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The Life Interview with SPH Radio’s Sim Hong Huat: In tune with listeners’ wants, Entertainment News & Top Stories

He has grilled satay in a Malay restaurant and bought radio promoting. And, proper now, Mr Sim Hong Huat, normal supervisor of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Radio, is preparing for a brand new problem: launching a business and private finance radio station, the primary of its variety in Singapore.

We chat in his workplace at SPH’s News Centre constructing in Toa Payoh and there are 4 guitars mendacity about. Mr Sim is a bed room strummer with a big assortment at home. The guitars in his workplace are for autographs.

Musicians dropping by One FM 91.three, Kiss92, UFM 100.three and the just-launched 96.three Hao FM for interviews are apt to be stopped, handed a marker and requested to scribble one thing on the devices.

“I have Nathan Hartono, Tanya Chua, Def Leppard, Journey,” says Mr Sim, 48. He additionally has signatures from Taiwanese rock duo Power Station.

“I get signatures because I’m a fan,” he says. The turntable in his workplace is flanked by information from blues legends B.B. King and Eric Clapton, each masters of the six-string.

The man who joined SPH radio in 2012 as head of the gross sales division, simply after the launch of Kiss92, has simply overseen the launch of 96.three Hao FM. The Mandarin station is focused at bilingual Singaporeans aged 45 and above and performs basic Mandopop tunes. It additionally options programmes on way of life, healthcare and monetary planning.

He is watching the efficiency of the Chinese station intently, whereas overseeing the launch of Money FM 89.three, slated for Jan 29.


My life to this point: Mr Sim Hong Huat together with his assortment of 20 stringed devices (above), primarily guitars, and taking part in at Eusoff Hall throughout his college days. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SIM HONG HUAT

I like being the underdog. When Kiss92 got here alongside, the opponents brushed it off. But if you end up the underdog, there’s lots of room up there, there’s some huge cash in it, as a result of the chief is resting on his laurels. And that was what occurred.

MR SIM HONG HUAT on how Kiss92, launched in 2012, rose in income and market share. The station focused at ladies aged 30 to 50, has the highest night drive-time present, in response to a Nielsen survey final yr

Presenters have been employed and programme codecs finalised for the 24-hour station, he says. Right now, presenters and producers are in rehearsal mode, pretending to be “live” and understanding the kinks.

“Each piece of content is measured in seconds and we have to fill 24 hours. It can get scary,” he says, giving a way of scale to the duty in entrance of the crew, requested to fill airtime with lots of discuss – high-quality, money-focused discuss – and little or no music.

Plans for a talk-heavy business station had been drawn up years earlier than and SPH’s radio arm had been ready for the best time to launch it.

The second got here final yr when frequencies have been launched by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), resulting in SPH successful a young for 2 of them. One could be for 96.three Hao FM, launched final week, and the opposite for Money FM 89.three.

96.three Hao FM specialises in Mandarin pop from the 1980s and 1990s, whereas Money FM 89.three has been positioned as the primary and solely business and private finance radio station in English.

“We had done research and knew that there was a need for a business and finance station. We looked at what we can do best that others can’t. We saw that nobody has better resources and expertise in reporting business news,” he says.

The station is aimed toward professionals, managers, executives and business individuals (PMEBs). It will draw on the experience of the presenters, friends and business journalists, primarily from The Business Times.

During the morning drive-time hours, for instance, Money FM 89.three will characteristic a panel format with friends and banter, much like its sibling stations.

What units the business station aside is content material: It will give listeners a deeper dive into cash matters and won’t draw back from entering into particulars. While the temper will usually be critical, the precise tone will rely upon the chemistry between the hosts, producers and friends, he says.

“The tricky thing about radio shows is that each one is driven by the personalities and we want them to be themselves. For example, on Kiss92, Jason Johnson is the goofball and Arnold Gay is the news guy, the fact-checker, and you have Maddy Barber, who’s very bubbly,” he says.

Their present sounds easy and pure now, nevertheless it took a few years for the roles to settle, and Mr Sim expects the identical bedding-in interval for the Money FM 89.three morning crew.

Experienced presenters Claressa Monteiro, Yasmin Jonkers, Elliott Danker and Howie Lim have joined. There is another presenter, however he can’t reveal the identify but for contractual causes.

One factor is definite for Singapore’s first business and finance station: It is not going to undertake the monotone of the usual radio news reader.

