| 19 May 2022
My goal is to make 100 hours a week of content: Amit Doshi

MUMBAI: A businessman would think twice before entering a space that demands more investment and little return, but not Amit Doshi. When the founder of India’s largest podcast network, Indus Vox Media, shut down his previous business, he decided to do what he was truly passionate about - podcasts. This is fairly a new concept for the Indian audience, but not to this entrepreneur, who fell in love with this audio concept during his college days.

In a candid chat with, Doshi talks about his company Indus Vox Media, podcast worldwide and his goal of 100 hours a week of audio content. Excerpts.

How was Indus Vox  Media formed?

When in the US, I was a huge fan of talk content. I just liked listening to radio shows. But when I moved back to India in 1997, I was astounded by the fact that we did not have anything of this sort here. Later FM radio started, but there was still no talk content. Then podcast started, but the way that you would listen to the podcast was difficult. You would download it on the PC and then play it.  Not a great way to listen to things. I felt that talk radio was missing in the media category.

Media can be divided into three categories majorly – text, video, and audio. In text, you have sub-categories – magazine, newspaper, books, etc, in the video, you have TV, films, etc and in audio, you have music and talk. And when you look at this matrix, you will realise that we have all the big industries in India, except for talk.

Did that observation lead to the formation of Indus Vox Media?

We started Indus  Vox  Media in March 2015.  When I shut down my last company, which was more to do with mobile applications, this seemed to be the area that I wanted to be in. But I did not jump into this completely. I went a little slow because I wanted to see what people were interested in. So we started with ‘Maed In India’, ‘Cyrus Says’ and ‘Tall Tales’. Then my funding that I had raised was sorted in October (2015). That is when we aggressively started making shows. We had a talk with Saavn sometime around December -January. They showed interest and then it made sense. We also want to work on independent shows that would have open distribution.

Open distribution?

Saavn is a network and a network is not going to take everything that I do. I believe there are a lot of niches, we need to tap those niches and create content for those niches. We are working on different things at present; some of them are not mainstream. The subjects are economics, films, psychology, educational counseling, etc. Like I said, I want a thousand different niches. I want to build listeners that are 50,000 or 60,000. They need not be larger. I feel the content becomes strong if there is more focus. These niche subjects will be of importance to a particular community. This also becomes a good advertisement proposition for an advertiser who is trying to reach that kind of an audience. I feel there is potential is these areas. A platform like Saavn will be more interested in the broad-based entertainment category. But, this does not mean that we are not working with Saavn. We will continue working with them. 

What is the reason for the minimal growth of talk radio in India?

Look at the way radio licenses are done in India. Let’s take a city like Mumbai. It has some 10 to 11 radio stations. Let’s compare that to New York. The city has 40 FM stations, 30 AM stations, its suburbs have 5 to 10 stations each. Look at the number of stations that you get there in comparison to here. When you have such constrained supply what you’re bound to see is that the audience will go for the lowest common denominator. If I am creating a radio station I am going to go for film music, because that is where the audience is. Even internationally, if you see, talk versus music is 75 per cent of music and 25 per cent talk.  So, you will go where you will get the bigger audience. It’s just logical.

Would talk radio have more scope if there were more people willing to invest?

That is inevitable. This kind of content will start percolating. If you look at talk radio versus music worldwide that is a fairly standard distribution 25:75. It works across countries. Given that I feel that if we make it available easily people will get on it. This is my thinking. When Saavn distributes music, their operating margin is very low. A big chunk of money that they make on music goes back to the music companies. In our content, the operating margin is much high. They are paying us a fee and then rest is theirs. This becomes a very operating kind of margin for a lot of the other platforms as well.

How have your audio shows been fairing on Saavn?

We have seen decent numbers in Saavn but they are low in comparison to their music numbers. Why do people listen to a talk show? Because they want to hang out with that person. As the community starts growing the numbers will start growing. That’s the idea that we have. As we start seeing that we will start seeing other distribution platforms. There are other platforms that the audio content can go on. One of the experiments that we did for two of our shows was creating slideshows that go with audio content. We are putting these on Facebook and YouTube. We are trying to see what works and what doesn’t work by doing these things.

How did you get Cyrus Broacha on board for your talk show ‘Cyrus Says’?

Cyrus and I are from the same neighborhood, but we had never spoken much. So when I started to work on this. I started by talking with a lawyer at a coffee shop at Nariman Point. I was asking my lawyer about IP issues, music laws, etc. I wanted to understand things. That is when Cyrus walked into the shop with a few of his friends. He was on the top of my list to do a talk show. So I walked up to him and talked. He said if I did not make him record in the suburbs, he wouldn’t mind. That made me realise that I can approach the celebs I want for my shows.

Where do you see the talk format going from here?

A year from now if this has worked right for me; I will have shows on different subjects. My goal is to make 100 hours a week of content. I feel daily shows are somewhere in between a habit and an addiction. I want us to get into daily shows. It sounds a lot, but we want to get into daily shows.