Shreyas Kulkarni

How local language content is driving the growth of audio consumption

On day four of afaqs! Audioxt Week, we explore how local language will shape the future of audio.

International content may rule the world of audio right now but it is regional languages that will shape the audio universe.

In the fourth session of Audionxt, a week-long series from afaqs! trying to take a closer look at India’s growing market, we explore how regional languages are playing the audio market.

Ashwini Gangal, executive editor, afaqs! moderated the session. Her panellists were Dheeraj Sinha, Leo Burnett South Asia’s CEO and CSO; Garima Surana, co-founder and CBO, Sochcast; Sukriti Sharma, Storytel’s India brand head; Vipul Bathwal, VP, podcasts and monetisation products, Gaana.

Gangal started the session by saying that there are a few recurring themes that stand out when we (afaqs!) do sessions around Indian languages. They are the opportunities these local languages offer, the mismatch of supply to the high demand of good regional language content, and urgent need of fixing of local language ecosystem such as UI/UX, font, translation, and monetisation being the biggest pain point.

She then asked her panellists to make introductory remarks talking about their current user base, the different languages available on their platform, the ratio of English to non-English content, and how much of that content is free and how much is behind the paywall.

And she asked Dheeraj to talk about how the modern audio-streaming market is richly rooted in Indian culture of traditional oral knowledge transfer.

Vipul: We have more than 150 million monthly active users (MAU) on Gaana. From a consumption standpoint, more than 70 per cent of it is coming from non-English languages. We’ve 16-17 languages on offer from a music standpoint and if you are looking at podcasts, we offer them in six or seven languages. For a music streaming platform, anything you wish to stream is free but if you want to download anything, you will have to pay.

Sukirti: Globally we have 1.5 million subscribers and in India, we have thousands and thousands of subscribers. When we entered India in November 2017, we launched primarily in English and right now 80 per cent of our base is in this langauges. But, we’ve launched about 11 languages now and there are three more to go.

Garima: We’ve over 18,000 minutes of original content proliferated in languages such as English, Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Sanskrit, Bengali, Gujrati, Kannada… When content becomes relatable, it hits you there. For it to become relatable, you have to change the language and tweak it to the Indian audience.

Dheeraj: India has centuries of oral tradition and even in pop culture, two decades ago you’d people holding the radio to their ear and listening to the commentary. Music is easier to drive in audio while podcasts are fledgling and we need to build the category. Relevance + Familiarity + Popularity are the three factors that need to kick in for any new idea or framework to gain currency.