The startup will deploy the funds to strengthen its content ecosystem, increase the depth of content and focus on technology
The funding round comes a year after Kuku FM secured $21.9 Mn in its Series B1 funding led by the Fundamentum Partnership
Kuku FM competes with startups such as Pocket FM, IVM and Pratilipi FM, along with audio platforms including Spotify and Audible
Vernacular audio content startup Kuku FM has raised $25 Mn in its Series C funding round co-led by The Fundamentum Partnership and International Finance Corporation (IFC), with participation from Vertex Ventures.
The startup will deploy the funds to further strengthen its content ecosystem, increase the depth of content across Indian languages and focus on technology. “We want to leverage technology to build India’s most intuitive, immersive and transparent content platform here at Kuku FM,” said Vikas Goyal, cofounder and CTO of Kuku FM.
The funding round comes a year after the platform secured $21.9 Mn in its Series B1 funding led by the Fundamentum Partnership. The startup also counts Google, Paramark, KRAFTON, Inc., 3one4 Capital, V Cube Ventures, India Quotient and FounderBank Capital, among its investors.
Founded in 2018 by Lal Chand Bisu, Vikas Goyal and Vinod Kumar Meena, Kuku FM offers audio content across genres such as audiobooks, personal finance, self-help, education, entertainment, news, mythology, spirituality and inspiration, among others. As of now, it claims to host 150K+ hours of content in various formats on its platform.
Its content is available in seven Indian languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Kuku FM also offers content creation tools to its users, enabling them to create and post content on the platform. Currently, the platform has 50,000 content creators on its platform, of which 60% are said to be women.
Bisu, who is also the CEO of Kuku FM, said, “We are excited to welcome our new partner International Finance Corporation. We look forward to leveraging IFC’s valuable experience and expertise in scaling up Kuku FM’s business.”
Wendy Werner, IFC’s India country head, added, “India’s creative industries have the potential to reach diverse populations and unlock income opportunities at scale. Our partnership with Kuku FM, a leading vernacular audio content platform, aligns with our shared gender and inclusion priorities and aims to empower underrepresented voices, especially those of women, fostering upward mobility and sustainable economic growth.”
Including the current round, Kuku FM has raised $71 Mn in funding to date. It competes with startups such as Pocket FM, IVM and Pratilipi FM, along with major audio platforms including Spotify and Audible, among others.
The startup recently went head-to-head against Pocket FM over copyright infringement, which the two companies settled earlier this year, with Kuku FM agreeing to pull down the content whose exclusive right was held by Pocket FM. As part of the settlement, Kuku FM also rescinded the copyright infringement case filed against Pocket FM over a book.
India’s Audio OTT Market
The audio OTT market in India is dominated by music streaming platforms, such as Spotify, YouTube and others. While there are several Indian audio OTT platforms which offer music streaming, such as Gaana and JioSaavn, the likes of Kuku FM, Pocket FM and others have chosen a different approach to content.
A key differentiation has been the introduction of long-form, user-generated content, including podcasts, education and infotainment content. This differentiation, coupled with support for various widely spoken vernacular languages, has allowed them to capture large swaths of customers from India’s Tier II cities and beyond.
However, monetisation has been a challenge for all audio OTT players in India. While many have chosen an ad-based revenue model to offer free streaming, players like Kuku FM have stuck to subscription-based models.