A whole generation of Nepalis have probably picked up their music tastes from Hits FM's executive director, Jeevan Shrestha. He got his enthusiasm from the hippies who drifted through the streets of Jhocchen while he was growing up, bringing with them the sounds of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and the rest. A decade ago, when Hits FM was leading Kathmandu's FM revolution, the start-up library came largely from Jeevan's personal collection. Most of the albums still haven't made their way back to him.
After working in tourism and hospitality and spending years in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe, Jeevan's foray into radio in 1996 was largely trial and error. "Sonny Shrestha (managing director then) and I had to think hard about what people wanted, and plan our programming around that." It was time well spent, as ten years later
Hits FM 91.2 is thriving, as the only commercial radio station with a 24-hour focus on music and entertainment.
It hasn't all been song and games though. With state-run Radio Nepal as their only predecessor, building up a radio advertising industry was just as challenging as gauging listenership and training staff. Using their ear for what sells and making a wise decision to invest in production music, Jeevan and the Hits FM team have created many of Nepal's most memorable-and successful- radio advertising campaigns.
For clients ranging from local banks and restaurants to international companies like Mazda, Honda, and TIME magazine, Jeevan is usually personally responsible for the concepts and scripting of ads. He enjoys playing with words, coming up with taglines and slogans like Mercantile's 'the time has come' and the slurred 'junsukai bar, Rum Doodle Bar'. Although he doesn't host programs himself, he does do ads, and his distinctive, gravelly voice has become as well-known as those of his presenters. Often, it's what advertisers insist on.
Despite increasing competition from new FM stations and Nepali tv, Jeevan is confident that the station, which makes a trio of ten-year-olds with his twin sons, is on the right track. The prestigious Closeup-Hits FM Music Awards and a city clamouring for quality entertainment will only help. To get more listeners, says Jeevan, "You just have to be good at what you do."