New York Festivals International Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight Interview offers insights into the brilliant careers of radio content creators from around the globe. NYF’s Grand Jury of award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives are actively involved in creating the innovative content heard on radio today.
Viplove Gupte, Chief Programming Officer, MY FM
This week NYF’s Spotlight Interview features thought-provoking insider information from 2018 Grand Jury member Viplove Gupte. Viplove is the Chief Programming Officer for MY FM, DB Corp Ltd., India and brings over 21 years of radio experience, with 16 years spent in creative, content and music programming, to the Grand Jury panel.
He began his creative career as copywriter in advertising in an agency in Central India. He made a move to radio after 6 years being named the first ever programming head of the first radio station of Radio Mirchi (ENIL, Times of India group).
Viplove worked at Mirchi Movies for 2 years, and then moved back to radio as National Programming Head of MY FM. During this time, he launched 16 live stations of the network in less than 2 years and was then promoted to head the programming of BIG FM (the largest radio network of India with 45 live stations).
Since 2012, Viplove has served as MY FM’s Chief Programming Officer and has launched 10 more stations.
New York Festivals: How did you get your start in the radio industry?
Viplove Gupte: After starting in 1995 in advertising, I was working as the Head – Copy in an advertising agency in 2001, a job that has just started to get boring. All of a sudden, a print advertisement appeared in newspaper for Radio Mirchi (The Times Of India Group, Bennett Coleman Group), who were looking to build a complete team for their first FM radio station in India. I applied, took an exhaustive 23 question long copy test and faced 2 interviews to join them as copywriter for the station. I was hoping to write scripts for the RJs because that’s what I thought a copywriter was supposed to do in a radio station. The myth was broken soon when I joined in August 2001 but never the less for next few months, we worked as the launch team, I wrote advertisement copies, promos, jingles and within 2 months of the launch, I got a chance to become the Programming Head of the station in December 2001.
However, the radio bug as they say in India had bit me when I was a kid. My father has been a writer of radio dramas for over 3 decades and then he used to listen to Radio Ceylone ever since I remember for the musical offerings. I have been left alone in a room ever since I was 8 months old where I would listen to music patiently and not demand much attention. The love affair continues till date.
New York Festivals: What was the turning point in your career?
Viplove Gupte: I treat every day as a turning point in the career. Radio being an on the second, by the second medium, we live for the day. One good day of music, one good show, one good promo, one good link. However, in stricter sense, when I was asked to take up the role of a Programming Head in December 2001, especially when we had just launched in October 2001, I would consider that as an official turning point. However, we in radio live from one link to the another, one promo to another so everything is in a perspective. I prefer to think that every single second is a turning point, at the cost of sounding cliché.
New York Festivals: Did you have a mentor, if so how did they help you achieve your career goals?
Viplove Gupte: I learned from some of the most amazing brains in advertising and radio. But to single any one per is going to be gross injustice to everyone else. Each individual, right from my parents, to my daughter, to my friends, to my colleagues to all those people I observed through movies, through books…. everyone added something to my life. I cannot undermine anybody’s role. So, everybody has been a mentor, and everybody has given me a career goal of sort. The best mentor has been “Life”. It taught me everything I know. It also taught me, career goals are finite and hence chewable, I must find something that is unattainable to find a goal in life. The search is still on.
New York Festivals: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Viplove Gupte: Long back I wanted to take part in a debate competition in school so naturally I asked my dad to help me write the content for debate, write effective points, and use of right language to score high points. He said, I won’t be able to help you by writing your debate for you. Why don’t you write your first draft, make me listen to it and I will point out what is missing and what can be added, you rewrite and present again, till you get it pitch perfect. I was so angry with him but obviously couldn’t say anything to him. I never went back to him. I lost the debate, but I never asked for help from anyone, especially for taking up a shortcut. When I look back, I think this is the best piece of advice I ever got from my dad. I can never ever repay him for this.
New York Festivals: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
Viplove Gupte: In India, private FM radio is barely 17 years old as opposed to some key crucial and developed markets. From being a nonsensical fun medium, our industry has transformed in to a much logical and effective editorial medium. It has evolved as a super effective advertising medium because the audience has grown in numbers and the audience has emerged as mature as far as consumption of content is concerned. Radio has moved away from being a pure music and irreverent fun medium. We are witnessing experimentation with some of the long-forgotten content formats viz. story-telling, horror shows, audio documentaries, Q & A of the politicians and many such.
We have also seen influx of top talents from movie and television industry doing shows on radio both as host and as characters in radio dramas. Some of the talent from radio has made easy transition to television, films and now web content industry.
New York Festivals: Where do you see the industry moving in the next 5 years?
