Mahima Kapoor

Head of Brand & Digital at BIG FM

Exploring the world of radio with Mahima Kapoor

Radio remains a valuable and effective marketing medium in the ever-evolving advertising landscape. Its ability to connect with audiences, deliver targeted messaging, and foster strong brand relationships makes it an essential tool for businesses looking to maximize their marketing efforts and reach their target market.

In conversation with Kunal Bajpai, Senior Associate Program Management - Founder's Office at Pepper Content, Mahima Kapoor, Head of Brand & Digital at BIG FM unveils the secrets of the radio industry and marketing. Mahima is an accomplished marketing professional with a wealth of experience and a passion for driving brand success. With experience working at renowned companies such as Nickelodeon and ALTBalaji, she has been at the forefront of digital transformation and has successfully implemented innovative strategies to engage audiences across different platforms.

Let’s dive into the conversation.

1. Tell us about your journey in marketing.

It has been exactly 13.2 years now. I've always had a passion for media. If I reflect on my journey, I started as an intern at Radio City while pursuing my MBA. During my time there, they offered me a pre-placement offer (PPO) and I joined as a management trainee. I spent five and a half years working with them. It's truly amazing to think that I went from being an intern to overseeing marketing in Bombay. The first company holds a special place in my heart, not to say that the others don't, but it's where my career began. Interestingly, when I pursued my MBA, I planned to join a renowned FMCG company.

That was my intention going into the second year of my MBA, but unfortunately, the recession hit and the companies I had hoped for didn't recruit. That's how I stumbled into the world of media, and it has been my focus ever since. At Radio City, I experienced significant growth, thanks to the exceptional leaders I had the opportunity to work with.

I owe a great deal to my mother for shaping me into who I am today, as cliché as it may sound. Additionally, the leaders I've worked with have played a significant role in my development. Radio City's leaders granted me a remarkable level of autonomy even as a management trainee. They placed their trust in me. I was part of a group of management trainees, and we started by performing tasks like placing stickers on the merchandise before progressing to attending city events. I had the chance to build and lead teams. At Radio City, I witnessed the various aspects of the media industry.

Following my time at Radio City, I joined Nickelodeon, a delightful channel overseen by a remarkable leader. It was an enjoyable experience working with children because they are highly impressionable. Unlike radio, where the challenge lies in engaging listeners, Nickelodeon presented the challenge of keeping kids from flipping channels. This was an exciting time as digital media was just beginning to make an impact in India, thanks to Prime Minister Modi. I remember a specific instance at that time. We had a social media team, and although I can't reveal all the details, we would often capture screenshots of our episodes to share on social media.

We would urge our audience to stay tuned for their favorite cartoons at a specific time and date. However, this approach wasn't yielding the desired results. We even tried using memes, but they didn't seem to resonate. It was a perplexing situation, as we were the number one channel in terms of TV ratings but struggling on social media. Nevertheless, this challenge forced us to rethink our strategy. We analyzed the content aired on TV, considering the differences in audience preferences. This was a valuable lesson for us. Subsequently, my team and I created engaging content specifically tailored for social media platforms.

This experience marked the beginning of my journey into the digital and social media realm. After Nickelodeon, I took a brief break from the media industry. During this time, I briefly worked as the Head of Marketing for a great company specializing in sporting goods. However, my passion for media drew me back.

I had the privilege of working with an incredible individual in my next role, who was a true visionary. I recall sitting with her while launching one of our shows. She had a distinct vision, insisting that the show's posters be designed in black and red. Initially, I questioned the color choice, as it didn't align with the show's theme of finding one's father. Her clarity of vision taught me a great deal. For each show, she had a unique perspective. I learned so much from her. Afterward, I joined TikTok, a company that holds a special place in my heart. It took me seven rounds of interviews to secure a position there. However, within 15 days of joining, the platform faced a ban in India.

Fortunately, I wasn't blamed for the ban, although I wish I could have contributed more during my time there. Nevertheless, the country leader and my immediate boss had faith in me and a few others, allowing us to learn from the global TikTok team. I collaborated closely with teams from the US, Brazil, and the Mina region. It was an incredible experience, working closely with the product and marketing teams. Eventually, I focused on the APAC region, particularly Central Asia and South Asia. I launched initiatives such as TikTok Shop and Sound On, a platform for music artists. My time at TikTok was filled with exciting projects.

Currently, I am the Head of Brand and Digital at Big FM, a role that brings me great joy. I have an amazing and talented team, and I'm passionate about building brands. The beauty of Big FM is that we go beyond being just a radio station; we also venture into podcasting. We are always on the lookout for new opportunities and technologies to explore.

I've had the chance to work on technology-driven campaigns, but I'll save the details for another time. Overall, my journey has been a mix of growth, challenges, and incredible learning experiences. I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had and excited for what lies ahead in this ever-evolving industry.

2. What are some experiences or moments that could help us understand what those perspective shifts were?

I have a few anecdotes, but first, let me share a story from my time at Radio City. In the media industry, especially in marketing, research plays a vital role. It's all about data and finding the right tools to analyze it. However, before I joined Radio City, there was an issue with our rankings. We were striving to be the top radio station in Bombay, as the media metros held significant importance.

We conducted research, campaigns, and everything we could think of, but nothing seemed to work. That's when I decided to pause and rethink our approach. We had a research agency that provided us with five bullet points. Instead of blindly accepting them, I questioned whether I should rely solely on those points or use my judgment.

