Branded content will be a key revenue stream: Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana

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New Delhi | January 18, 2019 2:09 AM

From 80 million monthly active users (MAUs), Gaana hopes to take the count to 200 million in two years.

Prashan Agarwal, gaanaPrashan Agarwal

From 80 million monthly active users (MAUs), Gaana hopes to take the count to 200 million in two years. It is focussing on regional music and even non-music content to achieve this ambitious target. Prashan Agarwal discusses the opportunity for a subscription model, the potential in smaller towns, and the rising competition in the space, with Ankita Rai. Edited excerpts:

What is Gaana’s monetisation model? Are you considering brand tie-ups?

We have two sources of revenue: ad revenue from free users, who form a majority of our subscriber base, and paid subscription. Both subscription and advertising contribute equally to our revenue. From a revenue growth perspective, Gaana is growing at 100% year on year.

Our ad platform is very different — a lot of ads are audio centric. Audio and banners are our best consumed inventory. We usually see high engagement on our platform coming from OTT players like Netflix and Hotstar, in addition to Uber, Myntra and automobile clients like Maruti. We also have branded content solutions, growing 300% y-o-y on the app. We have a KFC bucket list — specially curated songs keeping in mind the Finger lickin’ good brand story, and we have Big Muscles that has workout playlists.

We play just one minute of ads every hour. From the interruption point of view, it is minuscule compared to radio.

What kind of scope does ad-free, paid subscription offer?

Gaana was launched in 2011 and in 2018, our subscriber base grew to 80 million MAUs which comprises both free and paid users. We see 2.2-2.3 billion streams a month. Out of the 80 million MAUs, the percentage of paid users is in single digits; however, it is growing 100% y-o-y. From the engagement standpoint, paid subscribers are engaged three times more on the app as compared to free users.

Content is the biggest draw in online music. Are you looking to go beyond film music?

We started focussing on regional music two years back. The growth in the music streaming space will come from tier II, III and IV cities. As more people come online in these cities, regional music will play a key role. For example, in Punjab, we are the biggest player with 60-70% market share. We are also seeing 100% y-o-y growth in Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Gujarati markets.

We also have Gaana Originals to promote non-film music; we have had two seasons so far. We work with 10 artistes every year for Originals. The idea is to create a platform where artistes have a voice and can reach out to audiences directly. Gaana Special is our effort to create audio programming beyond music. It focusses on storytelling across genres such as love, horror, thriller and even comedy, with shows such as Comedy Nights With Kapil and Mirchi Murga. It has a niche audience presently (in metros).

How do you promote discovery to build stickiness?

When it comes to content discovery, it is important to have a ‘lean back’ experience. We not only have personalised playlists, but also human-curated playlists for users. Retention is a key metric for Gaana. We want to be a toothbrush app — ensure people come back to Gaana daily. In fact, among people who consume songs on the recommended sections, we see that there is double the propensity to come back.

The music streaming market is teeming with players — Google Play Music, Wynk, JioSaavn, Amazon Prime Music and more. What is Gaana’s differentiation strategy?

Over the last two years, we have invested a lot in data and machine learning. The music streaming market is estimated to have 150 million users and is growing very fast. It is expected to grow to 600 million users in the next three years. Competition will only grow the market further. The key pillar of our strategy to stand out is innovation. We were the first to launch transliteration on our app in 12 Indian languages. We have launched voice search recently. Around 22% of the users are using voice search on the Gaana platform. Besides, from a content perspective, there is huge focus on non-film and regional music.

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