“We ask the presenters to imagine that they are talking to a 40-year-old mid-career male who drives a car. He might live in an executive condo and have a five-year-old kid. We drill down into it and it helps the presenters deliver,” he says.

The morning present may also characteristic visitor specialists to speak about all the pieces from bitcoin to property and The Business Times’ journalists may also be introduced in, says Mr Sim. The extra light-hearted options of reveals on different stations, resembling video games or chats with music artists, will likely be omitted.

Listener cellphone calls will likely be a spotlight of Money FM 89.three’s morning and night reveals. Every name will likely be screened, as is customary apply. But the station’s producers will likely be setting the bar larger within the seek for callers who can take discussions ahead, he says.

“It’s going to be a challenge for the producers to get callers with good, strong opinions,” he says.

The journey to SPH Radio started for Mr Sim at school, when he was tuned into 1980’s Britpop, then coming from Singapore’s single English radio station, Radio 1.

The son of a taxi driver and housewife, and the center one in a household with 5 kids, he didn’t have a lot pocket cash to purchase issues he preferred, resembling music magazines and guitars.

He went to Tanglin Primary School (which doesn’t exist any extra) and scored effectively sufficient within the Primary School Leaving Examination to go to Raffles Institution (RI).

To pay for magazines and cassettes, he labored at eating places, flipping pizzas, cooking french fries and, as soon as, manning the satay grill station at a Malay restaurant.

The household moved about, from a three-room flat in Queenstown to a four-room one in Toa Payoh.

Along the way in which, he frolicked with pals, performed rugby for RI, took pop and classical guitar classes and was a fan of all the pieces from synthpop band Duran Duran to heavy steel and Cantopop.

He jokes that they let him into RI by mistake as a result of he was something however studious. He didn’t have the O-level outcomes to affix most of his cohort at Raffles Junior College (RJC) and took his A ranges privately. That opened the way in which to the National University of Singapore, the place he studied economics and sociology.

Naturally, he performed guitar with pals from Eusoff Hall, the place he stayed.

Graduating in 1995 and impressed by notions of being his personal boss, he turned an insurance coverage agent, however that left him jaded.

He took up a job in promoting gross sales on the Radio Corporation of Singapore, the predecessor to Mediacorp Radio. He left in 2000 to affix a telephony company then pioneering the sale of Internet-based voice calls, earlier than returning to Mediacorp in 2003. He later struck out on his personal to co-found a company promoting promoting on Chinese search engine Baidu.

Then, in 2012, the submit of gross sales director on the radio arm of SPH turned vacant. He was recruited to multiply income, which he completed by re-training, re-organising the gross sales drive and recruiting expertise salespersons.

Net revenue grew from slightly below $200,000 across the time he joined to $2 million the next yr and the determine has grown additional since. In 2014, he was promoted to deputy normal supervisor and, later that yr, made normal supervisor.

Mr Ang Chek Meng, 48, is second violinist with the T’ang Quartet, which was shaped in 1992 and has since turn into one among Singapore’s premier classical teams.

He and Mr Sim have been pals since Secondary 1 at RI. They used to hang around at Far East Plaza and Centrepoint and, today, they meet different former classmates for drinks recurrently.

“He enjoys mixing and talking to people. He’s a genuine person, has no airs and is easy to get along with,” says Mr Ang.

Not going to RJC together with his buddies was a setback, however he bounced again and that’s who he’s, he provides.

Married since 2004 to freelance graphics designer Jenny Poh, Mr Sim has a nine-year-old son, Elliott. One room in his Marine Parade flat is given over to his assortment of 20 stringed devices, primarily guitars, but in addition together with ukuleles. They will not be wildly costly, he says; there are not any $100,000 classic fashions right here. He collects mid-priced devices, costing $5,000 or much less, that maintain a particular significance for him or which really feel and sound correct when he tries them within the store.

Launching two new stations in a media panorama that has seen huge change from the time he joined the business in 1997 holds no terror for him. After all, he has helped to make Kiss92 a serious participant and bought Internet-based phone companies and search engine promoting.

Mr Sim says he enjoys creating tailor-made merchandise for particular audiences.

“When it involves promoting, it isn’t about numbers. You may attain out to one million listeners, nevertheless it is likely to be the flawed atmosphere, with the flawed message.

“But if you have the precise message sent to the right 1,000 people, they become customers of your brand.”




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