Viplove Gupte: Growing! The only way radio moves is up. Ever since its beginning in India, the private FM industry has grown multi fold in last 17 years. From a 15-16 station presence in 2001, current over 1000 radio stations are operating and each one has developed a strong and loyal listener base. The audience measurement shows that the overall base has grown, more than any other industry. The reach has improved and increased. Many towns with 1 million population have radio access and soon in another couple of years, towns with 100 thousand population will have access to private FM radio station. Since large part of the population is yet to be bit by FM radio, the potential is amazing. The new audience, the connectivity, the amazing rooted and local content, unique artists from these lands…. oh, the fresh smell of new earth getting covered by the radio airwaves is just magnetic. Industry in India has the brightest future…and there is no stopping it.
New York Festivals: What three words describe you as a content creator?
Viplove Gupte: Mad. Logical. Cynical.
New York Festivals: What is the responsibility of journalists in today’s world?
Viplove Gupte: In absolute sense, and without quoting the stalwarts, the only duty of a journalist is to seek answers. A bird needs two wings to fly, left wing and right wing…supporting the body of democracy. Hence, irrespective of the leaning of the ruling political party, a journalist only has to seek answers to questions which may or may not have been asked. A dash of an idealism here but that’s how I would prefer. In India, news is not a domain which has been opened to private FM players and is controlled by the Government, hence we only look at print and television media. My experience mainly stems from the people of these two domains.
New York Festivals: What program do you wish you created?
Viplove Gupte: At the cost of sounding pompous, I would say none. Not because of any other reason, but purely to give due credit to the creator of those ideas. I don’t feel jealous of the fact that someone else has created an amazing show. On the contrary, I feel honoured to be working in the same time with such geniuses. I also find it extremely thrilling to see radio is blessed with such creative minds which are breaking barriers to create breakthrough shows/content. May be its the love for this medium and having had the privilege of working with many such minds at different times, I find a kinship with the creators and hence I can only laud their work and take pride in being a part of the same industry. Till date, i have never felt jealous of someone nor did I feel the need to wish that I was the creator of a particular show.
Having said that, my own shortcoming is that I am unable to create a particular kind of drama on radio…. something that builds appointment listenership like early days of radio.
New York Festivals: What is your favorite program that you created and why?
Viplove Gupte: In continuation to what I said above, all the programs that I created are precious to me. The brainchildren of mine. I was never taught to discriminate between children. I love my creations, all of them. Good, bad, ugly, accepted by audience, rejected by audience, won awards, did not win awards…all these things are not relevant. The labour in creation of a 30 second spot to a full talk show, to a radio documentary, to an amazing music playlist to a humorous piece or a radio series….it is the same. What is born out of the labour is always going to be beautiful.
New York Festivals: Whose work do you admire the most?
Viplove Gupte: Everyone. In radio space in India, most of the content creators are friends or old/current colleagues. Everyone does amazing stuff. Anybody who does anything path breaking in radio will find me as their fan. Just because of these creative minds, radio in India is making rapid strides.
New York Festivals: What creative projects are next for you?
Viplove Gupte: On professional front, we are working on a radio drama series and two music-based properties which will be unveiled on our network in April. We are running a pilot of another property in Ahmedabad. Although we had it tested amongst listeners before launching it, we are waiting with baited breath for its response.
On a personal front, I have started writing a book, after many failed first drafts. I am also planning to start a food from the globe blog with my friend. Looking to revive my photo blog…. there are many things I want to do….and it seems…I will finally be able to do it this year.
New York Festivals: What do you think are the hallmarks of award-winning work?
Viplove Gupte: Simplicity – If you understand the fact that radio is working on the subconscious of your listener, you will know a simple message will work more than multi-layered communication.
Focus on one listener – Create the image of your idea listener in your mind, and address everything to him/ her. You won’t have to give in to ratings ever.
Be grounded – Most radio content creators, due to early success, adopt an Ivory Tower Approach. Sit on a higher pedestal while addressing the audience. While all we need to do is be with the listener and talk to the audience.
New York Festivals: How has podcasting changed the way you create content and are you creating more of this on-demand content?
Viplove Gupte: Not much. At least in India, it hasn’t impacted radio much. Though, for posterity, a lot of content is being churned out by radio industry and being put on podcasts, but larger audience still prefers free to air, without any data cost involved kind of radio. Though, new genres of podcasts have made us experiment with newer content styles and unexplored content territories. In India, podcasting is still an extremely urban offering so as FM radio stations we are not worried that they will take over the audience.
New York Festivals: What would be your dream job?
Viplove Gupte: Hahaha! I have worked in advertising for 7 years and almost 17 years in FM radio in India…one of the things I have realised with this limited experience of mine, I enjoy traveling…living in new cities…exploring cultures…the nature and the scenic beauty it has to offer. I have picked up some basic skills of photography which I hone when I get to travel abroad. My gastronomy allows me to indulge in new cuisines. Oh yes, I can also open a Book cafe where I can read books and people can come and drink coffee. OK may be, I will allow them to read some books from my collection. My library of books at home is threatening to throw me out.
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