Anirban Roy Choudhury

Audio streaming service Moodagent hits Indian shores; "Will remain subscription-only": EVP and MD Jyoti Handa

Copenhagen, Denmark-headquartered streaming service has launched its operation in India with offices in Delhi and Mumbai.

Copenhagen, Denmark-headquartered audio streaming service, Moodagent, recently launched a platform for Indian users. It has set up offices in Delhi and Mumbai, with Jyoti Handa helming the affairs as executive vice president and managing director of Moodagent India.

Like leading Swedish platform Spotify, Moodagent is an 'outsider' that intends to strike a chord with Indian music lovers by localising its offerings. Spotify, with its urbanesque marketing blitzkrieg, went hyperlocal. It promoted playlists in a manner that India had never witnessed before, in an attempt to relate to the twenty-somethings. Within a year, Spotify was able to acquire a 15 per cent market share. All this means that India may not be that difficult a proposition for Moodagent.

Moodagent, globally, has sold itself as a platform that is driven by machine learning. It promises to offer tailored playlists to cater to a particular mood of a listener. It can even use its machine learning capabilities to form a playlist based on one particular track selected by the user.

"We don't have anything like this in India, and that is the reason behind introducing Moodagent to the Indian users," says Handa.

Currently, the platform is only streaming international content in India. However, Handa's team is in discussion with Saregama, Universal, Sony Music and other music labels in the country to have Indian content available on the platform soon. The initial response has been overwhelming, says Handa. Users are being currently offered a 14-day trial to sample the platform.

Moodagent aspires to go as local as it can in order to cater to the Indian sensibilities. It will have songs in 16 languages, targeting listeners across India. Currently, the 18-24 age group is more active on the platform, says Handa.

Jyoti Handa
Jyoti Handa

"To our surprise, Punjab is at number one, followed by Maharashtra and Bengal. However, it has just been a couple of weeks since our launch. All this is as per the initial data available to us."

Handa makes it clear that the platform is currently not thinking about advertising, and will continue to be a subscription-only product. "We will prioritise the metros," says Handa, while talking about the target audience. But Moodagent will also focus on areas where the platform witnesses more engagement.

So, as Moodagent goes local, what will happen to its 'machine' that it relies on to customise music? Will it understand 'Bhangra' or 'item numbers', as it does in the case of 'Blues' or 'Jazz'?

"Music has a universal language, and the 'machine' understands that language well," responds Handa. "As far as localisation is concerned, we have been working on it for a while, for the 'machine' to get accustomed to the local nuances."

In 2020, 200 million users streamed music online on a monthly basis. But global consultancy firm EY says that only half of them were regular listeners. According to a study by Kantar and VTION, India’s audio streaming market is dominated by Gaana (30 per cent share), followed by JioSaavn (24 per cent), Aitel's Wynk Music (15 per cent), Spotify (15 per cent), Google Play Music (10 per cent), and others (seven per cent).

Audio subscription growth far lower than video
Audio subscription growth far lower than video

Only one per cent of the 200 million music streamers paid for a service in 2020, as music was largely available to stream for free. According to EY's estimates, there will be more than 430 million music streamers and over five million paid subscribers by 2023. Is it a big enough pool for so many players, and also a new entrant like Moodagent?

"We are not going to rely on the two million user base, who is paying for audio OTT today. We are focusing on increasing that market space 10x. That is the aspiration we have with the technology we are launching in India. You will see a lot of features in future that will be more attractive for the Indian users. They won't mind paying Rs 100 a month for something which is completely out of the box. We are focusing more on increasing the total addressable market," Handa explains. 

A year down the line, Handa says, Moodagent aspires to become a "part of life", as well as "aspirational" for the music lovers, who are yet to subscribe to it. How far will its 'intelligent machine' succeed, remains to be seen.