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With Pre-Seed Funding Vernacular Podcast Platform Kuku FM Takes On Music Streaming Giants

With Pre-Seed Funding Vernacular Podcast Platform Kuku FM Takes On Music Streaming Giants

Kuku FM has raised an undisclosed amount from 3one4 Capital, Shunwei Capital and India Quotient

Kuku FM is a podcast platform which brings a library of long-form audio content

Will Kuku FM be able to compete with online music streaming giants like Gaana, Spotify, YouTube Music and co?

Online music and podcasts streaming is on the rise in India. Having originally targeted metro cities, OTT music streaming apps are finding great success in traditionally less-digitised states. Spotify’s Diwali reports underlined this trend by revealing that Bihar led the way in the state-wise streaming charts for Diwali-related music.

To tap into this growing phenomenon of audio and music streaming, Mumbai-based podcast startup Kuku FM is gunning for success with regional podcasts and long-form audio content. Kuku FM has raised an undisclosed amount from 3one4 Capital, Shunwei Capital and India Quotient.

Founded in 2018 by IIT alumni Lal Chand Bisu, Vinod Meena and Vikas Goyal, Kuku FM is a podcast platform that is trying to reinvent the traditional radio by allowing listeners to discover new, emerging and diverse audio content, and engage with creators. Kuku FM claims that its platform has added over 2100 podcasts from more than 1000 creators in one year of its operations.

Talking to Inc42, founder and CEO Bisu said that the raised funding will be primarily used to grow its content library and improve the product experience. “We will be expanding our engineering team to build scalable solutions for core listening experience,” he added.

What Does Kuku FM Bring To The Table?

A non-music audio platform, Kuku FM says its long-form audio content and podcasts range from fiction to nonfiction audiobooks, self-help titles and more in genres such as education, entertainment, news, mythology, spirituality, learning and inspirations, stories, poems, and even jingles. While Kuku FM says that its platform has content for every age group, Bisu told us that the primary audience is in the age bracket of 18 to 40 years.

Currently, the majority of the Kuku FM’s content is in Hindi and that might be why Kuku FM’s users primarily come from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. However, Bisu also said that besides Hindi-speaking states, the platform has been able to create a user base in Maharashtra as well.

As of now, Kuku FM is using a basic manual recommendation engine to boost user engagement to its platform. However, the company says that it has started testing machine learning-based recommendation models that have the potential to make Kuku FM a highly engaging platform.

“Our goal is to democratise audio content by providing production, distribution and marketing support to empower creators to monetise their content, grow their audience and connect with their fans through our platform,” Meena added.

While talking about the monetisation plans for the podcast platform, Bisu said that Kuku FM is currently in its pre-seed funding stage and the company will announce monetisation plans over the next few quarters.

Taking On Music Streaming Giants

Currently, online music platforms like Times Internet-owned Gaana, JioSaavn, Apple Music, YouTube Music and Sweden-based Spotify are the leading online podcasts providers in the market.

While many of these apps have grown in stature thanks to the wide music library, podcasts tend to offer higher engagement, repeat usage and tend to snowball into cultural phenomena as seen in the case of superhit podcast Serial.

With the introduction of podcasts in their already flooded platforms, OTT music streaming apps like Gaana, JioSaavn and Spotify are witnessing new growth trajectory.

In Its Q3 report, Spotify said it witnessed a 39% quarter-on-quarter growth in podcast streaming hours. During this quarter, the US-based app was also able to increase its podcasts listening users by 14%.

In a statement, Spotify had then said that among listeners who do engage in podcasts, the company is seeing increased engagement and increased conversion from ad-supported free tier to paid subscriptions.

On the other hand, Gaana is also trying to increase its user base by offering Gaana Originals and the Radio feature which helps users discover new podcasts. Earlier this year, it launched a series of original podcasts which includes narratives, comedy shows and devotional content.

What Sets Kuku FM Apart?

According to a PWC study, monthly active podcast listeners in India grew to 40 Mn at the end of last year from 25.8 Mn in 2017.

While most of these users tend to prefer Spotify, YouTube Music or Gaana for the variety of content, they are restricted to Hindi or English content. Kuku FM is planning to launch podcasts in five other languages by 2020 besides Hindi and English.

This could give it an edge over the music streaming giants. “We know what content will work and how it should be delivered which is going to establish us as leading platforms in each of these languages,” Bisu said.

The CEO also claimed that Kuku FM has a strong listener retention with a platform for companies such as Quora and Dainik Bhaskar to create podcasts with their content. It helps Kuku FM serve news and information worthy content on its platform.

Correction Note | 19:05, November 05, 2019

  • An earlier version of this article mentioned only two of the three cofounders. The story has since been updated to add Vikas Goyal’s name to the list of Kuku FM’s cofounders.    
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