D

I also got paid as a voice over and session singer so did countless tiresome jingles (clients would say stuff like “…ya, and rap like a rocker but I need to understand all the words, can you do that?”) and read stuff to a mike (this is so stupid because being dyslexic I can’t read that fast so we would always stop and start when I got stuck and the engineer would have to stitch it all together later, he was not so happy about that). I also got down to producing jingles, launch songs and company theme songs etc, I did work for companies including SmithKline Beecham, Birla 3M, BPL, CocaCola, Compaq, Kingfisher, TVSE, Sonata Software, Blaupunkt, Mico, Scullers… Much later in the 00’s I sang on a Ram Gopal Varma movie sound track for his film “D”. Ramu wanted a heavy metal singer and Bruce Dickinson could not give the dates so I was called in, ya, second choice, to Bruce! I tried to do justice to it, attempted a Geoff Tate rip off, got half way, was great fun, its in Hindi…

 

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I was born at our home on Dallow Rd, Luton, Bedfordshire, England on Friday September 6, 1968.  I hated school but went anyway, first to Foxdell then Challney. My father of Indian parents, born in British Guyana, arrived in the UK when he was 17. He worked many “interesting” jobs before following his passion (smoking) on to successfully managing his own tobacconist shop. My mother, daughter of Prof. Pietro Venturini of Università di Bologna, left Italy after World War 2 and moved to the UK to became a nurse with the NHS in London. In October 1982 my family resettled in Koramangala, Bangalore, India where I went to school at the J. Krishnamurthy Foundation India The Valley School and then joined Christ Collage doing History, Economics, Political Science and Logic for a while, but not for long. Since then I have lived in Bangalore, South Goa, Delhi, Mumbai, Gurgaon, Noida, North Goa and now back in Mumbai. I have two brothers, Sharmon is the Business and Program Head at MyOpus Radio Bangalore and my older brother Ramon based in Mumbai, is a producer and musician and the driving force behind The Fanculos