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Music streaming market will grow to 400 million monthly active users in the next two years. Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana

In an exclusive interview with EE, Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana spoke about Gaana's India journey, the impact of tech; trends shaping the music streaming industry and more.

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With over 100 million monthly users, Gaana has emerged to become one of the biggest game changers in the streaming music business space. With a vast repository of music from 21 languages including some major languages such as Assamese, Hindi, Urdu, English, Bengali, Odia, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and other Indian regional languages, Gaana has shown that new music formats can become successful if consumption patterns are closely traced.

 In an exclusive interview with EE, Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana spoke about Gaana's India journey, the impact of tech; trends shaping the music streaming industry and more.

Excerpts:

How has the journey of Gaana been in India ?

Gaana was launched in April 2010 under the banner of Times Internet. We have steadily gained momentum to build market leadership over the last 8 years and today we have more than 100 Mn monthly active users. 

The launch of 4G was a turning point for music streaming consumption in India and the market has grown 7X in the last 2 years. Given our understanding of Indian consumers and their content preferences, we were the primary beneficiaries of this internet wave. Over the last 2 years, cutting edge innovation on the product with regard to recommendation, use of the product for the millennial as well as rural population who are often first-time users of mobile internet coupled with great content has helped us gain user traction rapidly. 

What are the trends for 2019-20 in the music streaming industry?

Music streaming will see tremendous growth as an industry as more Indians start consuming music online. Our belief is that the market will grow to 400 Mn monthly active users in the next 2 years. Punjabi and English music continues to be the biggest beneficiaries in terms of consumption and will continue to lead in percentage terms. Other regional languages will also come of age this year.  

How is the use of AI  transforming the music industry? 

Gaana has been a leading player in the music streaming industry in terms of driving innovation in the AI and Machine Learning space. Over the last year, we have been able to design unique AI-based algorithms to offer hand-picked song recommendations to music lovers based on our deep and intensive understanding of music listening patterns over the past 8 years. Currently, 17% of the overall consumption is purely based on AI & machine-learning led recommendations, are we are hoping to double this in the coming year.

We believe intuitive music recommendations would be key to driving greater traction for music streaming platforms in the country and across the world.

How has ‘Voice Assistant feature’ improved the subscriber base for streaming platforms?

Our voice Assistant search is a popular feature amongst tech-savvy urban millennials owing to its convenience as well as elderly users from smaller cities who often have a hard time typing. Currently, more than 24% of our users actively use this feature for a lean-back music listening experience.

In your words how has Gaana revolutionised the Indian digital music space ?

Gaana has been the pioneer in educating Indian users about digital music streaming and has been instrumental in the growth of the market to about 150 Mn monthly active users. Gaana is a simple name to comprehend for any Indian user and portrays the category in its simplest form. We have also worked with various stakeholders on initiatives to bring down piracy in the music industry. 

What are your plans to make the app more interactive to enhance user stickiness ? 

Our voice assistant is the most used interactive feature on the platform. We are working to make it more intuitive by understanding natural language processing. 

Tell us about some of the new features that Gaana plans to adapt ?

We have always been a pioneer in introducing new features for the music streaming market - be it transliteration, voice assistant, inline lyrics, full player, etc. We recently launched Gaana video’s and Artist dashboard. 

Is Gaana promoting independent artistes in India and providing them an effective launchpad ?

Gaana has been committed to empowering independent music talent across the country and is committed to helping artists understand their fan-bases better. We recently launched a first-of-its-kind Artist Dashboard that is a dedicated destination for music artists to learn more about how their fans who are enjoying their music. 

We have also created a platform under the Gaana Originals brand to promote non-film music and give artists the same scale of distribution as mainline Bollywood songs.

What are your strategies to tackle competition ?

The vast and diverse user-base in our country can comfortably accommodate a bunch of music streaming apps. While newer entrants may come in with an understanding of international music, we have carved out a niche across regional and Indie music that is at the heart of the Indian music-loving audience. 

What are the major factors that are working in favour of streaming platforms in terms of audience acquisition ?

As of now, only 10% of the Indian population has switched to digital music. With rapid 4G penetration, the use of music streaming apps is expected to increase to 35-40% over the next 2 years. Hence, there is significant potential for growth in the music streaming space in the country and its advertising revenues.

Tell us about your expansion plans ?

The Indian Audio OTT space has grown over 3X in the last two years to 150 million users. As India’s leading music streaming app, we have registered 10X overall growth and greater than 25X growth in regional music consumption. Given music streaming is still in its early days in India, we believe this number is likely to more than double in the coming year on the back of our newly launched features, vast music library and intuitive music recommendations.


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