RadioandMusic
| 01 Dec 2021
After India launch, Rdio eyes Pakistan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka markets

MUMBAI: US-based music streaming service - Rdio, which launched in India earlier this year, is now eyeing other countries in the Indian sub-continent namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Rdio is currently present in 84 countries with a strong presence in South-East Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia among others.

Speaking to Radioandmusic.com, Rdio International president Scott Bagby says, “We are looking at expanding in the Indian sub-continent. The reason is Indian music, which is very influential in the region. We wanted to get established in India and then expand to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan etc.”

Eyeing the lucrative Indian market since 2010, Rdio finally launched here earlier this year. Even though it armed itself with the acquisition of Dhingana in March 2014, like any other market, it was a challenge to set shop here. However, one thing that was clear in Bagby’s mind was that they wanted to enter the Indian market with the “right partner.”

India was on Bagby’s radar as soon as he joined Rdio in 2010 and he began talks with various Indian companies. Speaking about his India journey, he says, “We were attempting to enter the Indian market for almost three years and were in talks with various partners. This helped me understand the need of the Indian market and the music preferences, which are personal as well as local.”

In Bagby’s opinion, to compete with capable companies like Gaana and Saavn, what was necessary was market knowledge. “I was not going to come into a vast market like India as an arrogant foreigner and talk about my product. Therefore, we spoke to several partners and found Dhingana to be the right partner,” says Bagby.

Currently, in India companies like Gaana, Saavn, Hungama, Guvera, Wynk, SoundCloud and Apple Music form the music services universe.

While he made his maiden trip to India in 2012 to scout for partners, he began connecting with Indian companies much before.

Commenting about launching Rdio in India, Bagby says, “I have seen many companies in San Francisco who make decisions sitting in their offices there. We did not want to make the same mistake.”

While Rdio was tight-lipped about its India plans for the better half of 2015, it was only last week that the company made a big bang announcement on the launch of its Mumbai office as well as the dual appointments of Shamik Talukder as general manager and India head, while that of Ganesh Iyer as marketing and content head. Rdio also said that the Shinde brothers - Swapnil and Snehal, will move into an advisory role at the company.

With its feet firmly set in the Indian market, Rdio is planning to invest heavily in the country, which is the second most invested market after San Francisco. “We have a solid team in India now,” Bagby adds.

Forging partnerships with the likes of T-Series, Sony Music India, Universal Music India and Saregama amongst others, Rdio boasts of a catalogue that is 35 million tracks strong. This will help the company expand its possibility given the growing demand of Indian content among Indian diaspora.

“Finding more labels and local content is an ongoing process and there is a dedicated team for it, which will help build our India repertoire. I am looking forward for the content to go across the world, as there is a huge demand for Indian content in the UK, the US and Canada,” he says.

Even as Rdio is expanding its service to newer regions, it continues to face challenges that are alike or at times different. Elaborating on the challenges, Bagby says, “I believe challenge is a good word. Challenges in India were no different from anywhere else. To get the services rolling, artists have to be happy; and labels and publishers have to make money. Consumers have to happy. We have to make money. It is a challenge to align all this and it is a global challenge.”

“While the music industry is very much aware about the streaming service, the average Indian does not know about it. That is our biggest challenge,” adds Bagby.

Labelling piracy as its competitor and not a challenge, Bagby says, “Our biggest competitor is piracy and the best way to beat it is through education. It is important for people to know that pirating music is a way of stealing from artists, who put in their efforts and energy in making music.”

According to Bagby, streaming is likely to overtake downloads. “However, as far as other areas are concerned in the music industry, steaming will compliment them,” he says.

Taking pride in the apt launch timing of Rdio in India, considering that consumers are aware of two local products namely Saavn and Gaana, Bagby is of the opinion that more players will only allow for more competition offering unique services in the space.

Speaking on the on-going Phase III FM auctions in India, Bagby says that it will allow multiple licenses and eventually more experimentation with content, which will help streaming businesses to grow. “As the radio industry branches out, we will be able to get consumers who will consume various music genres on our platform. There will be growing demand for various international music genres alongside Bollywood,” states Bagby.

Music consumption around the world is huge and so is radio, which is growing in size and revenue. In India, auctions for radio frequencies are happening for the third time and for Phase III there are 135 FM channels in 69 cities. What’s more, by next year there will be many more frequencies that will be made available as per the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s plans for the radio industry.

With the appointments of Talukder and Iyer, who have a good understanding on the radio industry, hints towards Rdio’s radio inspired content and playlist. Speaking on how his radio understanding would influence Rdio’s playlist, Talukder says, “At Radio Mirchi, I used to handle 32 cities that have varied consumption patterns of music. This understanding of content will help us decide the type of content that would work in India for Rdio.”

Talukder also reveals that company plans to continue partnering with labels or content aggregators; and evaluate the market and further strengthen its team in India. With a deep understanding of the vast Indian market, Talukder says that India is a varied market mainly dominated by Bollywood, International and regional content. “While Rdio is working on a strategy for each region; there will be an umbrella plan as well. We will have an intense plan and in the coming few months, things will roll out,” he says.

Currently, Rdio will continue to focus on music and audio and has no plans to venture into audio-video space like Spotify and Saavn (which raised funds this year). “The product offerings have not been exhausted, so there is lots to offer in the audio space,” Bagby concludes.

Log onto www.radioandmusicbiz.com for more.