Somewhere in an alley in Chicago, David tunes in to a frequency on the radio, so does Akram from Karachi, Rahul from Bangalore, Ian from Melbourne and countless others from all over the world. All of them tune in to the same radio station, listen to their favorite RJ presenting the special interview or sound track of the day, some send through their thoughts and messages to each other, while some discuss anything and everything that is of interest under the sun. But how do these individuals across the globe tune in on a common frequency? What interests could such individuals of diverse cultural and demographic backgrounds possibly have in common? And even if they do, how can they possibly connect with each other through a basic third world means of communication like a radio? Well, we solve that mystery.
Here’s presenting the story of Saheb Sharma, the initiator and radio jockey at Radio BongOnet, a Kolkata city based internet radio station operated from a personally made studio near Lake Town, broadcasting globally to people of similar interests and passions.
So, it’s an internet radio station, what’s the big deal? Well it is quite a big deal for Saheb, the mastermind and RJ at Bongo net radio is gifted with visual impairment and is completely blind by sight. Such is his passion for sound and radio that against all the odds of high financial and physical requirements of operating a full-fledged global standard radio station, Saheb caters to a global audience. Here is an excerpt from his conversation with sub editor Ejaz Ahmed.
What gave you the idea to start with this venture?
Well, all my life, the only medium of entertainment for me was the radio. It is no new story to say that I cannot see, so neither television nor anything else interested me ever. From childhood it was very interesting for me to control the FM channel I’d like to listen to and tune in to it. After my studies, I wanted to work as an RJ in a mainstream radio station and have also been to countless interviews, but given my visual impairment I was always turned down as I was not deemed to be reliable and efficient per se. This gave me the inspiration to start with the online radio venture.
So, how did it all begin?
After deciding to begin with the radio station initiative I came across a few friends in Pakistan over the internet who gave me the main driving force for this initiative. Now, Pakistan is a place where the internet and its usage are really advanced. My friends there introduced me to the concept of internet radio. They played around with the internet for a bunch of fun activities back then. From using online messengers to streaming live music, these guys made the internet a playground to connect with each other in all the fun filled ways possible. They showed me the concept of going ON LINE, instead of running after going ON AIR.
It must have been very difficult journey
It sure was, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? Back in the days we used to record our segments on mobile phones and create radio packages out of basic devices. Today of course there’s a fully up to date online radio station that we have. It was never easy; I have looked around a lot for a platform for my passion but faced disappointments almost everywhere either for my disability or for some insignificant reason or the other. It was only in 2013 that I started with my own online radio station and there has been no looking back since.
It is an interesting convergence between the modern day internet and the primitive concept of radio. Yet, why internet radio?
Well, to face facts bluntly Kolkata still has a long way to go as far as the concept of internet is concerned. We may have a token ‘free wi-fi’ and we may launch 4G for some from here but as far as the masses go, we still have a lot to learn on the internet and it’s varied usage beyond just downloading things from it. If you consider a FM channel, it is limited just from, say Barasat to Baruipur, whereas internet radio has not vertical boundary. And interestingly, almost 40-45% of our listenership is from abroad. So not only is it beneficial from a service providers end but also from an investors end as compared to the conventional FM radio channel. From an investment point of view the best part about internet radio is that the cost of setting it up is in lakhs and not crores.