Non-English content on audio platforms see uptake
Non-music content consumption is on the rise in India. A KPMG study found that India’s podcast market witnessed a 29.3% uptake in consumption since the pandemic. India’s podcast listening market, the third largest globally, is expected to reach Rs 17.62 crore by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 34.5%. As a result, audio OTT platforms and content creators are increasingly building audio books, podcasts and spiritual content libraries in regional languages to reach India’s diverse audiences.
Video OTT consumption patterns signal a growing user base for regional content in India. In the past one year, several language-specific video OTT platforms have cropped up — Koode (Malayalam), CityShor TV (Gujarati) and Planet Marathi, to name a few. As per the FICCI-EY Media and Entertainment Report 2021, regional content will account for 50% of video OTT consumption by 2025, growing from 30% in 2019. It remains to be seen if the audio OTT growth story will be similar.
Platforms began experimenting with regional audio content about two to three years ago. Kuku FM, a platform that hosts audio books, podcasts and fictional content in Marathi, Bangla, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati and Malayalam, was launched in 2018. Aawaz.com hit the market in 2019 with 100 hours of original programming in Hindi.
In late 2019, Audible, the podcast and audiobook arm of Amazon, debuted with Audible Suno to cater specifically to the Indian audiences. Swedish audio streaming platform Spotify has been working on developing regional language content. In June this year, it added a Tamil podcast Nallanna Murukku hosted by RJ Balaji.
Lal Chand Bisu, co-founder and CEO, Kuku FM, says most of the 1.5 million users on the platform are students and young professionals. The platform is now actively promoting itself through digital influencers.
Sreeraman Thiagarajan, co-founder, Agrahyah Technologies, which runs Aawaz.com, says the platform now hosts content in Marathi and Urdu, in addition to Hindi. He says listeners of podcasts in English prefer to use the medium to learn new things and upskill; listeners of content in regional languages, however, seek out fictional content that is entertaining in nature.
Dasubhashitam, which began as a platform for audiobooks in Telugu, is now planning to add short-format audio content. “We are introducing podcasts and audio content to attract listeners who may not necessarily be book lovers,” says Kiran Kumar, CEO, Dasubhashitam.
Industry analysts say these are still early days for podcasts and audiobooks in regional languages. “India is primarily a video market, and culturally, audio as a medium is limited to music. Further, informative content, documentaries, etc, are not considered entertaining by the masses,” points out Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO, Ormax Media.
Creating content in regional languages that will appeal to a small subset of podcast listeners shrinks the scope of monetisation for these apps. Hence, most rely on subscriptions rather than advertisements for revenue.
Kuku FM charges subscribers Rs 400 per year to access premium content. Bisu says he did not expect to have 50,000 paying users on the platform within four years. He plans to open the platform to advertising in two to three years, when the user base becomes larger. Dasubhashitam earns through subscription fees and ad revenue from Google’s ad service.
Thiagarajan says advertisers are warming up to regional language podcasts. Ishq Bhi Risk Bhi, a podcast on Aawaz.com, for instance, was sponsored by Tata Mutual Fund. Gopa Kumar, COO, Isobar India, believes that platforms like Spotify and Jio Saavn, that cater to a wide audience base, may have better luck monetising regional audio content than independent platforms. He expects these platforms to take three to four years to attract sizable advertiser interest.