| 28 Mar 2023
Naveen Bhandari bets big on regional music

MUMBAI: The Oriya music space appears to be hotting up.
Just last week, Bhubaneswar headquartered FM radio station Radio Choklate announced its plans to revitalise the Oriya music industry with a slew of music videos made with independent musicians.

Read here - Radio Choklate launches 'Andolan' to revive Odia music

With a host of licenses snapped up in the first batch of phase III of FM radio, more players are poised to enter the radio space that feeds majorly off regional music. Local players Sarthak and OTV are the ones who will be competing with Choklate, Big and Red FM in Bhubaneswar and will also launch in Rourkela. Two radio stations, Big and Choklate, are already operational in Rourkela.

Small wonder then that Naveen Bhandari, who has more than 15 years experience in the mobile ecosystem and is one of the pioneers of mobile VAS in India, targeted the Oriya music space with the launch of his label Amara Muzik some months ago. Bhandari is currently aggressively active in the regional music sector. His other venture, Muzik247 has an over 60 per cent market share in the Malayalam music industry.

But it is the Odia and Bangla music spaces that Bhandari is currently focusing on. “The Orissa film industry is currently experiencing a dramatic change in terms of the quality of films that are being made. The local audience for the films has grown dramatically. Box office collections are increasing,” he points out.

Amara Muzik identified the gap and moved in.  Good music content was being created but not being made available on any digital platform, particularly so it could be made available to Odias worldwide. Amara put its catalogue out on all the digital platforms – Wynk, Spotify, Gaana, Saavn, Deezer, as well as tied up with telecom companies for ring back tones in India and overseas. The returns were quick. “We were the first in the Odia industry to have Odia content trending on iTunes,” he says.

With the company’s expertise of digital distribution of music and its decade long experience in the sector, they were best suited to hit out at two or three markets – Odia and Bangla, and Malayalam and Tulu (through Muzik 247) are just the first ones.

Amara Muzik will focus on the film music market initially. “The first battle was making the content available- we started with film, now we will move into folk and devotional which is also very strong in Odia,” says Bhandari. Amara currently has a catalogue of 46 films and albums, and recently acquired the library of MBC Music, one of the biggest players in Odia. 

Read story here - Naveen Bhandari's Amara Muzik acquires Micro Films' Odiya library

In the Bangla space where Amara started operations around three months ago, the company has already acquired rights to the music of three films, one of which is the year’s biggest blockbuster.

The company is trying innovative initiatives as well by attempting to bring the CD back into public conscious by releasing physical CDs as well. Bhandari acknowledges that the physical CD market is not a growing one, “ but we are trying to cater to whatever market is available. The idea is to price CDs so low that the pirates don’t find it commercially viable.

Bhandari’s company has also launched a digital campaign to get local Oriya stars to endorse the battle against music piracy, a continuing menace.

Meanwhile, he has his eyes peeled for the potential in other regional music markets. “We will replicate the same magic with the existing team, but after a gap of three to six months,” he says.