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Integration with JioMusic allowed us to penetrate deeper into markets, says Vinodh Bhat of JioSaavn

Vinodh Bhat, Co-founder, President and Chief Strategy Officer, JioSaavn and Gaurav Kaushik, Global Vice President-Ad Platform, JioSaavn tell BestMediaInfo.com about their plans to redefine digital audio advertisement and offer agencies a wide-open creative canvas to come up with ideas on how to best communicate with the consumer

(L) Vinodh Bhat and Gaurav Kaushik (R)

Saavn has been one of the first entrants in the music streaming market and since then, has been in stiff competition with streaming sites such as Times Internet’s Gaana and Bollywood Hungama. The streaming site has focused on increasing its valuation and has undertaken various initiatives to achieve the goal.

In March 2018, Saavn signed a $1billion merger deal with Reliance Industries-owned JioMusic and after the full integration, the service was rebranded as JioSaavn. In a conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, Vinodh Bhat, Co-founder, President and Chief Strategy Officer, JioSaavn and Gaurav Kaushik, Vice-President, Ad Technology, JioSaavn spoke about the growth of the streaming service after the merger and their plans to redefine digital audio advertisement.

With the merger, JioSaavn has managed to increase its Monthly Active Users (MAUs) by more than 5x in a year. Bhat said, “The integration with Jio has enabled us to create one of the largest, fastest-growing, and most capable media platforms in the world. Post the integration, our user base has grown significantly. The integration with JioMusic has allowed us to penetrate deeper into markets across the country. Since merging with JioMusic, we have made several changes to our infrastructure to support an unprecedented and massive scale. We expect geometric growth for music streaming in India as more and more people benefit from data connectivity.”

While JioSaavn is witnessing positive growth in its MAUs, the music streaming services in the country are finding it difficult to convert the free subscribers to paid subscribers. As a result of which, JioSaavn has found it beneficial to follow the hybrid revenue model of subscription and advertising.

Kaushik commented, “Operating in India requires adapting to consumers’ changing needs. For those people just starting to appreciate the control, choice and convenience of music streaming, we expect monetisation to be leaning towards advertising.  For evolved users who understand the benefit of our premium features and have the financial wherewithal to subscribe, we expect them to lean toward being paid subscribers.”

To attract more advertisers on the platform, JioSaavn is focusing on redefining the digital audio platform with the help of technological advancements. Kaushik states that utilising text-to-speech for real-time dynamic audio ad creation or driving engagement through voice-enabled responses, audio advertisements will offer a larger scope for creative experimentation.

“Music/audio streaming is a companion medium.  People are usually on the go, at work, exercising or spending time with friends while using music/audio streaming apps and not paying attention to visual media. Digital audio helps marketers tap these moments and build salience.  And unlike visual media, peoples’ minds can only process one audio message at a time. The combination of ultra mobile reach, true attention, and user environment will give brands and their agencies a wide-open creative canvas to come up with ideas on how to best communicate with the consumer,” Kaushik said.  

Excerpts:

With the merger of Reliance Jio, how has been JioSaavn's growth?

Vinodh Bhat: Excellent and beyond our expectations. Ever since merging with JioMusic, we have made several changes to our infrastructure to support an unprecedented and massive scale.  JioSaavn continues to be a product-led company that values both high-scale engineering and unique creativity. We expect geometric growth for music streaming in India as more and more people benefit from data connectivity.

What advantages have you witnessed after the merger of Reliance Jio and Saavn?

Vinodh Bhat: The integration with Jio has enabled us to create one of the largest, fastest-growing, and most capable media platforms in the world. After the integration, our user base has grown significantly. The integration with JioMusic has allowed us to penetrate deeper into markets across the country, growing our Monthly Active Users (MAUs) by more than 5x in a year.

What kind of revenue model do you follow? Which is the more sustainable model – subscription or ad?

Gaurav Kaushik: Our revenue model has always been a mix of both advertising and subscription and the mix will mirror the evolution of the consumer.  Operating in India requires adapting to consumers’ changing needs. For those people just starting to appreciate the control, choice and convenience of music streaming, we expect monetisation to be leaning towards advertising.  For evolved users who understand the benefit of our premium features and have the financial wherewithal to subscribe, we expect them to lean toward being paid subscribers.

While music streaming consumption has increased, the percentage of paid subscribers is still in a single digit. How are you planning to convert these free subscribers to paid subscribers?

