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Dabba Radio – India’s First Independent News Radio Network

I have never listened to any of the radio stations in India. Actually I don’t listen to radio stations at all. So I have to admit when I posed questions to this particular Dabba Radio wallahs I was being the ignorant Asian.

I didn’t realize how different these guys were set out to be. My apologies.

The more I read that information was restricted over the airwaves, I was further surprised. In comparison to where I am coming from, I am pretty sure democracy is present here. Albeit boasting to be the largest democracy in the world, India does seem to have a problem with transparency. Ah-uh! Least over the air waves.

Knowledge is a precious commodity, we believe it should be free.”

That was from Dabba Radio’s mission statement. And they have stayed true to that by disseminating information that is reliable and is definitely available to the masses.

I was fascinated and definitely impressed with Dabba Radio’s ind(i)ependent  movement I figured I can’t just keep this news to myself, can I?  Hence, I got into contact with the Director of Outreach and Development of Dabba Radio, Nonie Tuxen; to tell us How, Why, When, What created this much needed venture.

How did it all begin?

The creation of Tiffin Talk built the base to a bigger, more elaborate idea. It began as an engagement with the community of Mumbai, however it soon became apparent that Tiffin Talk alone would not fill the void of well-informed radio in India.

Consequently, Dabba Radio came along about a year after Tiffin Talk’s first episode. Dabba Radio is the umbrella organization dedicated to the creation of alternate radio content on an array of topics; including news, current events, politics, foreign affairs, art, technology, culture, theatre, music…the list goes on and on.

Why ‘Dabba Radio’?

Mumbai’s dabbawallas are internationally renowned for their innovative and extraordinarily reliable lunch delivery service.  Everyday the dabbawallas deliver over 200,000 lunches without making a single mistake.  The majority of dabbawallas are illiterate, so a unique combination of colours and numbers are used to mark the destination of the lunchbox, or ‘tiffin’, as it is transported across Mumbai on bicycles, carts, and local trains.  Dabbawallas carrying enormous tiffin flats on their heads is a regular sight on Mumbai’s train platforms.

According to The Economist, dabbawallas make 1 mistake for every 6,000,000 deliveries, giving them a Six Sigma rating which makes them more reliable than all modern courier services – all without formal education or modern technology.

The dabbawallas are renowned for not being deterred by weather, including the notorious Mumbai heat and monsoons.

We feel that the dabbawallas summed up several key characteristics that we want our radio network to stand for. We too are in the delivery business – we deliver free reliable radio to India using unique methods.

It was interesting reading the about us page where there was a line that said “…wanted to facilitate the creation of content by Indians for an Indian audience about things Indians care about.” And you’re not even Indian. How did everything fall in place then?

Good people is the answer.  The pilot phase was designed to test whether the quoted phrase was possible to the standard we had in mind.  Fortunately, we have unearthed some really under-utilized talent in radio here that can help us achieve this goal.

How different is it from the regular FM stations around India?

We are vastly different from FM stations in a number of ways. First and foremost, we are not a FM station – our content is available online.  We are essentially unable to broadcast our content on conventional radio due to government restrictions on the broadcast of news and current events on private radio in India.

AIR is the only network with permission to broadcast news and current events; other FM stations are largely restricted to playing Bollywood music – you only have to turn on the radio to realize this.

Consequently, the content we produce is unique as we do not face licensing regulations and restrictions because we broadcast online.  FM stations in India generally do not produce topical shows, whereas we create interesting and well-informed shows on multiple subjects ranging from sports (other than cricket), to business, to independent Indian music.  To our knowledge, we are the only organization in India currently producing this sort of content.

What does Dabba Radio strive to achieve amongst its audience?

Dabba Radio engages its audience by delivering fresh and in-depth coverage on topics relevant to the 21st century Indian.  We aim to inform our audience – we want people to listen to Dabba Radio and learn something that they didn’t otherwise know or hear something new, like a great band or the opinions of teenagers on the education system.

About the team. The team is working full time with the station?

There are currently two full-time employees: Thane Richard, Founder and Executive Director, and Nonie Tuxen, Director of Outreach and Development. However, we couldn’t run Dabba Radio without our amazing hosts, producers and volunteers.  For more information on the team, check out the ‘Our Team’ on our website.

Does Dabba Radio only run at a specific time interval or full time?

In terms of streaming, our goal is launch a streaming schedule of 3 hours per day, 5 days a week by the end of our first year.  Currently, our goal is produce quality rather than quantity.  We feel the pilot phase has achieved this so we are now beginning to gear ourselves towards producing shows at a greater frequency as well as piloting new shows to fill out the proposed streaming schedule.

