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Pune: Startup that’s on a mission to take Hindustani classical music to the world

Ragya, which started as a free-to-listen streaming copyright-free music from the Internet Archive switched to being a subscription-based service on Diwali day in October, with support and content from artistes and a couple of music archives.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
Updated: March 9, 2021 12:31:02 pm
Aditya Dipankar, Samyuktha Shastri, Rajesh Bhat and Chaitanya Nadkarny.(Clockwise from left to right) Aditya Dipankar, Samyuktha Shastri, Rajesh Bhat and Chaitanya Nadkarny.

In a country dominated by Bollywood music and Punjabi pop, would a startup offering only Hindustani classical music go very far? Ragya is redefining the game — with more than six lakh listeners across the world in exactly a year despite the challenges posed by Covid. In February, the entire team met up in Pune for a three-day workshop to chart a new chapter.

“Ragya’s USP is that its Prahar Player i.e. it plays raga renditions appropriate to the time the listener launches the app. This is based on the commonly known fact that most ragas are best enjoyed in a particular prahar of the day. It means that everyone can enjoy raga music, wherever they are, whoever they are and with whatever level of knowledge they have, even if that might be zero. The simple idea of playing music by prahar has found resonance with listeners,” says Aditya Dipankar, founder of Ragya. The website is . On the app, Pt Jasraj breaks into an immersive rendition of Raga Puriya Kalyan as the late afternoon sun turns towards the horizon. The evening darkness sets in to the notes of sarod as Rajrupa Chowdhury presents Raga Tilak Kamod. Night and the hours that follow bring their own treasure trove of ragas.

Aditya Dipankar, founder of Ragya. Samyukta Shastri, Co-founder and Content Management at Ragya.

Ragya started as a free-to-listen streaming copyright-free music from the Internet Archive. The idea found support and it switched to being a subscription-based service on Diwali day in October, with support and content from artistes and a couple of music archives, such as Sonic Octaves. “Today, we have music added to Ragya by more than 100 artistes personally, including rare raga renditions by living legends such as Dr. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Pt. Nityanand Haldipur, Paul Livingstone, Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar, and rising stars such as Pushkar Lele, Arshad Ali and Samarth Nagarkar. Ragya is growing through building good 1-1 relations with the artistes and organisations and carefully curating content with them,” says Dipankar. The others in the team include Samyukta Shastri as Co-founder and Content Management; Chaitanya Nadkarny, who is Chief of Knowledge & Relations, and Rajesh Bhat, the Chief Product Officer

The listenership of Ragya increased during the pandemic and as live performances could no longer be held. “Gradually, however, people became conservative about their spending so the number of subscriptions did not show a proportional rise. In effect, our running costs spiked. It was certainly a difficult time for us. We had to optimise our systems, mostly in the form of tech, to bring down the costs. This was tedious and a long process but has been quite fruitful as we’ve been able to optimise Ragya’s running costs for future sustenance while the business stands on its feet,” adds Dipankar.

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Rajesh Bhat, Chief Product Officer of Ragya. Chaitanya Nadkarny, Chief of Knowledge & Relations at Ragya.

As a trained tabla player and vocalist, he would know about the patience and persistence that classical music requires to reach great heights. “One of our listeners wrote in about a year ago: ’I am addicted to Ragya now… I was never a classical music fan.. somehow Ragya changed it’. I’m sure there are many more like this listener out there who have felt closer to our classical music than before,” he says. Somewhere in the world, in the morning, somebody begins work to the sounds of the flute as Pt Nityanand Haldipur launches into the late morning raga Yamani Bilawal.

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