"Spotify of India" company Saavn moves into content, but in a different way than Spotify

By Erin Griffith , written on October 21, 2013

From The News Desk

Saavn, which operates a streaming service for Bollywood music in India, has released Saavn Remote, a widget that allows publishers to embed music on their sites. The company has partnered with two major Hindi newspapers for the rollout, Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, which reach 4.5 million monthly uniques combined. The partnerships will include a revenue share element from the audio ads streamed within the player.

Founded in 2006, Saavn has grown to 10 million users in India; the company is responsible for five percent of mobile data usage in the country. It has taken advantage of Spotify and Pandora's slowness to enter the market and the fact that the most popular way to listen to music in India is via TV.

Likewise, iTunes struggles with Bollywood music, because typically the star who lip syncs the song in a movie is not the artist who sings it, which makes it difficult for users to find the songs they might want to buy. And iTunes search for Indian music was terrible to begin with -- if you don't spell a track exactly the way it's translated into English, you get zero results, says CEO and founder Vin Bhat.

When Bhat was starting Saavn, he met with Apple's Eddy Cue, who told him that Apple was only focused on Western music and wouldn't be pushing into India anytime soon. So Bhat hustled to get 900 Indian record labels signed onto the streaming service. They were more willing than Western music labels to agree to favorable streaming deals, he says. Saavn earns money through a combination of advertising and subscription, which is charged through mobile carrier plans. The company's gross margins are 45 percent, Bhat says.

Partnering with publishers is an interesting development as Spotify itself moves in a different direction with content, almost competing with publishers. Spotify has been publishing exclusive content for its readers through a show called "Spotify Landmark." Recently Spotify Landmark published a set of interviews with people involved in the making of Nirvana's "In Utero" to mark the album's 20th anniversary.

Hamish McKenzie argued that Spotify could become a valuable distribution platform for other types of media beyond songs. This Rolling Stone-style content is right at home on Spotify's platform. (Then again, Rolling Stone already is technically a partner of Spotify through the startup's open API. But Rolling Stone's Spotify app is nothing more than a list of rarely-updated playlists containing no other music-related content, and none of Spotify's partner apps are available on mobile.)

Spotify is using its platform as a way to distribute content and, in turn, generate deeper engagement from its existing users within Spotify's catalog. With Saavn Remote, Saavn is doing the opposite. It is allowing publishers to distribute its music in order to generate deeper engagement on their own sites. It's too early to say whether one is better than the other, but one thing is clear -- content and music go together like Method and Red.

[Image via Curry Culture]