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In advertising, money always follows time spent and it’s always time for audio: Arjun Ravi Kolady of Spotify India

Kolady spoke about the vision for Spotify India, the platform’s advertising business and plans ahead

Arjun Ravi Kolady

Swedish audio streaming platform Spotify was launched in India in 2019. Despite the challenges from local players and also the disruption caused by Covid-19, the brand has continued to have a strong hold on its loyal audiences and advertisers. 

Arjun Ravi Kolady, Head of Sales, Spotify India, in interaction with said that the Indian market is a focus area for Spotify. “We have been one of the fastest-growing markets for Spotify globally. The number of brands that we have worked with has gone up from a handful to about 200-300. We have grown the team and will grow it further by 4-5x in the next few months.” 

Kolady further said that he and his teams will work towards expanding the market for audio streaming in the country. “From a brand perspective, the long-term goal would be to continue this journey and also to build the market. If you see the adex (spends) on audio in India, it is negligible. It comes after radio which itself is sitting at 2%. Our goal will be to put audio in front, right and centre for all brands. In advertising, money always follows the time spent, so it's always time. The work that I and my team, and the audio ecosystem does will make it happen,” he said. 

According to Kolady, Spotify gives an enhanced experience to consumers which can be leveraged by the brands advertising on the platform. “The most important thing we have is trust both from the consumers and the advertiser. Consumers trust us for delightful experiences, music and podcast recommendations. Advertisers trust us because of the transparent way we work and being true partners and helping them solve their longer-term strategic objectives and building the right solutions.” 

Speaking about expectations from 2023, he said, “It feels like there is an inflexion point for us in our business in India. I expect 2023 to be remarkable at all levels across our verticals.” 

Challenges in the audio space 

Kolady said that audio as an industry is at a very nascent stage. He said all the stakeholders including the advertisers are eager to learn about what the space can hold for them. “Right now, audio is a very top-mid-level funnel. We have not yet solved the bottom funnel like the e-commerce players or some other platforms have done. As an industry, we need to invest a lot in tech that can help us and the advertiser realise the ROI until the last level.” 

“India is an ever-evolving market and is constantly learning and experimenting in the audio space. Right now, we offer production services but eventually, we would want the agencies and brands to come up with their own solutions for audio,” explained Kolady.  

How can brands leverage audio? 

According to Kolady, audio can provide a seamless experience to the audiences that brands can leverage. He said, “The beauty of audio is that we go beyond the screen, audio as space is seamless. There is no better way to reach the connected people in connected homes. The idea is that while you can use audio to fulfil your media requirements, can you also make it fun and engaging?” 

Asked if being positioned as a niche brand has worked for the brand as opposed to platforms like Saavn and Gaana, he said, “Today where we are, we are not niche. We may not be the leaders, and we may not be rural, but Spotify is listened to in over 7,000 towns. Yes, the predominant part of our audience is from the top 10-20 cities. What that means is as a platform, the initial brands that could have worked with us are the brands that are focused on quality and getting the right audience. We may not have solutions for someone who is looking for a mass reach but we have great solutions for people who are looking for the right audience and that’s what makes us different. Down a few years, when we have grown we may appeal to the masses.” 

Karthik Nagarajan

Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker and Head of Branded Content, GroupM, who was also at the round table spoke about effectively adapting audio. 

“Audio is a highly curated and customised experience. Brands can play the niche and mass game together just through the way people consume content. I can reach out to a niche audience through their music and I can also reach out to someone who is very Bollywood and mainstream,” Nagarajan said.

“Spotify and audio are positive experiences, you are not getting trolled, not engaging in verbal war. Every time you turn to audio, it is to make you feel better. As an advertiser it is very rare and difficult to find such positive spaces that also let you deliver your message so easily. Audio in India is probably where social media was a decade ago. Time and again it has been proven that audio is a more intimate content consumption experience,” he said.

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