NEW DELHI: the most popular music streaming service in India, the world’s largest untapped digital economy, does not come from Spotify Technology SA or Apple Inc. Instead, it is a little known local rival outside the country.
Noida, Gaana, based in India, named for the Hindu word for “song”, has used a hyperlocal approach and reduced prices to beat the competition and attract 152 million monthly users. That’s more than half of the global Spotify user base, twice the global Apple Music count and much more than the music services of YouTube Music and Amazon.com Inc.
Indian consumers flock to Gaana, analysts say, because it has been built for them. It has a library of more than 45 million songs, mainly from India and in more than 20 regional languages, including pop ballads in the Punjabi language, Hindu hip-hop and devotional melodies for the Hindu monkey god Hanuman.
While some of its international rivals also have bulky libraries of global successes, most lack the depth of Indian-specific songs from the region, offered by Gaana.
“You have to understand the consumption habits by region and even by city,” said Gaana’s chief executive, Prashan Agarwal.
Gaana, an Indian music streaming startup, is outpacing global services by the price …
… and has more than twice as many users as Apple Music and Amazon Music worldwide.
Global monthly active users or subscribers
Gaana has an advantage over its international rivals because, he said, his teams have more local knowledge, conducting research across the country to discover emerging artists and unlikely listening trends.
With only about half of the 1.3 billion people in India online, global technology companies have struggled to establish themselves in the largest group of new Internet users in the world. Hundreds of millions of people send their first WhatsApp messages, buy their first articles online and broadcast their first songs, as data prices plummet and low-cost smartphones proliferate.
“Every global player is trying to get a stake in India,” said Abhilash Kumar, an analyst at Counterpoint Technology Market Research in India. “The market is very incipient and nothing saturated.”
Many Indians have an intense relationship with music. It is part of celebrations, religious worship, films and cultural traditions. The Indians spend an average of 21.5 hours a week listening to music, 20% more than the world average, according to the consultant Deloitte.
When the Internet became affordable, music was one of the first things that many Indians consumed on their smartphones. This trend explains why the most watched YouTube channel in the world is the T Series, which shows videos of Indian music and has accumulated tens of billions of views more than any other channel.
Spotify and YouTube Music from Sweden were launched in India at the beginning of last year and have been advertising on billboards and online. Last year Bytedance Inc., parent of TikTok, chose India as one of the two markets, along with Indonesia, to test its first music streaming application, called Resso.
Apple Music and Amazon Prime Music have been available in India for several years, but have not been able to match Gaana’s popularity.
International growth in emerging markets is key for Spotify. The company has been looking to increase its listener base in new countries like India. Dow Jones & Co., editor of The Wall Street Journal, has a content association with Gimlet Media, a unit of Spotify.
Apple is looking at digital services such as music streaming, as it faces a maturing smartphone market at home.
Music streaming revenues globally reached $ 24 billion last year, according to Counterpoint. So far, India accounts for only a small portion of that, about $ 200 million in 2019. However, transmission revenue in India is expected to increase to $ 400 million by 2023, according to TechSci Research, and should continue to increase as hundreds of millions of new digital listeners. they turn to their mobile devices to listen to music.
While Gaana has an advantage, it will have to continue innovating to stay ahead of the competition, analysts say. Another popular music streaming service in India is JioSaavn, controlled by Reliance Industries Ltd., one of the largest conglomerates in India. Many Indian consumers buy continuously and will abandon services if they find a better deal or juicier offers elsewhere.
Gaana’s world rivals do not reveal recent user counts for India, but say they are also customizing their offers for the country. Many have offered plans at substantially lower prices than in developed countries. Spotify, for example, launched a lightweight version of its application that takes up less space on phones.
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Spotify says its service is growing rapidly and that it aims to attract all music lovers in India. YouTube Music says that India is one of the largest YouTube video viewing markets, and that the company is seeing a good adoption of its music streaming service. Apple Music has worked to locate its offers for the country. Representatives of Amazon Music and Reste de Bytedance declined to comment on their user counts or Indian strategies.
Gaana, which launched in 2011 and is backed by Indian media firm Bennett Coleman & Co. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. of China, has developed special technical features for users in India. Clients can search for artists or songs by voice, a benefit for those with limited literacy skills or who have difficulty typing on smart phone keyboards in Indian languages.
Gaana also offers price advantages. There is a free version with advertising and paid plans starting at 12 rupees (17 cents) per month for students. Spotify also offers a free version, but its monthly plans without less expensive advertising start at around 80 cents. Apple’s service starts at approximately 70 cents, while YouTube Music starts at approximately $ 1.10.
Gaana may charge less in part because, unlike its global rivals, the service does not have to worry about undermining its product if it charges significantly less in India than in other markets. According to analysts, Gaana’s mainly Indian music is also less expensive to guarantee rights.
While international players are still new, Gaana is taking advantage of the large amount of data it has collected on user listening preferences to recommend new melodies, Agarwal said. That is an advantage for streaming music consumers for the first time who are not familiar with the interface.
Harshit Batra, a 20-year-old university student in New Delhi, began using Gaana’s premium service last year. He listens to artists like the Indian composer A.R. Rahman and Pakistani singer Atif Aslam, and said he prefers Gaana because he has a wider selection of music and a simple user interface.
“My subscription expires this month,” he said. “I plan to renew.”
Write to Newley Purnell at [email protected]
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