Aishwarya Ramesh

Sounds of tomorrow – thoughts on the future of the world of audio streaming and content

Day 1 of Audionxt Week talked about ‘The Sounds of Tomorrow’, and the panel began a journey of a deep dive into the world of audio.

Podcasts, audiobooks, radio, music... the audio streaming industry in India is among the hottest markets out there today. At present, it has a small base of consumers, but the pace at which it is growing is noteworthy. In the recent past, there has been a surge of interest in both the creation and consumption of audio content, across genres.

In India, audio has still been largely linked to music, but its avenues beyond entertainment are still fairly new to India. Audiobooks, podcasts, etc., are still finding their footing.

The topic of discussion on Day 1 of Audionxt Week was ‘The Sounds of Tomorrow’, and the panel set the stage for a week of exploratory sessions that will dive deep into the world of audio.

Audionxt is an afaqs! conference, where we take a closer look at India's growing audio market. Through in-depth discussions with some of the most important names in this space, we will try and understand the factors driving this audio boom, the popularity of podcasts, the future of radio, the role of local language content and, of course, monetisation models.

The conference will be held daily from July 26-30, 2021, between 4 and 4.45 p.m. Audionxt Week is part of afaqs!'s flagship 'All Week' initiative, which also includes eConferences, like Television Week, Digipub Week, Languages Week, vdonxt Week, CMO Week and Gaming Week.

The conference kicked off with a panel of speakers, including Jehil Thakkar of Deloitte India; Mohit Joshi, CEO of Havas Media Group; Shailesh Sawlani of Audible India; and Shashi Sinha of IPG Mediabrands India. The session was moderated by Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder and director of afaqs!.

The session kicked off with a pertinent question – at a time when Zoom meetings and video calls have become part of the new normal, why would audio, as a medium, be so popular? Whether it was podcasts, music streaming, or audio social platforms, like Clubhouse…

Thakkar of Deloitte India began by saying there are different forms of audio, but the beginning of conversational audio content is talk radio – which is quite popular in the country.

Meanwhile, global audio streaming platforms have started turning their focus towards India, lured by the sheer promise of scale the country offers. But with opportunities come challenges.

Sawlani began by mentioning that Audible was launched in India in 2018. The company was pleasantly surprised to see that the paid subscriptions made it one of the fastest growing marketplaces among all the countries it had a presence in.

“We’re a nation of storytelling – those traditions still exist in various art forms throughout the country. So, it was a natural fit for us. It’s been exploratory and interesting in the last few years.”

Sawlani points out that India is also a multi-lingual country and, more often than not, people know how to speak a language. But they don’t know how to read and write in it – leaving room for the growth of audio in the country.

Joshi of Havas Media agrees with Sawlani’s point – mentioning that the country grew up with the show Binaca Geetmala – a weekly countdown show of top Hindi film songs. It’s interesting to note that Binaca Geetmala was broadcast on Radio Ceylon from 1952 to 1988 and then shifted to the Vividh Bharati Service of All India Radio (AIR) network in 1989, where it ran until 1994.

He also mentions that Neelesh Misra’s Yaadon ka Idiot Box pulled up the importance of storytelling in a big way. Joshi theorises that it is possible that Gen Z and millennials may have initially felt disconnected from audio since they were consuming a lot of video content. But now, they are returning to this medium as they feel it’s a safer space to be in.

The session also covered the challenges faced with monetising content – especially with podcasts, and the impact that COVID has had on this sector. It also covered the competitors to the streaming players in the sector and how they measure up against each other.

Watch the full discussion below. To register for the Audionxt conference, visit this link.