Airwaves for Social Change: Radio Mirchi Group Interview

Interview with C. Pallavi Rao Narvekar, Group Head, Radio Mirchi CSR

Resource Alliance India (RA India): As one of the largest private FM networks in India, how does Radio Mirchi innovate to be relevant to the development sector?

C. Pallavi Rao Narvekar: For any initiative to make massive impact it needs mass reach. In fact, when we formally decided to begin CSR at Radio Mirchi, we asked ourselves how we as a radio medium could constantly give back to the people?

It became apparent, that since we are proficient in studio quality sound and voice or narration we could become a critical enabler for visually impaired or blind communities. Our vision is to provide audio support and entertainment to visually impaired people who we call our VIP’s!

At Mirchi Cares our continuously evolving innovation journey is driven by what our VIP’s need or want at any particular time. How we do that is through our Mirchi CSR volunteer network which is in constant interaction and has focused discussions with VIPs through the city blind schools and NGO’s. The insights we derive through these interactions goes back into the decision making on how best the Mirchi Care can serve them.

So, for instance, we started with a weekly audio news reel produced in various Indian languages, catering to blind schools. Our other projects include “EK KAHANI” a story telling workshop, “STORIES THROUGH SOUND’ workshops, ‘NAYA NAZARIYA’, an eye donation awareness campaign, ‘AUDIO BOOKS’ for the blind in various genres, ‘BRAILLE MENUS’, ‘3-IN-1 ALL ACCESSIBLE MENU’, THE GOOD FOOD APPS and last but not the least “AUDIO DESCRIPTIVE FILMS”- or Cinema for all.

Since music is so central to the Mirchi brand, we support the ARR Foundation and Nalandaway in Chennai to take music education to underprivileged and talented kids, especially the blind. They are integrated into main stream school as we give them the capabilities to participate and perform in school functions. Mirchi Cares also supports the National Association for the Blind’s (NAB) preparatory unit, where social skills, etiquette, basic computer knowledge, spoken English etc. are taught with high quality audio aids.

RA India: How important is the role of communications? Has it been easier since you are a media company?

C. Pallavi Rao Narvekar: Surprising as it may sound, Mirchi Cares, is really the very silent Radio Mirchi division of Radio Mirchi. Of course, we do have the advantage of our air time to create more awareness about eye related issues. Radio Mirchi does provide us with the media clout to put the word out on our activities. For example, are really proud to say that along with our knowledge partners SAKSHAM, MIRCHI CARES has screened AUDIO DESCRIPTIVE movies in various metros and tier 1 and 2 cities. Popular Bollywood films are adapted with additional dialogues to help a blind person understand the film better.

Mirchi Cares, has this year taken this initiative to a whole new level. Instead of waiting for months after a movie releases for permission to convert it into audio descriptive formats, we have managed to convince film makers to release this version within 2 weeks of the box office. Our ultimate goal is to get film makers in this movie crazed nation to release audio descriptive versions simultaneously so that our VIPs can watch a first day first show like us.

RA India: Where have you seen the greatest success stories, are there any initiatives where you have seen huge impact?

C. Pallavi Rao Narvekar: One of the biggest success stories surely has been converting KABALI the blockbuster Southern Indian gangster film into an audio descriptive on just after its release in theatres. The movie took 20 hours to be converted and reproduced. It was experienced by almost 800 blind children and adults who came with their families.

A great impact story, has been with our ON-AIR activity called “EK NAYA NAZARIYA’, where we insisted on eye donation pledges not after we are dead, but while we are living. Dr. Tanuja, the Director of the Venu eye Institute, who we collaborated with, reported a two-fold increase in the number of helpline queries within a week of the campaign.

Our focus is now on GOOD FOOD TALKS APP made by Prashant Verma from NAB. The APP caters to the visually impaired, autistic, dyslexic, elderly and colour blind people as it lets the person decide on the restaurant, what to order etc. without help from anyone. Given the response so far we at Mirchi Cares, plan to do a week long activity to get each city and its citizens to contribute by adding their bits onsite to the menus.


About Mirchi Cares:

Mirchi Cares, is the CSR Division of Radio Mirchi, the largest private FM network of India, spread across 40 cities. Mirchi Cares, provides audio help and entertainment to visually impaired people, the blind and the underprivileged.

Mirchi Cares produces audio books and audio films for the blind as well as the first Braille and first 3-in-1 all accessible restaurant menu in India as also the first ever food App –Good Food Talks.

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