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Spotify Invests in Original Indian Podcasts

The streaming platform hopes to tap into storytelling to expand its non-music local content

Riddhi Chakraborty Nov 20, 2019

Amarjit Batra, Managing Director at Spotify India. Photo: Courtesy of Spotify India

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As a long-term plan to strengthen its localisation strategy, Spotify India has announced the launch of three podcast originals. The move is also part of the streaming service’s goal to expand the variety of audio entertainment available for India and help more Indian creators put their content on a global platform.

At a press conference on November 19th, the platform elaborated on why they feel podcasts can work in the country. “Storytelling is intrinsic to India, and almost nostalgic because most of us have grown on stories that our grandparents and parents told us,” says Amarjit Singh Batra, Managing Director at Spotify India. “Spotify wants to re-establish that listening culture here, especially as users seek more screen-free moments.” Batra further explained that the audience for podcasts are millennials who are actively seeking a break from being glued to their screens, with most listeners aged between 18 and 35 years.

Spotify currently has over 500,000 podcast titles on the platform–a massive leap from the 10,000 in 2018– and an approximate increased of 39% in the podcast hours streamed globally (from Q2 2019 to Q3 2019.) As of now the U.S. accounts for the largest share of podcast streams and the is the biggest market for podcasts in general, but China and India are emerging as major players in the game. PwC’s June 2019 report on the subject states that Indian podcast listeners had it a grand total of 40 million at the end of 2018–a 58% increase from 2017’s 25.4 million. India also currently features in the all-time top three streaming markets for global tech show Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast and for On Purpose with Jay Shetty, is currently in the top ten streaming markets for TED Talks Daily and The Mindset Mentor and in also the top 20 for Stuff You Should Know and BBC‘s Global News Podcast.

[L-R] Podcast creators Gaurav Kapur, Aastha Atray, Ankit Vengurlekar and Mantra Mughd with Amarjit Batra. Photo: Courtesy of Spotify India

In addition to providing fresh, India-centric content for audiences to consume, the Spotify hopes to give local creators a chance to better understand that audience and evolve content accordingly. “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,” says Batra. “Today, we have 140,000 registered creators across the world, on the platform, and the data for a few of these creators shows that India features in their top streamed markets. Much of this content is lifestyle, educational, and news.”

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The three podcasts Spotify has invested in are a blend of the above; there’s 22 Yarns, which delves into the untold stories from the world of cricket and is hosted by television personality and cricket enthusiast Gaurav Kapur, Bhaskar Bose, a fictional audio crime/drama series which uses immersive binaural audio hosted by actor and voice artist Mantra Mugdh, and Love Aaj Kal, hosted by journalists Aastha Atray and Ankit Vengurlekar (aka Gadgetwala) which addresses love, sex and dating in the 21st century. All three podcasts are set to launch on December 3rd.

Since podcasting is in general still very new to India, the question remains as to how much return Spotify India will see in their investments into the podcasts. Monetization and sustainability have always been the biggest hurdles for the global podcast industry to overcome, but Spotify has faith in the power of the creators’ connection with the audience to open avenues for advertising. People are more likely to invest in a product or engage with a brand if their favorite podcast host talks about it during the course of the podcast, which in turn allows brands to target specific audiences. It’s a new concept, but not unlike product integration we’ve seen in videos by popular YouTubers or TikTok stars.

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With more global trends catching on and blowing up across India, it’s possible podcasts might be the next big thing. Spotify is eager to cruise ahead of the competition (namely JioSaavn, Gaana and Apple Music) and establish itself as the go-to streaming service for podcasts, a position it already holds in the United States.

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