It has been five months since Spotify launched successfully in India. In an email interaction with indianexpress.com, Amarjit Singh Batra, Managing Director India, Spotify, revealed the biggest learnings so far and the kind of acceptance the digital music service has found in India in such a short time.
What has been your biggest learnings in the first quarter?
India is unique, given its social and cultural diversity, so it has been a continuous learning curve for us since our launch in the country. Through continued focus on personalisation, seamless discoverability, and in-depth localization, the first three months for us have been about gauging feedback and understanding how Spotify can continue to evolve for our local users. We have observed steady growth across demographics and devices, and our social media reflects how users are frequently discovering songs, artistes, and playlists on Spotify. This reinforces the listening diversity we promote on our app and shows the shift in mentality of Indian users maturing from consuming largely their favorite songs and familiar artistes to experiencing music that is more personalized through taste-specific discoveries. Additionally, Indians use music as a strong medium of emotional connect and resonance to navigate through their days. For many users today, music isn’t just recreational but has evolved into an integral form of expression and social relevance.
These insights have been fundamental to our marketing campaigns in India. For ‘There’s A Playlist For That’, we tapped the evolving user-music relationship with relatable situations and established a connection between local cultural nuances, and the diversity of playlists we have. Our TV led marketing campaign – ‘Sunte Ja’ highlighted strong integration of music into our daily lives that has contributed to a significant drive in background play/streaming, where users set into a focused groove, calibrating songs to enhance their daily social tasks/experiences.
Lastly, curation does matter – Spotify thrives on a growing global community of artistes and users that actively engage with music, leading to the creation of over 3 billion playlists. We are seeing users take to creating playlists and become cultural curators, in addition to our in-house algorithm-based and editorially curated playlists.
What has been the biggest success story for you?
The engagement with our users is the biggest success story and will always be. We talked about having a million active users within the first week of launch, and 2 million+ users soon after. These are good numbers, but what matters even more to us is the time that these users spend on the Spotify platform – it’s much above the industry average, and that shows the stickiness factor and that our content curation is working. Besides engaging on the platform, we also see high user engagement, especially from the K-Pop community, on our social media.
Additionally, we announced the availability of Spotify Lite Beta in India a couple of months ago to gauge user interest, which was high. As a result, Spotify Lite is now out of test mode, and available as an app for all users in the country. There has been great acceptance for this small, fast app that makes millions of free songs more accessible to anyone who may have an older mobile device, limited storage on their phones, are in poor internet connectivity areas, or just don’t want to spend excess data on listening to music.
What would you have done differently?
We believe we entered the India market at the right time, after much research, analysis and preparation, given the size and health of the music industry, the growing creator ecosystem, developing smartphone penetration and evolving consumer segments. Maybe we would have wanted to launch with more local features, but it’s something we will continue to do as we learn more about our users on ground. We have already built a strong product, stemming from our belief in keeping users at the heart of innovation, and the intent is to enable more discovery with more locally relevant features.
Where in India has the biggest acceptance come from?
In terms of content, in local music, there is a substantial demand for Punjabi music, comparable to Bollywood on the platform, with indie music being discovered more frequently (Top Hits Hindi, Punjabi 101, Bollywood Butter, and Top Hits Punjabi being top 4 playlists). New and popular tracks grow fast on the platform (Bekhayali from Kabir Singh had 7,00,000 streams within a week of being on Spotify and is now at 7.7 million streams!).
It’s not just Bollywood, but also Tollywood, Kollywood, and beyond; in fact, the playlist engagement in the south market is often comparable to what we see globally. Parallelly, we are witnessing immense growth in the popularity of the Punjabi music genre and evolving genres such as K-pop and sleep/meditation music.
The music culture is extremely rich in India and striking a balance between film and non-film music draws a huge difference compared to what we see in other markets. Interestingly, consumption of sleep playlists is the most under mood and activity-based playlists, followed by love, party and workout playlists. In fact, it wasn’t a surprise when we discovered that Indians spend their nights listening to substantial amount of love music before falling asleep – this was unique to us as compared to the global preferences we saw across the world. In terms of cities, if you take a look at the Indian artistes’ pages on Spotify, you will see many of the listeners come from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru. Of course, those reflect as the top few cities, and our acceptance comes from several other cities in the country.
Have the additions in playlist helped you find more Indian users globally?
We had playlists for the diaspora even before we launched in India, but adding playlists curated by local editors in India, and those trending algorithmically based on what cities in the country are uniquely listening to, have definitely reached the diaspora. Take the example of artistes like Pav Dharia, who is being discovered through our super popular local playlist Punjabi 101 and New Music Punjabi. Sunanda Sharma was discovered on the Bollywood Blast playlist in cities like London. Then there are artistes such as Anirudh Ravichander and Hiphop Tamizha discovered on Latest Tamil and Kollywood Cream among other local playlists in cities like Kuala Lumpur.
What are the plans for the coming months?
Our focus remains to progressively build Spotify through our ‘audio first’ mission based on purposeful innovation inspired by our users. When it comes to in-app experiences, we remain committed to making the user experience even more intuitive. On the industry front, as invested partners, we are focused on growing the market by creating a healthy industry value chain, driving value for our partners, including labels, creators and brands. There is immense opportunity for growth in transitioning user’s mindset of piracy towards streaming music and we are focused towards it. Lastly, in offline fan experiences, we will be looking at introducing unique fan engagement platforms in India once we have deeper insights on music consumption here. We are here to develop the music streaming market, and partner with artistes and creators to make that happen. The ability to evolve consistently, while keeping the user at the heart of our innovation, has helped us in capturing the support of over 217 million users worldwide (46% of whom pay for Spotify). In India too, we hope to convert users into fans.