This led me to realize that there was a disconnect between the research agency's findings and the reality on the ground. I suggested to the management that we should directly interact with our audience through our radio jockeys (RJs). We embarked on a journey, meeting thousands of people in Bombay, and traveling in a branded van with my RJs.

During these interactions, we discovered that out of the five points suggested by the research agency, only one resonated strongly with our audience. This experience taught us that research should not be taken at face value. It's essential to leverage our experience and expertise to shape our strategies. Thankfully, my CEO and immediate boss supported and implemented the changes I proposed across India, which was a significant milestone for me.

Another personal lesson I learned applies to any field you may be in. Honesty has always been my guiding principle. It's easy to try and manipulate a situation when you make a mistake in your professional life, but I have always championed honesty. If you're honest, you'll find a way.

I recall a time in my early days at my first company when I was still learning the ropes. I had expressed to my immediate boss that sports, particularly cricket, and math were not my strong suits. I requested his guidance in those areas. He understood and appreciated my honesty, allowing me to focus on other tasks.

However, I found myself thinking and strategizing about how to contribute to the cricket space. We were launching the "DHI Premier League," and my boss asked me a cricket-related question, which I fumbled to answer correctly. He quickly realized that my knowledge in that area was limited, and he assigned someone else to handle it. It was a humbling experience that reinforced the value of honesty.

I always emphasize the importance of honesty to my team as well. I let them know that I am their friend, but if they make a mistake, they must inform me directly. I don't want to be caught off guard by someone else bringing up their errors. Honesty is indeed the best policy, no matter how challenging it may be.

These are just a couple of lessons I've learned along the way, and I believe they are worth sharing.

I want to tell everyone, regardless of the years of experience you have, it's fine to say that your plate is overflowing. The boss or the leader will probably reprioritize.

3. How has marketing shaped you?

When I embarked on my marketing career, particularly in the media and entertainment sector, things were quite different. It used to be all about catering to the masses. While generational gaps have always existed, companies were focused on targeting both young and older demographics simultaneously.

In the past, we had cohorts where the targeting platforms for these two groups overlapped. However, after 13 years, there is now a distinct gap. If I want to reach Gen Z versus Millennials, I have to use different platforms for each group. My marketing approach has evolved accordingly, with different platforms for different target audiences.

Another significant aspect of the current landscape is the buzz around AI. Many people wonder if AI will replace jobs, but I believe it is meant to assist us in working more efficiently. We already knew how to make decisions and improve processes, and AI can help automate those tasks.

For example, in radio, we used to have a team manually scheduling advertisements, which was a laborious task. Unfortunately, these teams are often underappreciated. But now, thanks to AI, I can schedule posts in advance and automate certain processes, making things easier for my team.

In the field of media and entertainment, the targeting of audiences and the platforms we use have also evolved. Voice has become a powerful tool for marketers, which was not something we anticipated before. While traditional media still has its charm, new technologies like anamorphic billboards and holograms have transformed out-of-home advertising.

Digital marketing has also undergone significant changes. It used to revolve around social media platforms like Facebook, but now short format videos have become crucial for engaging with audiences. Additionally, the emergence of NFTs in the media and entertainment industry has caught my attention, with potential applications even in radio.

AI is there to help us work more efficiently. We were working efficiently. We knew how to make decisions. We knew how to put better processes in place. AI is going to help us automate it.

4. What does your ideal marketing stack look like? 

I have actually had the opportunity to work with the company that provided me with this tool. Let me explain the advantages of using this tool. Firstly, it allowed me to eliminate WhatsApp from my work routine. Now I only need to use one platform for all my work-related communication. I simply send messages through this platform and get everything done.

This platform, let's call it "a," offers various features. Apart from messaging, it also allows me to check calendars and manage backend projects. So, if I needed to assign a task to Kunal, I would search for his name and team on the platform "a" and tag him with a message like, "Hey, the video brief has been sent. Please help me." The platform would notify him that I have a new brief, and he could either reject or accept it. I would receive a notification as well, making my work much easier.

Another benefit is that my leader can see the progress of the team's work without making it awkward for anyone. Instead of asking each team member about their productivity, the platform provides visibility to my leader. It's amazing!

The fourth benefit that I absolutely loved was the ability to collaborate on documents. These documents were easily accessible to everyone, not like the complicated P T X files. The platform had fantastic editing tools that allowed me to make my presentations or regular documents look impressive. It was such a relief to have these tools at my disposal.

I genuinely miss working with this tool, and I hope I can use it in my future companies. As a marketer, I need a single tool that can help me create PowerPoint presentations, make videos, edit regular documents, and even provide some fun editing features. Making 16-page presentations can become monotonous, so having such a versatile tool would make me extremely happy.

In summary, I had a great experience working with this tool from my previous company, and I hope to find a similar one in my future endeavors.

5. Do you have any pieces of advice for people in this position who are now entering the marketing domain?

If it weren't for the impact of the pandemic, I might not have expressed these thoughts. But now, I feel compelled to share this advice with anyone entering or starting their career. It's crucial to have a genuine passion for your field of work and not become overly attached to specific companies.

Instead, let your passion as a marketer drive you to achieve great things, regardless of where you find yourself. However, while striving to reach your goals, it's vital to prioritize your mental well-being. Companies can replace us at any time, but we always have ourselves to rely on. Therefore, taking care of our mental health is of utmost importance, allowing us to stay motivated and excel in our chosen profession.

Even if you have to use AI, you need to have that intellect to do it because it's not going to take away your job. AI cannot supervise or manage teams. It can't tell you where you're going wrong or this is what you need to do. We as humans have to ensure how we can reduce our time in backend daily operations and use it for building brands more efficiently.

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