Finally after almost 11 months of dropping hints of a possible India entry, last week, Sweden-based Spotify finally brought its music streaming service to India. This makes India the seventh Asian country for Spotify, after Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore in 2013; the Philippines in 2014; as well as Indonesia, and Japan in 2016.
Better Late Than Never?
Considering the deeply entrenched players such as Times Internet-owned Gaana, Google Play Music, JioSaavn (Saavn acquired by Reliance Jio in March 2018), Hungama, Airtel Wynk, Apple Music, SoundCloud Ltd (Germany), and Amazon Prime Music — Indian music streaming industry has never been this crowded by big brands and investors with deep pockets and options for Indian users who, on an average, spend 20 hours every week listening to music, according to the India Music 360 report published by Nielsen this year.
Notably, the Indian music streaming market is expected to hit a user penetration of 7% by 2023, from the current 6.5%, which, considering India’s current 1.3 Bn population can make a huge difference.
Overall, Indians are spending more than half of their total free time on smartphones on a daily basis. At present, the cost of data is at its lowest and this has triggered a massive influx of new internet users in India as compared to other nations. And this growing number of internet users have led to the rise of industry in the consumer internet segment, including the online streaming which includes — video streaming, music streaming, online radio and podcast streaming. No wonder, for giants like Amazon and Netflix — India is the next big opportunity.
Spotify Vs Existing Music Streaming Bandwagon In India
To begin with, Spotify will have Gaana and JioSaavn as its arch-rivals.
As of February 2019, Gaana claimed to have 80 Mn monthly users with estimated annual revenue of $5 Mn and is aiming to reach 200 Mn users by 2020. Apart from being a media conglomerate Times Internet-backed company, Gaana also counts China-based Tencent Holdings also as its backers after it invested $115 Mn in the company in February 2018.
“Currently, 15% of our overall consumption is purely based on AI and machine-learning-led recommendations, and we are hoping to increase this further in the coming year.,” Gaana CEO Prashan Agarwal told Inc42.
The company is also investing in podcasts and originals space that caters to niche audiences and to drive more user retention.
Next in line is JioSaavn, the combined entity valued at over $1 Bn and formed after the acquisition of music streaming service Saavn by Reliance Jio in October 2018. The company has a catalogue of more than 45 Mn tracks in 15 languages with 38 Mn users and spanning across genres such as popular Bollywood music, international artists, long-form podcasts, and regional content.
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Besides Gaana and JioSaavn, Hungama is another local player with over 55 Mn users (Hungama Music and Hungama Play combined) standing in queue to give tough fight to Spotify in India. But the differentiator is its primary focus i.e. regional markets. In the next 12 months, the x company intend to launch 5 to 6 audio originals in languages besides Hindi with a target to increase its regional user base by 30%.
According to Siddhartha Roy, COO, Hungama Digital Media, in 2018, Hungama Music witnessed a 48% growth in user base, 22% increase in time spent listening per user and 3x growth in the number of streams, as well as non-Hindi languages, contributed 48% to its total streams, out of which Punjabi contributed almost 15%.
The other global players including — Apple Music, and Amazon Prime didn’t reply to Inc42 queries on their India numbers, which makes it hard to ascertain their share of the pie. However, they are continuously gaining a foothold by supporting regional content, partnerships with local brands like Saregama, T-Series, Zee Music, YRF, Sony Music as well as creating playlists considering Indian audience preference and the combination of Indian and international content.
Preparations For The Battle: Is Spotify Ready?
Spotify’s entry while delayed does not lack in preparation. With the sheer size of India’s OTT market, the company has made it clear that the country is key to its international expansion plans.
The company has opened an office in Mumbai, hiring 300 people, getting OLX India’s former CEO Amarjit Singh Batra as it’s country head and former Saavn executive Gaurav Malik on board as well as signing a content partnership with Indian film and music company T-Series getting access to a catalogue of 160K songs.
Also, the company roped in smartphone brand OnePlus; destination marketing organisation for the US, Brand USA; and the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev as exclusive advertising launch partners in India.
Considering the price-sensitive Indian audience, Spotify has launched with a freemium model similar to its local arch-rivals offering ad-free subscription service and ad-supporting free service. Not only this, instead of depending only on partnerships with music labels, Spotify has launched an Indian music hub on its service called Desi, which counts more than 930K followers and includes its own playlist, Desi Hits (77 songs), as of January 2019.
According to data available, of the 1.3 Bn population, only 330 Mn Indians (approximately) currently have smartphones which is the most-used way to listen to music on-the-go. Of the total smartphone users, less than half (150 Mn) have used music apps (as of December 2018).
Now if Gaana already has 80 Mn monthly users, then it already has a 50% market share with it. The growth strategies for Hungama, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play and others are already in place and are expected to take a significant share of the remaining 50% market.
However, Agarwal is of the view that “There is huge room for growth as the market penetration moves towards 35-40% of the population.” According to Gaana’s estimate, the market will grow to 400 Mn users in the next two to three years. “We would continue to lead the market,” he added.
He also believes that while any new entrant like Spotify would require time to research and develop an understanding of Indian music tastes, Gaana has a database of users spanning the last seven years and specialist teams dedicated to understanding the musical inclinations of the Indian population. Similar thoughts were shared in a February 2019 Fast Company report by JioSaavn CEO Rishi Malhotra who believes that “to achieve scale in India, you need the local advantage.”
Also, players like Hungama are even catapulting their user base by strengthening their tech partnerships with companies like Xiaomi — to offer its services on Mi phones. Hungama also offers access to Amazon Echo as well as the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
But Spotify certainly has one advantage here — the anticipation of Indian users!
According to a TechCrunch report, even before its official launch in India, more than 4 Mn users are regularly listening to Indian music on the service. “There also are an estimated 30 Mn Indians living overseas, including in markets where Spotify operates, like the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, the U.K, and Germany,” Spotify claimed in a media statement.
The Sound Of Streaming
In nutshell, despite the competition, each player has brought a unique value proposition on the table that has allowed multiple apps to co-exist in the Indian market without cannibalising each other’s margins. Just like any other industry — whoever offers the most value for the lowest cost possible, will get the most attention.
“Users have multiple options to choose from, a vast buffet of content and a simplified experience. Going forward, the industry will need to work towards moving beyond advertising and subscriptions and considering newer models of monetisation. It will be exciting to see the dynamism that a new international player (Spotify) will bring to the industry,” Roy said.
Thus, initially, Spotify may seem to be well behind in terms of the number of subscribers, and in terms of reach. However gauging from the buzz leading up to its launch and its commitment to producing content tailor-made for Indian listeners, Spotify’s entry will further push innovation in tems of recommendation engines, content and business models in the online music streaming industry.
The average revenue per user (ARPU) currently amounts to $2.38 in India according to research firm Statista. And while the majority of players may claim to have a revenue model in place, they are yet to attain profitability. So, will Spotify be able to claim a better revenue growth or will be lost in the battle of users growth, only time can tell.