It is the first local privately-owned commercial radio station, which started in May 1999, targeting the age group of 16 ÔÇô 30 years.
It was run entirely by youth.
They started with six months of test broadcasting whereby they played music only.
“The reason behind this was to give people something different from what they have been getting. It took time to settle in because most people were not used to alternatives,” said the Station Manager, Dumi Lopang.
In August they went live. This marked their new era, and they got mixed responses because people were not used to alternatives.
“Our presenters were young people who had never been on radio before, and people could not believe that a radio station could be run by young people only,” said Lopang.
All they had were untried and inexperienced presenters new and they covered topics that were considered taboo by the community, issues that pertained to this age group but that were being ignored.
Older people were upset with Yarona FM because they did not like the language used by presenters; they thought that they were out of the line.
“The elders thought we had forgotten about our culture as young Batswana but really it wasn’t like that at all,” he said.
Though they had different perspectives, what kept them going was that the government and the Botswana Telecommunication Authority (BTA) never complained. Lopang said that the only challenge that they encountered was in advertising. Trying to source for adverts from companies, he said, was an uphill battle because most companies thought the presenters were too childish and did not take them seriously. The only support they had was from the cell phone companies.
In 2001, the business started to bear the fruit. Though small, they became stabilized and profitable as a business despite the fact that they were multitasking because they could not afford to hire more staff.
“One of the challenges that we had was in 2004 when the Pula was devalued. By then Botswana was importing most of her goods from South Africa. We were buying most of our equipment in SA hence tax was more expensive,” Lopang stated.
When the economy picked up, Lopang said, they also managed to grow their business to greater heights. He said involving foreign consultants also helped them in product development. With the product development, Lopang said they targeted small businesses, and stressed that the strategy was very successful.
“It is part of our continuing strategy to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Music doesn’t do that anymore as all stations play almost similar music,” he said.
He said now the challenge of going national will be only to change the mindset of their presenters.
“We want the mentality of our presenter to be on national platform so as to accommodate all Batswana from all corners of this country”.
Lopang said their biggest achievement at the moment is that they are now a successful business.
“The fact that we have given employment to young people is testimony to the success of the radio station. Our success is also a testimony to the people who felt that youth can do anything.”
The station has recently relocated from its old premises at Extension Two to an up-market suite at the new Fairground Mall, and now has a Marketing Manager and Public Relations Officer, something that the Station did not have before. “We have done charity work that went unnoticed. This showed that young people are also committed and do care about Vision 2016,” he said.
Their wayÔÇôforward, Lopang said, is to consolidate their position nationally, and he revealed that they have not changed their programming.
Expressing his gratitude to Yarona FM listeners, Lopang said they could not have come this far without the listeners and those who advertised through them. He promised that the next nine years will be bigger and better now that they have gone National.