Audio OTT will witness exponential growth across India: Gaana CEO
Says audio OTT, supported by digitization, has opened up avenues for musicians from across geographies within India, especially from tier-2, tier-3 and smaller cities
India has one of the greatest pools of prospective music consumers, with 700 million internet users as of 2020 and an expected smartphone penetration rate of 42 per cent. If we consider that the typical user spends more than 21 hours per week listening to music, we have one of the world's largest music-listening pools. With AI powering personalization, voice activations making the offerings accessible, data-fuelled technologies allowing collection of consumer insights to make their product more compelling and competitive, "the audio OTT is most certainly in its next phase of growth in India," says Sandeep Lodha, CEO, Gaana in an exclusive interview with Bizz Buzz
How will technology accelerate the journey of audio OTT in India?
India has one of the greatest pools of prospective consumers, with 700 million internet users as of 2020 and an expected smartphone penetration rate of 42 percent. If we consider that the typical user spends more than 21 hours per week listening to music, we have one of the world's largest music-listening pools.
The widespread availability of broadband infrastructure, the pervasiveness of mobile phones and other linked portable devices, and the need for personalised experiences have fuelled the embrace of OTT consumption in India.
Also with AI powering personalization, voice activations making the offerings accessible, data-fuelled technologies allowing collection of consumer insights to make their product more compelling and competitive, the audio OTT is most certainly in its next phase of growth in India. This phase will be further accelerated by improved mobile internet, better personalisation, AI/ML based recommendations and experiential properties such as live event streaming.
Is OTT playing a significant role in blurring borders across India and Bharat, and India and the world? Is it giving a push to the creator economy?
OTT segment revolutionized and gained remarkable popularity when people stayed confined to their homes during the pandemic. The audio OTT segment holds the potential to be the next great frontier among musicians.
We have seen consumers shifting to music from across borders while also indulging in vernacular music from across the country. Regional music picked up the pace off late with increased demand for multilingual content owing to the increasing number of influencers from smaller towns and the constant need for evolving content. Audio OTT, supported by digitization, has opened up avenues for such artists from across geographies within the country, especially from tier-2, tier-3, and smaller cities. They can now reach out to their fans, and music labels and are focusing on launching non-film original songs in multiple regional languages to generate revenue and increase audience share. In the last three years, the non-film genre has more than doubled in music label catalogues, rising from 5-10 per cent to 30 per cent.
The regional catalogue contributes more than 43 per cent to Gaana and in fact some of the top songs streamed on the app are in Telugu and Punjabi. Also, demand for international music spiked exponentially. India's tryst with international music is age-old but gained momentum in recent years. Gaana's international music consumption surged to 6 per cent in the last year with one of the most notable ones being Dua Lipa's concert witnessing a whopping 1.4 lakhs attendees on the app. In addition to these, another significant development in the OTT space has been consumers substituting video OTT with audio OTT to have that much-needed screen-free experience. Also, not just music consumption, but Gaana has also seen tremendous success with their non-music offerings reflective of their wide catalogue of 45,000 podcast additions in the last year.
How are regional markets the new catchment areas for the OTT industry - the growing demand for regional content?
The regional markets have started gaining momentum exponentially owing to the increased penetration of smartphones and internet connectivity due to higher disposable income. Considering the growing potential these markets hold due to untapped possibilities of demographic exploration, OTT platforms have also started offering regional content in respective vernacular languages to match consumer interests from all tiers. The increased exposure to mass media has also made regional geographies a 'fertile' market for OTT players owing to the fact that they are still porous and have the appetite to experiment with entertainment.
How will 5G catapult the scope of audio OTT in India?
The announcement pertaining to the 5G rollout indicates the demand for improved and high-speed connectivity in the country. With the internet posing as a non – negotiable to carry out everyday tasks seamlessly in India, the 5G implementation is expected to open floodgates for the telecommunications and IoT sector in the country.
5G technology will enable players like us to deliver higher-quality, interactive, and immersive experiences across a broader range of connected devices. Also, we will now be able to acquire more precise and granular data in order to customise messaging and offerings so as to forge deeper customer engagement.
OTT segment is expected to benefit immensely from the 5G rollout as there will be possibilities of ten times faster internet and a latency reduction of up to 50 per cent. India is expected to have almost 500 million OTT subscribers by 2023. According to recent reports, the 5G intervention is predicted to result in a five times increase in the number of customers over the next five years.
Music streaming emerging as a lucrative segment for investment, how has audio OTT emerged as one of the biggest stomping grounds for brands and advertisers?
The fast expansion of digital audio has drawn a large number of advertisers to the medium. As a result of the increase in subscriber base, digital audio platforms are also seeing an increase in advertising revenue. They provide a myriad of channels for companies searching for new ways to reach consumers.
Marketing for audio platforms, which include music streaming services, AM/FM simulators, and on-demand audio material, is strategically distinct from marketing for other mediums. Last year, we saw businesses use a number of digital audio channels to increase brand recognition.
In reality, we have created interactive audio advertisements/voice-activated commercials that may engage people through voice commands that request certain activities. Such advertising allows audio ad listeners to converse with the ad and indicate whether or not they are interested in the offer.
Brands are progressively waking up to this fact and investing more in audio in order to reach customers during these less crowded times of the day. The fact that most brand managers are now requested to create a "surround or 360-degree" campaign rather than a single TV medium campaign is evidence of this. Another milder indicator of audio's growing prominence is that most brand TV advertising includes audio mnemonics to improve remembering. This implies that marketers are aware that consumers are often on the go and may not be able to gaze at a screen all of the time, and audio may assist build brand recognition in this situation. Marketing funds should not be used for any other purpose.
Digital audio meets consumers where they are and allows brands to reach the consumers when they are not looking at their devices but still listening to content, with powerful audio-only ads. Owing to the personalisation flexibility audio OTT offers, advertisers are effectively harnessing engaging ads to connect with diverse audiences.
What is your vision for the brand?
Gaana is at the forefront of building a community for music fans, not only by providing a plethora of music on the app but also by bringing the users exclusive content from their favourite musicians, making music listening more engaging and bridging the gap between creators and consumers. While consumers get to enjoy an array of original non-film music from artists on Gaana Originals, they can equally enjoy film music while getting the opportunity to get a sneak peek at their favourite artists' lives, journeys, some interesting stories, and mesmerising performances with the latest edition of Gaana Happy Hours. In addition to that, listeners can also enjoy live concerts on Gaana Live from the comfort of their homes.
So the goal is to transform Gaana into an 'all-inclusive' app in its content, interface, and experience. We will stay focussed on building our in-app tech capabilities while staying true to our listeners' sensibilities. Gaana wants its users and creators to feel as part of a community through the app and as the only destination anything related to Music.
What are your strategies to beat video OTT platforms and other newly emerging competitors in the space?
Audio and video OTT are different segments and have different use cases. Both have coexisted and grown at the same time. The key is to be comprehensive yet not cluttered. A well-integrated platform prevents consumers from the hassle of jumping between apps while serving the user a buffet of audio entertainment options catering to their varied needs and preferences. While the goal is to be a super app, we will continue to be focused on being a content-centric, consumer-first, and creator-friendly platform.