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. 

6.4%

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.

AUTHOR

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.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.