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Podcast originals, localisation, non-music content: How Spotify is expanding in India

The first line-up of platform-exclusive podcasts from India will go live on December 3 and will be hosted by popular celebrities Gaurav Kapur, Mantra and Aastha-Ankit

twitter-logoNidhi Singal | November 22, 2019 | Updated 09:52 IST
Podcast originals, localisation, non-music content: How Spotify is expanding in India
(L-R) Gaurav Kapur, Mantra Mugdh, Aastha Atray, Ankit Vengurlekar and Amarjit Batra at the Spotify Originals launch event in Mumbai

Strengthening its presence in the Indian market, Sweden-based music streaming service Spotify has launched Original Podcasts for the country's audience. The first line-up of platform-exclusive podcasts from India will go live on December 3 and will be hosted by popular celebrities Gaurav Kapur, Mantra and Aastha-Ankit.

Podcasts have been available on Spotify for a very long time, but a special focus on them and doubling them down globally have happened only in last two years. Spotify has over 5,00,000 podcasts available globally and has witnessed their accelerated consumption, especially in India and other smaller markets. Typically, certain podcasts are available in all markets on the Spotify platform and also on other platforms. There are exclusives as well. "We are replicating our original podcasts in some of our newer markets. India is an example of this. This is the first-ever locally produced podcast initiative by Spotify in India and marks the beginning of our investment to grow the podcast portfolio and create an extended, newer audio experience for our listeners and the market. Localisation is an important element of our strategy and podcasts in local languages will be an important element of our approach to the Indian market," says Amarjit Singh Batra, Managing Director - India, Spotify.

In India, podcasting is still at a nascent stage, but Spotify is witnessing an immense potential given the immersive and intimate nature of the medium. Spotify's goal is to work with creators, brands, and partners to address challenges so that there is a wider understanding and acceptance of this new and relevant medium. The company believes that factors such as increase in commute, much more awareness around streaming, need for more screen-free moments, and India's position as a knowledge economy establish that there is enough scope for podcasts to become mainstream in India.

Batra explains, "Spotify podcasts are available as free downloads, and India is still a free market when it comes to podcasts compared to the global market where paid subscribers are in significant number. We do expect having more free users in India compared to other markets. Globally, out of 248 million users close to 113 million are paid ones (around 48 per cent). In India, less than 1 per cent users pay for music streaming and our average is higher than that. We look at it as a long-term journey. We are working on strategies to build this into a paid market. One thing is to help move people from piracy to streaming and the second is to move them from free to paid. That will only happen when people listen to music and podcasts as a habit on the streaming platform. As we came in, we realised that such a habit has to be created and developed in the culture and therefore, it will take time for Spotify to build a paid subscriber market in India."

The company believes that the launch of these new series will open the opportunity for India's growing creator community to work with Spotify for creating and delivering content in engaging audio formats.

"Our focus is on building a consumer base and more importantly, understanding our consumers. Additionally, we have been constantly working on enhancing the Spotify experience through our localisation efforts, and this is of utmost importance in a diverse country like India. Our campaigns, 'There's a playlist for that' and 'Sunte Ja', were a transmission of our message that Spotify is a global brand that is here to evolve the audio experience in India. And finally, today, Spotify is ready to release its first line-up of platform-exclusive original podcasts with three Indian creators. Globally, we have over 500 engineers working on podcasts which is a collective effort. We are continuously hiring in India to build a formidable team," adds Batra.

Commenting on the genres popular across podcasts, Spotify says that in 2018, some of the most popular content genres included crime and mystery, comedy, news and politics, health and arts. The company is witnessing traction in lifestyle, especially in segments such as self-motivation, education, news, and horror. "There's an increasing appetite for non-music content. India features in the all-time top three streaming markets for tech show Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast, and for On Purpose with Jay Shetty, a show that has been number one on Spotify's India podcast chart since the time of the launch. The country is also currently in the top ten streaming markets for TED Talks Daily and The Mindset Mentor. Other globally acclaimed podcasts such as Stuff You Should Know, and BBC's Global News Podcast are also in the top 20 most streamed podcasts in India. Our local charts showcase 60 per cent of the top 10 podcasts on Spotify are on self-motivation-based lifestyle content currently," points out Batra.

With over 5,00,000 podcast titles on the platform, up from 10,000 in 2018, Spotify has seen growth in podcast hours streamed globally (up approximately 39 per cent from Q2 2019 to Q3 2019), with podcast adoption reaching almost 14 per cent of total monthly active users (MAUs). While the US accounts for the largest share of podcast streams, a majority of the growth and listening now comes from outside the US.

"Just a little over one year ago, we announced Spotify for podcasters, which provides listener insights to all creators who have podcasts on our platform. Today, we have 140,000 registered creators across the world on the platform. Data for a few of them shows that India features in their top streamed markets. Much of this content is around lifestyle, education and news. Additionally, we acquired 'Anchor' this year to open up the ecosystem and enable local creators to create and publish their audio content. It's a DIY (do it yourself) initiative allowing anyone and everyone to become a creator," adds Batra.

Spotify has made available multiple tools for both global and Indian creators to develop and launch their original podcasts on our platform.

Spotify that entered India in February this year had recorded 1 million users within the first week of its launch. Recently, the company announced its Q3 results highlighting that India outperformed forecast by 30 per cent and this momentum was driven by a number of factors including the launch of the first broad-based marketing campaign, 'Sunte Ja'.

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