what's the frequency, kathmandu?
Radio had its hip moment in the 90s, but somewhere along the way it lost its cool tag. Urban listeners disappeared. Radio became more about information and cheesy jingles than entertainment. Is the Shyangden brothers’ introduction of Revolution Radio, Nepal’s first Internet radio station, radio’s grand return?
Ever since its inception, Revolution Radio (RVLE) has come to somehow describe other radio stations as traditional and archaic. The sheer presence of this LIVE online radio is a slap in the face of those who think radio stations should be run like corporate houses. Brothers Ashish and Prasan Shyangden talk about past work experiences, entrepreneurship and what RVLR is doing differently. Excerpts from our chitchat with the brothers with the gift of the gab.
Prasan: You (looking at Ashish) almost forgot about the interview.
Ashish: You didn’t remind me in the morning.
Prasan: Even though we are siblings we hardly communicate at home. But we are the best partners when it comes to radio or emceeing.
Ashish: I know when he is stuck in the middle of a talk, when he needs help, when I need to fill in. The thing is we get each other really well. May be because we are brothers.
Prasan: The story behind our entry into radio is an interesting one.
Ashish: It was Prasan who called this guy at Kantipur Radio to give him a piece of his mind because his way of presenting the radio show got on his nerves.
Prasan: It was Steve. But when I was on the phone with him, he was nice.
Ashish: Prasan got invited to meet him in the studio and he asked me to tag along.
Prasan: And we were offered to work there as radio presenters. We worked for 13 years at Kantipur Radio and we used to run two shows – Rhythm Brothers and Music Jam.
Ashish: In the earlier days, we had no idea what we were doing. The only thing we knew was being ourselves and that’s what we did. Incidentally our listeners liked that. Also, the good thing was that the station allowed us to be ourselves.
Prasan: We took things lightly for like three years but then we started to feel the weight of our responsibility. People had started to look up to us; we had become synonymous with radio in Nepal.
Ashish: We not only talked about fun stuff but also started to raise some serious issues on our shows.
Prasan: But the problem was, although we talked in great lengths about ‘rights’ in our shows, our rights were being tweaked and mutilated.
Ashish: See the thing is revolution had seeped in from early on. There were some issues that gnawed at us. We weren’t mere radio jockeys but media personalities. We thought if change has to be introduced, we have to intervene and give an impetus to the revolution. Things didn’t work out at Kantipur Station and so we walked out.
Prasan: We had been playing with the idea of owning our own radio station for a long time. Our good friend Manoj KC from 1974 AD jumped into the project. We toyed with many concepts for our shows. We knew the creative aspects but we lacked in the financing department. Cabinet Shrestha trusted us blindly and believed in our revolution and funded the project.
Ashish: Even if you have a great business idea but no investors, the idea will fizzle out. Entrepreneurship is a whole new ball game for us. Taking care of the bills, paying your people and ensuring they get paid, on most days, on time – all these responsibilities are still new to us. We are learning.
Prasan: Because we had worked in radio for such a long period, we knew what to avoid in ours. See, you don’t need too many people, unnecessary expenses and tall buildings to establish a radio station. You just need people who are passionate about radio and people who are good at their jobs. We wanted a small radio station – and that is how radio should be. We don’t have a guard or a secretary or a runner at Rvlr. We were very clear from day one that whoever runs the show, should own the show. They should have the authority over their respective radio show.
Ashish: At Rvlr, we call our radio presenters as Voices because they are the true voices of Rvlr. We are a very listener-centric station. Because we are live and active on Twitter, we get instant feedback. Also the Voices review their own performance. We rarely intervene. And we have listeners who have appointed themselves as our promoters who go to Facebook and Twitter and write about us and promote us like crazy.
Prasan: Somebody discovered my show in Malaysia a few months back and the fun part is…
Ashish: No, it was South Korea.
Prasan: Yes, South Korea and the fun part is now we have a great following there comprising of South Koreans and Nepalese in South Korea. We have listeners in the US, Europe and Asia. All this because one listener listened to our show in one part of that particular region and told his friends and likewise and so the numbers multiplied. Our listeners have grown exponentially. In today’s age, a radio station should go global and have a clear understanding of the music genres it will endorse.
Ashish: As a result, in this one year we have been approached by big events like Jazzmandu who had till date been collaborating with Hits FM. They got a good response and so did we. And they are suggesting that we do it again.
Prasan: Oh and we’ve also done Nepal Music Fest.
Ashish: In fact, we are the only station which broadcasted TGIF Fashion Week live and that was worldwide.
Prasan: That was amazing.
Ashish: And regarding the pay, well we pay our Voices well; possibly better than many radio stations in town.
Prasan: And when at times we can’t pay them on time, because our working style is very transparent, they understand.
Ashish: It’s been just over a year of the show. We are not thinking of profit for one more year, because we know that it takes time and we are in no hurry.
Prasan: But we have to generate profit because at the end of the day, it is a business venture too, someone has invested in it and there are people to feed. But we will never take it just as a pure profit-oriented business venture; profit should be the by-product. And there is no harm if you make profit.
Ashish: After we came onto the floor, as many as six Internet radio stations have come into being; two in the US, two in Australia and one in the UK – opened mostly by our listeners.
Prasan: That means there is a market, which means media is growing and that means young entrepreneurs who aren’t multi-millionaires can also venture into it.