Radio Mirchi restructures team to align with digital ambitions

“Even failed entrepreneurs are welcome at Mirchi, if they bring their zeal and energy,” says Vivek Kulkarni, senior VP and head – HR, Mirchi

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Radio Mirchi is now just Mirchi. The rebranding has been done in a bid to make the market understand the organisation’s changed business strategy. Now the Company wants to be seen as a solutions provider rather than just an on-air platform. This is not the only reshuffling that happened at the organisation. It also underwent a management restructuring to align with the transformed business needs, which includes consolidation of roles.

Earlier, Mirchi had a three-tiered structure with the country divided into three zones. There were three regional heads in each of these zones, with 12 clusters under them and 40 odd locations. Post restructuring, the organisation did away with the regional structure completely. Instead of 12 clusters, they moved to six zones. They combined a lot of geographical locations together to form zones. Therefore, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are now one category, while Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have been clubbed together. Vivek Kulkarni, senior vice president and head – human resources informs this was done keeping in mind business recovery post the pandemic.

“This was preceded by reduction in headcount. We assumed that the business is going to be tepid not just for the pandemic year but next year as well because recovery will take time. So, our first task was to prune our reach to the market, and we cut out all the flab. We had acquired a very large workforce and were aggressive in our plans. As business headwinds came about and we estimated that even in the next year, the recovery will be slow, we decided to consolidate. We trimmed our salesforce, clubbed territories of similar or adjoining states and created a six-zone structure. Each of the zonal heads now reports to the CEO,” Kulkarni informs. The non-revenue functions will work with the functional head.

Historically, Mirchi always had regional centres and this change touched the seniormost executives of the Company more than anyone else. “When we removed the regional head level, we had to make sure those people got richer jobs. While radio was consolidating, the digital and solutions sections were craving for resources. We have ambitious plans for digital, which include having a website and multiple YouTube channels, creating content exclusively for digital media avoiding usage of repackaged radio content. We decided we won’t just lean on radio guys to create content, we will also want native digital people. To fund that business, we had to do two things – shed costs and redeploy talent from radio to digital.” So the organisation moved one regional head to export for stations outside India and deputed the other one to the digital business. “For the latter, it was only one third of what he was managing in the western and central areas, but we knew this is the future. We wanted him to incubate it and make it larger,” asserts Kulkarni.

We trimmed our salesforce, clubbed territories of similar or adjoining states and created a six-zone structure. Each of the zonal heads now reports to the CEO.

However, it was a sudden and unexpected move. As per Kulkarni, the dismantling of the regional structure was completely unanticipated. People in the organisation were aware that there would be consolidation and that some smaller territories would be impacted, but they hadn’t really visualised the 12-zone structure collapsing to six.

Mirchi isn’t too big on competency management, for its choices are intuitive. There is a fair degree of assessment borne out of years of experience. “We have a good idea about the innate strengths of individuals and the ability to pick up new skills. For instance, our south regional head served Mirchi for 10-12 years and had essayed all the roles of the traditional radio business. The one area he did not handle was the digital side of the business. So when we decided to open radio stations across the various countries, we needed someone who was on top of all kinds of radio businesses.”

Kulkarni also reveals that the organisation also had this dilemma on whether to have internal movements or look for talent outside. They contemplated getting a few digital natives versus picking in-house people and allowing them to grow. Kulkarni says, “Radio is a good poaching ground for a lot of digital-media companies. We lose talent heavily and are constantly under pressure to retain them Pocket Aces, TVF, Jio Saavn, Gaana. So that’s clearly an aspiration area for our talent. Second, when we go to the market, our identity is that of a radio platform. We obviously can’t change that legacy overnight. A lot of digital content on our platform was created by our radio professionals, so there were merits of using in-house talent. Also, when one looks at the outside ecosystem, one sees a lot of digital talent, but not entertainment digital talent. Most of it is long-format content but my strengths are in short format entertainment capsules. So, we decided we needed a blend of people.”

Content creators at Mirchi, who have shown the capacity to do digital content are encouraged to move to digital. For instance, the organisation’s digital content head used to earlier lead the content for Mirchi’s second frequency. But due to her impressive track record, she was moved to the digital space. Kulkarni does, however, admits that in the aspects of digital business that the organisation doesn’t have adequate understanding, it will need to resort to external talent hiring.

Another aspect of restructuring is switching of roles. Mirchi tries to rotate employees on roles which are heavy on all-round engagement of business. The organisation also tries to keep them in roles narrower in the sense that it doesn’t straddle in too many KPIs. Digital allows the organisation to rotate talent amongst multiple business formats. A content person can move to the digital arm to create more. But they have a choice, of course!

Kulkarni says firmly, “Our decisions are never unilateral as Mirchi is a liberal workspace. The individual has a right to make a choice. It will obviously lead to consequences. For instance, a career change may require people to move out of their comfort zones, and therefore, take a quicker route to growth. But if people are comfortable where they are, growth may happen after a longer period of time. Also there’s a process. We ask the business directors to evaluate and give us names. They will also informally consult and the interested parties will be spoken to by the RHR. Then a firmer decision is made to gauge the interest levels.”

Transitioning from being radio partners to solution partners and restructuring the employee structure will have some impact on Mirchi’s hiring strategy. More so because it has seen a significant increase in IP business, so much so that it contributed 25-30 per cent of total topline, pre-COVID. “Our company will have specialists and all-rounders. There are people good for radio primarily so we can open up certain jobs in that field and then there are people who are radio plus. They are digital savvy, camera-friendly and have a social media understanding. They will have a different set of careers,” Kulkarni informs.

Coming to the non-revenue landscape, Mirchi’s workforce requirement will be far younger. The content side anyway comprises youngsters. This will only intensify because the emphasis is on catching up with the next big thing in the digital space. The content requirement will thus become very niche, like an Insta influencer. “It will diversify our need for talent and put emphasis on younger talent from the hinterland. That’s because, our business is regional in nature. We believe in creating hyperlocal celebrities. We have moved to social media hiring with more emphasis on the wit rather than the resume,” reasons Kulkarni.

Mirchi earlier met its hiring needs by looking outside, at categories, such as FMCG, computer durables, telecom, and so on. Now the focus has shifted to e-commerce, smaller digital companies and more. Mirchi is also looking for failed entrepreneurs. “They are very much welcome at Mirchi. That’s also an area of our talent hunt as far as business profiles are concerned. That’s because they understand risks, bring zeal, and infuse the energy and the drive to do something new,” Kulkarni reveals.

Mirchi is looking to associate with established stars as partners for the business to further their digital ambitions. However, the plans are still at a nascent stage.

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