Yatish Mehrishi is the incoming CEO for Mirchi. He’s taking the reins from Prashant Panday to become Mirchi CEO. Mehrishi boasts a career spanning some 25 years, working in operations for consumer-facing industries such as fast moving consumer goods, telecoms, media, and retail, across various functions, including sales, marketing and operations. After a first 10-year stint at Mirchi as head of the North Cluster and then chief revenue officer, he completed an MBA at the London Business School before returning to Mirchi as COO for two more years. He then moved to fashion retail firm Arvind Fashions Ltd. as the chief revenue officer for two years before coming back to Mirchi as CEO. He shares his vision for taking Mirchi forward.
RedTech: You spent 11 years at Mirchi, rising to COO before leaving for another role. Why did you leave?
Yatish Mehrishi: A lot of people ask me this question, and for me, the mantra has always been, “If life gives you an opportunity to learn something new, try and go for it.” I did my undergraduate degree in food and dairy technology before my MBA, and have since worked in various companies selling and marketing beverages, handsets, airtime and fashion. In between, I also took a break for higher studies in London.
RedTech: What are your plans for Mirchi as CEO?
Mehrishi: Mirchi is like a family to me. Having worked much of my professional career here, the opportunity to return as a CEO with the people you love was a no-brainer. Having said that, the role comes with pretty big shoes to fill — those of A.P. Parigi, our first CEO, and then our outgoing CEO, Prashant Panday. Mirchi is the top radio brand in India, and clearly a very strong brand.
Digital disruption and the post-COVID world have forced many companies to look at their business models afresh. For me, the most important plan is to transform Mirchi into a leading digital entertainment company while we continue to lead the radio business in India. We have taken a small step on the digital side, having launched our own pure-play audio platform, Mirchi Plus, in July 2022.
RedTech: The radio market in India is very competitive. How do you ensure that Mirchi’s network of stations leads both in terms of audience and revenue share?
Mehrishi: The simple answer to this is the Mirchi employees. I think all the credit for our leadership in revenue and listenership goes to the Mirchi Team.
Mirchi follows a simple rule of not hiring employees from the media sector and combining this with the famed Mirchi culture, which these four pillars describe well: “Informed Risk Taking, Constructive Confrontation, Non-Hierarchical and Fun@Work.” Mirchi was launched not just as a media company, but more of a creative company; the brand ethos and culture helped Mirchi attract the best creative and sales talent available in the country.
For my leadership team and me, it is going to be extremely important as we pivot and transform the company that the Mirchi culture stays up there, and we empower people at the last mile to ensure we continue our leadership position both in audience and revenue share.
The most important plan is to transform Mirchi into a leading digital-entertainment company while we continue to lead the radio business in India.
RedTech: With increasing competition from online audio, both streaming and on-demand, how is Mirchi sustaining its audience loyalty and advertising support?
Mehrishi: Our strategy is going to be two-pronged: radio and digital. While we believe traditional radio has its own story to convey in the coming years, we still want to be ready to meet changing consumer behavior and needs; it’s the main reason we have launched our digital play, Mirchi Plus. It is currently a non-music-based audio stories platform, and if I we go with the first six months of response, it is truly remarkable — we are beating all our initial estimates of consumer listening metrics.
We have also forayed into programmatic ad selling with our new product, M-Ping. It is the first and only digital-audio-first ad network in the country. While India has become one of the largest digital audio consumption markets, the advertiser supply is still stuck in video and display. Following “consumer first” principles, M-Ping’s focus is to consolidate the digital audio advertising space and realize the benefits of higher ROI and increased advertiser recall. So, our strategy straddles both content and advertising, which I believe will enable Mirchi to sustain its leadership position.
RedTech: What is Mirchi’s data analytics strategy?
Mehrishi: Traditional mediums such as radio didn’t use much data analytics, simply because there was not as much data available as in the digital ecosystem. However, Mirchi has always been a data-driven company, and we use data analytics for our music and content strategy. In sales, of course, we use data analytics for our pricing and go-to market strategy.
As we foray into the digital space with the launch of the Mirchi Plus app, our digital strategy will be the key as we garner more and more consumers. As our consumption metrics improve, it’s going to be critical to leverage data analytics to improve our product offering and attract an increasing number of subscribers. This entails content strategy — whether long or short — and pricing, such as whether to go premium or “freemium,” etc. It will be important to have a separate vertical for the digital analytics division, and we are working on it.
RedTech: Is radio on the car dashboard important to Mirchi? If so, how are you staying relevant as large screens become the primary entertainment console in the car?
Mehrishi: Car listenership is on the rise, and as Google mobility shows, the traffic on the roads is increasing and will keep on increasing; so, yes, radio on the car dashboard is going to be extremely important for Mirchi.
From a hardware point of view, there could be a challenge if car manufacturers remove the tuners from the console. This is where our new Mirchi Plus audio platform will be critical.
Having said that, radio in its humble avatar will always be relevant with the type of content it offers — the fact that it is a free-to-air medium, the companionship a presenter offers and the utilities that radio brings to listeners, like traffic updates and social messaging — all in addition to the curated music. Radio will always be the go-to medium for entertainment in cars.
RedTech: How are you using technology and software to strengthen your business — to grow or to cut costs?
Mehrishi: We are actively looking at using technology in all aspects of our business — not just in the radio transmission feed, but also in the way we sell to clients, the way we interact with our employees, financial processes, etc. The pandemic has taught all of us new models of doing business and running companies. In the post-pandemic world, it is important to remain prudent in our cost structures, and we are using technology to help us achieve that objective too.
RedTech: Apart from the competitive challenges already mentioned, do you see any other hurdles for radio and audio in India over the next three to five years?
Mehrishi: Technology has disrupted all industries, and I would say media the most.
Consumer behavior in media consumption is changing very fast, and it’s difficult to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the consumer. I think as media professionals, we’re fighting for the time and attention span of a consumer, when they have so much to choose from — be it a video OTT, short- or long-form videos, podcasts, music, stories, Twitter and other social networks, games or print. There is simply an overload of media content on offer.
The only way one can overcome this challenge is to get the content strategy right. We’ll have to keep sharpening our content offerings according to the changing audience requirements. At some point in time, there will be a convergence of our Mirchi Plus app and our radio feed, and we will have to segment the market according to the needs of consumers/listeners.
For the radio and audio industry, the one big advantage is that it’s a passive medium and does not require the active attention of the consumer.
Read our interview with outgoing CEO Prashant Panday here.