Vinodh Bhat: While we’ve been building JioSaavn for a decade now, the phenomenon is still relatively new for people and their first experiences need to have as little economic friction as possible. Our audience is constantly evolving and they are increasingly becoming aware of the in-app and offline product experiences that they can access as premium subscribers. Over time, as they understand the value, we expect the premium subscriber base to increase in size.  

Several brands are flocking towards audio ads in order to attract an audience, how are you planning to attract these brands?

Gaurav Kaushik: Audio is a deeply personal medium, owing to the flexibility it offers to listeners in terms of media consumption. It’s the perfect cross-section where art, science and technology intersect. Brands are starting to realise this and are now keen to leverage the contextual targeting of digital audio. Brands can develop a personal connection with the audience using digital audio advertising. 80% of our users are under the age of 35; they’re young, passionate and belong to the “earbud generation”. This generation of audience zones out from the environment and immerses into their mobile space — listening to music, podcasts, news, etc. This behaviour change has helped JioSaavn become an essential part of our user's everyday life with an average of 44 minutes of interaction with them.

How do you see audio advertising evolving over the years?

Gaurav Kaushik: Although music streaming platforms have been around in India for almost a decade now, display, social and video were the go-to for any brand that wanted to expand their digital reach until late 2014. It was around the same time that IAB released digital audio ad specifications template (DAAST) to standardise audio ads within the ecosystem. The emergence of pure-play digital audio DSP/SSPs (including Google DV360) will continue to make it easy for brands to add digital audio to their media plans. And with the continued innovation by voice-enabled AI platforms (such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant), the future of digital audio advertising in India is truly exciting.

Has programmatic audio finally made its mark in India? Has India finally accepted the programmatic audio model?

Gaurav Kaushik: With the emergence of pure-play audio platforms (such as Triton, AdsWizz) and other programmatic platforms (such as AppNexus, Adobe) now supporting audio advertising, the future is here. And with Google finally enabling audio on DV360 and more audio publishers entering the Indian market, both the demand and supply side challenges are gradually being solved. JioSaavn has always been the industry leader when it comes to digital audio advertising and was the first to run programmatic audio campaigns in India back in 2016. And we're proud to be at the forefront of building a strong case for digital audio advertising to be a crucial part of a brand's media mix.

What’s the next for programmatic audio?

Gaurav Kaushik: Programmatic offers a lot of benefits, including the ability to effectively reach the right audience when visual media comes up short. We are seeing digital audio ad formats adopted by major advertisers very rapidly. Most platforms such as Google DV360, AppNexus and AdsWizz are making it easier for brands to deploy audio ads for this ultra-mobile reach. Because music/audio streaming is a daily experience and our music tastes are as unique as our fingerprints, there are massive primary data sets that can create unique cohorts for brands to target specific behaviours, tastes, interests, etc. Voice UI-enabled platforms and text-to-speech technologies are major areas of innovation.  Whether that’s utilising text-to-speech for real-time dynamic audio ad creation or driving engagement through voice-enabled responses, audio advertisements will offer a larger scope for creative experimentation.

How are you planning to redefine advertising with audio?

Gaurav Kaushik: Music/audio streaming is a companion medium.  People are usually on the go, at work, exercising or spending time with friends while using music/audio streaming apps and not paying attention to visual media. Digital audio helps marketers tap these moments and build salience. And unlike visual media, peoples’ minds can only process one audio message at a time.  The combination of ultra-mobile reach, true attention, and user environment will give brands and their agencies a wide-open creative canvas to come up with ideas on how to best communicate with the consumer. 

With digital consumption increasing, how do you see the market for music streaming apps in the future? According to you, what factors have led to the popularity of music streaming apps?

Gaurav Kaushik: Music has always been an integral part of people’s lives and part of our DNA. The medium of consumption is the only variable that changes with time and development of technology.  Just 10 years ago, music was mainly accessed through the radio, television and CDs.  The recent abundance of affordable data connectivity and access has moved people to stream music.  A report by Deloitte India estimates that the number of online music listeners will be 273 million by March 2020.  We see a future where everyone with a connected device will be actively using a music/audio streaming app.

Do you think the space is getting over-crowded and the survival of the fittest has come into play?

Vinodh Bhat: There are now quite a few players in the audio streaming space in India today, especially international companies now entering.  With a large market like India, there is bound to be fierce competition and we believe it will make everyone better. That said, it requires a very unique team composition and single-minded mentality to execute well here. India is JioSaavn’s primary market and the number one focus.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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