Tell us about the shows that are already running?


The Underground Sound: There is so much more music being created in India besides what SRK and Katrina Kaif are dancing to on the silver screen.  We seek out the best new and aspiring musicians and introduce you to them.  Hosted by Sucharita Tyagi, the Underground Sound features interviews, short documentaries, recording sessions, jam sessions, and of course, music.  [I listened to their first show featuring Advaita, it was pretty good!]

Time Out India consulting editor, Naresh Fernandes, hosts a sub-section of the show called The Underground Vault.  The Vault takes us on a historical journey through Mumbai’s musical past, showcasing fascinating tracks from the depths of Naresh’s extensive record collection.

Shot, Yaar!: Glancing at current media, you might think that there is nothing to sport but cricket, but there are other sports in India besides cricket.  This show is breath of fresh air, covering new sports developments in India and abroad, as well as informative discussion on interesting sports stories and history.  Pankaj Athwale brings us Shot Yaar!

The Sound of Money: Every fortnight, banking professional Santosh Sirur brings informed analysis of the latest business news as well as interesting commentary on international business, finance, careers, consumer protection, and business history.  Includes a section on the definition of a business/finance term and a question of the week from listeners.

Bridging The Gap: Dabba Radio has partnered with Jalebi Ink to create India’s first independent youth radio forum.  The show will be written and hosted by local youth.  Guests will be brought on the show and interviewed by students on a topic that they specialize in.  Currently we are publishing monologues recorded by students about topics that are important to them.  Any interested school student is encouraged to get involved.  No experience is required – we will teach you what you need to know to sound great on radio.  Email youth[at]dabbaradio[dot]org for more information.

Tiffin Talk: TiffinTalk is a weekly show with the simple goal of delivering relevant discussion.  Host Arthor Danchest chats with informed individuals get a more in-depth understanding of newsworthy issues.  Content can range from business and politics to adventure cyclists and paleontologists.  Tiffin Talk has, however, taken a short break whilst Dabba Radio focused its attention on developing new shows during the pilot phase.

There is a show catering to every single age group from the teens to retired men. Was it a conscious action?

In the process of creating content that is interesting to the 21st Century Indian we inherently covered a broad spectrum of listener groups.  So in a sense it was conscious because we want to ensure that we provide content that is interesting to a vast array of people.

Future projects?

Many, but they’re still on the drawing board so they’re top secret for now. [Sigh!]

How do you guys finance the station?

We are currently seeking funding for our first year of operations.  Until now we have been running on an extremely low budget: we are nearing the end of our 4 month pilot phase in which we sought to prove the Dabba Radio concept by creating quality content and finding highly competent people to help produce this content.

We are thrilled with the achievements we have made during the pilot phase and deem the pilot to be an overall success.

How can people contribute? Donations? To be part of the project/team?

We are currently seeking investment to cover our first phase of operations.  With our pilot phase complete, we are ready to move into full time production and we need your help.  If you are interested in investing in or donating to Dabba Radio, send an email to: info[at]dabbaradio[dot]org.

In terms of becoming part of the team, we have many opportunities for both individuals and organisations.  Please check our website for more information:

Last few words you want to share with Dabba Listeners?

Spread the word!

Like us on facebook, check out our website and feel free to tell us what you think of the shows – we are always looking to improve our concepts and delivery as we are still learning and adapting.

You heard them, Time to tune in then!

0 15 June, 2011 Music June 15, 2011

About the author

Born in Singapore and currently pursuing Medicine in China, Usha Amudhan has to her credit Indie Rhythms series in GingerChai. She also dabbles with various other genres of writing. Follow @ushaonthego

View all articles by Usha Amudan

4 comments

  1. Shilpa Sharma

    Very creative name first of all-Dabba Radio. These days we get to hear a lot of original desi names for all kinds of ventures, such as radio Mirchi, Jalebi ink(now that made me smile), crazy lassi etc.

    The work they are doing is also great. :)

    Usha you are becoming a very good brewer at Ginger Chai. :) All the best.

  2. Usha

    Hey guys!
    A HUGE CUPPA steaming chai with the words THANK YOU on the mug! :D

    By the way, gotta mention here since the post is already up. Their project has been halted for a bit now as they are facing a bit of a funding problem. So anyone who has big bucks and is willing to invest in a meaningful gesture should get into contact with them.

    Spread the word please. :)

    Thank You!

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