RadioandMusic
| 28 Nov 2020
Siddhartha Roy: "The fundamental vision of Hungama has not changed"

Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, the pioneer internet giant that started as a promotions marketing portal- Hungama.com in 1999, has today become a trailblazer, leading across digital entertainment, mobile and value added services, promo marketing, aggregating and publishing of bollywood and south Asian entertainment across the globe.

Siddhartha Roy, the name synonymous with Hungama.com, has strengthened its foothold in the digital and mobile entertainment and gaming ecosystem. The dynamic veteran who serves as the chief operating officer for the Consumer Business & Allied Services at Hungama Digital Media Entertainment gives our readers a transparent view on the current digital ecosystem prevailing in the country and the road map ahead:

We believe in engaging the consumer wherever he goes which allows for music to be carried. It took a lot of insights for us to build Hungama.com and the learning that we got was actually from our interaction with the consumers themselves. We believe that primary devices will continue to be the mobile phones in India, so we continue to make some of these experiences far richer. Today, in India the data opportunities are just about starting off. We are sitting at a 135 million internet users which will go to around 300mn. We are a 100mn plus on mobile already and will go to 400mn plus.

Recently, we developed a music application that is available on mobile and tablets. . It offers a seamless audio video experience , where a customer can make a choice to consume music via a music track or a music video. This essentially comes from the fact that in India we don’t just listen to music, we also watch our music. Even our movie trailers burst with an iconic song, which becomes a pivotal feature for the promotion of the film.

Another great feature we added is trivia. We realized that when people listen to music, there is information about the song that people share and that is where we went about building the trivia feature. We also realized that lyrics are a very important feature. It is actually the sixth most searched for word over the internet. So we added lyrics knowing that it’s a great feature for consumers.

The search and discovery came about through a very interesting insight. We realized in our larger music retail opportunity that a lot of customers actually come with a specific mood that they want to listen to. So we created this entire mooddiscovery feature, we went back and reconsidered our metadata where we went and built out moods on the basis of content. We brought that into the search discovery option where the customer can choose the mood of song and subsequently choose the language of the track they want to listen to and then we curate a list for them. They have the ability to use era so that we know if people want to listen to songs only from the 70s or 90s. We create era as again a part of the user’s playlist, and with that we added tempo as well. There, we have actually audio printed our entire library.

Another feature that really stood out for us was the entire loyalty feature where we knew if there was ability for us to create consumer habit. That stemmed from the fact that the customer comes and listens to great music, and for any action that they do, can we go out and reward them with points? And can these points be used in a redemption environment where the users could be getting access to digital goods or physical gratification. Users can get the chance to grab a holiday, win an iPad mini or meet and greet with a star.

There are principally two kinds of subscriptions that we have built. On the iOS it is an in-app subscription where we open a video streaming environment to the users. So the customer pays us Rs. 110 on a monthly basis, and we open up our entire library of music and videos for streaming. In the android, because we have the entire micro charging opportunity in India with our billing integrations with all major telcos, we have gone out to build an interesting download to own opportunity.  While listening to the song, a user can pick up the video of the same song. The videos have a 30 second preview.

The fundamental vision of Hungama has not changed. We believe the customer is willing to pay for content and we are going to create various environments to enable him to do so.. We have an inherent insight and know that people want to own music. And we have given them options, its micro charging at the end of the day. A user can download something for as little as Rs 10 and own it for life. With our app, we also allow them to listen for free and even reward them for that by giving points.

In the last year, regarding the pull ecosystem we have realized that there is a very large community picking up video over audio. If I am giving a consumer the choice of an audio or video, and he’s paying for it, chances are he will pick up video.

We are very focused towards building successful businesses and hope to make this reach out to as many consumers, get them to sample it and some of these consumers will upgrade it as download to own. We are trying to create a habit with the loyalty program and both the interface and search and discovery options are what the consumer likes. That is the deferential.

We have also entered into a joint venture with Catch Media Inc called Hungama SmartCloud and it is truly a smart music consumer experience on a cloud offering. Principally what it does is that it is a technology that curates all the music that one has on any device, make an audio fingerprint of it and push the audio fingerprint into the cloud. That is for content that is licensed by us. Being what Hungama is, there is already around 70 per cent of the content licensed by us which allows us to run this in a very efficient manner for the consumer. We have already launched this sometime back and it is available on Hungama.com and as a separate app called Hungama Music Cloud.

We have also extended to TV with Hungama.com available on all smart TVs today, where you get interestingly streamed videos and audio.  Audiences have an ability to create playlists, to send that piece of music to TV from the mobile and more.

What we have done on DTH with Tata Sky through the Activ Music service, is a classic example of our move to tap into the rural markets as well. It runs across the country and is a paid service offering music across genres.

On the other hand, the larger advertising ecosystem in India is a challenge. In a $2trillion dollar economy, we have only $6-7 billion in advertising and of that only 3-5 per cent comes into the digital business. There is so much of inventory being created, be it online or in mobile. There are not enough advertisers present to spend that money. So the margins in advertising will always be stretched in India because we are a growing media consumption country. Every format of consumption is increasing including internet and mobile. As the consumption increases, always the dollars that are chasing that inventory will always be under pressure to meet margins. There is not enough advertising revenue, so that is the challenge.

The advertising margins will not change in the near future as there is too much of supply. More consumers are going online, there is more inventory being created. Where is the advertising revenue chasing that inventory?

And it is too small a market to talk about competition today. The market for all of us is enough and more. All of us have the space to grow, but the question is can we grow sustainable businesses?

The internet challenge today is that in a 130 million odd internet users, there are only 15 million active credit card users. So there is no trustable, sustainable wallet to charge, the telco ecosystem. Customers have connectivity both in prepaid and postpaid and it is a big thing that we micro charged that environment.  With the bandwidth constraints it’s like the chicken and egg situation.

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