Just over two weeks ago, Spotify, the world’s largest independent audio streaming platform, launched in India after years of anticipation from Indians. In a crowded market with many large and powerful players already fighting it out, Spotify claimed to have crossed 1 million subscribers in less than a week.

With that, India’s music streaming market has irrevocably changed. From a cosy battle between largely three India-centric services Saavn, Gaana and Hungama just a few years ago, it has now become a bruising battle between a much larger set of predators higher up in the digital food chain.

Apple Music launched in 2015. Then Google Play in 2017. Then late last year launched Amazon Music. 

Having seen the writing on the wall, Saavn wisely decided to “merge” (in reality, it got acquired) with telecom operator Jio’s music service, JioMusic. By December 2018, the resulting entity was JioSaavn. Jio’s arch-rival Airtel already had its own service, Wynk.

The game had changed. Gaana knew it, even as it outwardly touted its claims of market leadership with over 80 million monthly active users.

First, it bulked up resources through a $115 million venture round led by China’s Tencent in February 2018.

But even $115 million can seem chump change when you’re up against relentless, long-term competitors with names like Apple, Google, Amazon, Jio, Airtel, and Spotify. Especially when the size of the pot everyone is fighting over was just $87.3 million in 2017 (yes, it would have grown quite a bit since then) according to a February 2019 report prepared by Deloitte and Indian Music Industry (IMI), an industry body. 


Music streaming penetration in India, according to a Deloitte-IMI report.

So, now, Gaana seems to have decided that discretion is the better part of valour. Why fight 6-7 larger players for a small market if there’s another much larger market nearby with just one dominant player?

That player is Google’s YouTube.

Large pond, small fish, small slice, large cake…

According to a senior executive at Times Internet, who declined to be quoted because he isn’t authorised to speak to the media, Gaana wants to build its own music video library as a “supporting experience”, to drive engagement and hence, advertising on its platform.

Now, on the surface, it sounds like a good match. Everything that is video is exploding in India courtesy Reliance Jio. From TikTok, the social media platform for short-form videos, to even YouTube that claims that its daily active viewers are growing at 100% year-on-year.

In fact, Times Internet’s own MX Player claims consumption of 2 million minutes of video content, every minute.


Harveen Ahluwalia

In her last assignment, Harveen was at Mint, the business daily published by HT Media. At Mint, where she spent about two years, she wrote stories on retail, food and the media business. Harveen is a B.Com (H) graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. She has a diploma in journalism from the Times School of Journalism. Like many folks at The Ken, Harveen talks and tweets a lot. When she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to sketch and doodle. She can be reached at harveen at the-ken dot com.

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