India is on the cusp of a mobile broadband streaming revolution. There are over 300 million mobile broadband users in India and more people are coming online now more than ever. Indians are apparently spending 30 per cent of their phone time - and over 70 per cent - of their mobile data - on entertainment, according to a FICCI-EY 2019 report. Over-the-top media services have arrived and how.
Home grown brand Gaana has been one of the oldest players in India’s over-the-top music streaming space – a space that’s witnessing a phenomenal growth, attracting global players who are now taking this market very seriously. Spotify is here, so is YouTube Music. There’s domestic competition too.
Despite growing competition, Gaana has been able to carve an audience of its own - amassing over 100 million active subscribers in the process. And because it has been around longer than many rivals, it is one of the few platforms that has possibly seen it all. And with it, it has also grown (and be open to changes now and then), in order to better serve its users. In an exclusive interview with Republic World, Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana spoke about Gaana's India journey, how it is using its strong(er) understanding of India’s music choices to tackle foreign competition, and more.
- What are some of the most unique trends you’ve observed amassing over 100 million active subscribers? What kind of music is India listening to?
The biggest and most recent trend has been the skyrocketing of regional music consumption led by Punjabi across the country. Today we host millions of songs across 30 Indic languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Punjabi, Malayalam, Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, Bengali, Assamese and Oriya, and this makes up for around a third of all music consumed on our platform.
Over the last two years, there has been a 10X growth in overall consumption and a greater 25X growth in regional music consumption. Given music streaming is still in its early days in India, we believe this number is likely to more than double in the coming year.
- Has there been a shift in the kind of music that India is listening to now as opposed to your early days?
The primary genre of music consumed on our platform continues to be Bollywood, followed by Punjabi, International and Regional music. The most interesting shift in recent times has been the sheer variety of musical content Indians are now open to thanks to music streaming apps - with everything from gully rap to punk rock to Punjabi folk streaming across our country.
- Has being a local player helped in licensing Bollywood Music?
At Gaana, we have great relationships with all major music labels across the country. It's heartening to see Indian labels be so progressive in adopting digital music.
- How easy or difficult is licensing International music?
The international music scene in India has been growing exponentially over the last few years. International biggies have their offices in India and thus the licensing is same as licensing Bollywood music.
- What’s that unique thing about Gaana that sets it apart from other music streaming services?
As the market leader, our sole focus is to offer a strong product and a highly intuitive music recommendation engine that can suggest you songs based on a user’s listening patterns. To that effect, we have doubled down on investments in R&D and targeted marketing. We have already invested in recruiting advanced AI & Machine Learning engineers to design personalized recommendation engines for music lovers.
Additionally, we have built a strong understanding of the Indian user’s music choices over the past six years that would be difficult for new entrants to replicate. Our focus on innovating for the Indian customer has given tremendous results - from Voice Assistant to Lyrics and now vertical video.
- Your take on India’s independent music scene?
Indie music has seen a rapid resurgence over the past few years, supported by music streaming apps like us. There’s now a fan for every fresh talent, and a market for every music.
- Spotify is here, so is YouTube Music. How is Gaana planning to tackle this ‘foreign’ competition?
The vast and diverse user-base in our country can comfortably accommodate a bunch of music streaming apps. While newer entrants may come in with an understanding of international audience, we have carved out a niche in our understanding of Indian consumer that is at the heart of our culture-rich audience.
- Talk about some of the new features introduced by the brand, and those that it is currently working on.
We believe in being the music companion of our users who adds melody and meaning to their everyday lives. Our proprietary AI-driven algorithms enable users to discover more songs they’ll potentially like and get more out of every song they listen on Gaana. Additionally, we are among the only few music apps to host a large catalogue of play-along lyrics to songs currently playing on the app screen. This enables music buffs to croon along with the song as the lyrics roll on the screen. Taking this a step further, we recently launched ‘Lyrics Cards’ that offer music lovers a chance to express their feelings in a lyrical format and share it on social media.
- What’s Gaana’s vision for music streaming for the next five years – where do you see the industry heading to?
Music streaming is at an inflection point and experiencing strong growth. We believe that the music streaming market will grow from 150 million users to 400 million users in the next 2 years. This growth in users will fuel unprecedented growth in consumption of regional and independent music.
- What’s Gaana’s stance on privacy and user data?
At Gaana, we believe user privacy is of paramount importance. Safeguarding user data and privacy is at the core of every analytical model we build, and every new feature we work on. I believe it's our impetus to ensure complete peace of mind for our users every time they engage with us online.