India has 1.3 billion people. Who will stream music to them?
Despite a population of roughly 1.3 billion, India has largely been ignored by streaming music giants like Spotify and Deezer. That is, until recently: after acquiring struggling Indian streaming company Dhingana, Rdio set foot in India armed with a catalog of more than 32 million songs and major label licenses.
That looks like the beginning of a major battle for streaming supremacy in the country. Just this morning, longtime Indian music streamer Saavn struck back with a jab of their own: former Google India Mobile executive Mahesh Narayanan, who aims to make Saavn into the dominant streaming music provider in India – before heavyweights like Spotify come knocking. “I’ve had the opportunity to help many leading global technology media companies achieve success, and I genuinely believe that Saavn is primed for the same caliber of success,” explained Narayanan, whose past gigs also include AdMob (acquired by Google) and Sociomantic Labs (acquired by Dunnhumby).
But here’s the riddle: will Indians pay for streaming, or anything music-related, for that matter? This is a country whose population is notoriously prudent when it comes to finances, and where things like paying for music are regarded as a luxury.
Then there’s the numbers problem: Saavn currently boasts 11 million monthly streamers, and claims to be the most-downloaded India-focused music app on Google Play (Android utterly eclipses iPhones in India). The only problem, according to executives in the region, is that in a country of 1.3 billion, 11 million is basically nothing.
Narayanan’s mobile expertise will come in handy: roughly 90% of Saavn’s listeners are mobile-based, which raises all sorts of tricky questions on usage, monetization, and product development. Indeed, Saavn is undoubtedly developing for mobile first, though extracting payments — especially outside of packaged mobile plans with companies like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone — could prove difficult.