Comfortably niche: what podcasts need to do to go mainstream in India

The present and future of podcasts in India

According to the latest Mary Meeker report, internet growth might be slowing globally but not in India, which is the second fastest growing large economy.

The number of internet users in India grew more than 28% in 2016. Usage of mobile internet is growing as the bandwidth cost decreases. However, the same can't be said for podcasts as a data by Kalagato to suggests that the penetration of the top five podcast apps in India is below 1%.

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Ashish Kapoor, chief analyst at Kalagato, said an appreciation of audio content hadn't developed in India like it had in other markets.

"The population of users that truly appreciate great audio content is small and underrepresented here. These users can also get their fill of great audio programs on apps like Soundcloud that host content by publishers, ranging from AIR to Monocle. I also feel like no one has really taken a real shot at a great podcast. If you could get your daily news bulletin, real opinions, and high-quality discussions on one platform – I’m sure there’s a space for that. Sometimes you just have to show people what they are missing," he explained.

Few podcasts have already made their mark in India. Spotify's Indian equivalent Saavn featured storytellers and Audiomatic launched in 2015 as India’s first podcasting network covering comedy, culture, current affairs, science and food. Podcasts are also generally not commercialised and are therefore available without any ad disturbances

However, Shamsuddin Jasani, managing director of Isobar thinks that podcasts in India is still a fringe product. He said, "The numbers are very small and it has never taken off. For podcasts in India to take off and be mainstream we need content, which defines the medium makes it mainstream. I believe the time now is ripe for a podcast which clearly captures people imagination and brings podcasting to larger audience."

Indian government has launched initiatives such as 'Digital India' which are set to power the Indian economy in future but development of podcasts is still at a very nascent stage. However, it has introduced it's own podcasts like 'my government.'

Anita Nayyar, CEO of India and South Asia at Havas Media Group, said: "Though podcasting has been active in India since 2006, as also in English, Hinglish and Tamil; podcasts are still at a nascent stage with the trend not really having caught on either with marketers or the audience."

Nayyar said some niche podcasts were making waves, such as Rockingentrepreneur.com, which shares the experience and journeys of successful Indian entrepreneurs from across the world. She said: "Balgaatha, meaning children’s stories, brings stories from India and around the world in English and Hindi, commanding a small but loyal audience. Podcasting needs content that is crisp and of interest to the targeted audience."

Nayyar added: "For niche brands with a niche audience podcasting opens a whole new gateway. It is a great storytelling and content marketing tool. Loyalists of entertainment (with all its genres), education, travel and financial industries would certainly tune in."

Nishant Singh Didawat, digital consultant at AdParlor thinks that Podcasts are usually designed for niche audiences, hence they are limited by reach, but can still be powerful.

He said, "Although this is something that brands usually wouldn't want, they are still extremely important from a niche brand's perspective because of the intent of the target listeners is going to be extremely high. So for any advertiser, the podcast is going to be rich in quality, much richer that found on other advertising avenues."

Its potential has already been recognized on a niche level, as Indian and international companies are seeing the opportunity and some have begun setting up networks. But ideas, strategy and risk are needed to take if off the ground and for podcasts to become mainstream in India.

Piyush Aggarwal, lead - digital strategy, BBH India thinks the reason for podcasts or audio based content not taking off in India is manifold. He said, "There are very few subscribers, considering the current level of podcast content available is not interesting enough. Content creators/brands do not see much value as there aren't many takers and video based content is gaining immense popularity. A vicious cycle, I would say.

While there are prominent platforms like Soundcloud for podcast lovers, audio format has lost its relevance as it has very little chance to go viral in the social media environment. Most of the social platforms are tailor-made for images or video. It is very difficult to find engaged and captive audience for audio, hence there are very limited content creators in the space. "

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