‘Indian audio streaming market poised for the big jump’

The last two years have been eye-opening for the digital entertainment business in many ways, showcasing the tremendous demand for content. With a wide range of genres and regional languages, audio OTT platforms ensure that their listeners are never bored. To meet the consumer demand, a slew of OTT platforms have spawned, and with them, new windows of opportunity have opened for independent writers and content creators with a chance to showcase their creativity. Pocket FM, a personalised audio streaming platform, identifies creators with talent and nurtures them to take them to the next level.

Let us hear from three such content creators who are actively engaging with the audience on Pocket FM: 

RJ Kratika has been associated with Pocket FM as a voice artist for more than three years. She has worked on shows like ‘Yeh Rishta Kaisa Hai’ and ‘Mai Teri Chandani’.

Delhi-based artist Rivansh has been associated with Pocket FM as a producer. At Pocket FM, he is behind the special show ‘Truly Deeply Madly’, with more than 90M plays.

Mandakini Dwivedi joined Pocket FM as a trainee. She is the author of the show ‘Amrapali’, which has around 28.9M plays.

Excerpts from the interview with the trio:

Describe your journey into the world of audio content creation.

Rivansh: I have been in the field of media and performing arts since a very young age. Under the professional guidance of my respected father, who has run a successful studio and recording business for more than 3 decades now, I was able to grow a rich interest in this field and later was able to turn my passion into my profession.

Mandakini: Sometimes it feels like a dream that I will be recognised as a writer and that crores of people would listen to the stories written by me. Due to the Covid pandemic, the thought of even going to work was a challenge and I felt hopeless. But thanks to Pocket FM, there was a thin light of hope. One small contest changed my life. I had no idea how to write a story for an audio platform, the proceeding or knowledge of anything. My confidence was shallow and I had no experience at all. Honestly, I didn’t know how to go forward and how would I even know it, because I grew up in a small town where no one ever thought of becoming a writer sitting at home and added that they would become famous also. I owe it to Rashmi Nambiar ma’am for giving me a chance, as she selected me only based on my skills and showed faith in me. This allowed me to work with such a big platform like Pocket FM.

Kratika: It has been a great journey from where I have started. There were some ups and downs, but we all have them. It’s a part of human experience and because of that I am where I am.

What were the initial challenges? 

Rivansh: The initial challenges were to learn the art truly and become a passionate creator and artist, to hone my skills and to be able to make a name for myself in the industry, so that even without my father’s support, I am able to support myself and that various clients are able to trust me with their projects, and it did happen after a lot of practice, many rejections and constant efforts.

Mandakini: Writing sounds easy, but it is not. The biggest challenge is to deliver the best content and maintain the interest of listeners. Writing is like making a garland with words and each word represents the pearls that need to be passionately and carefully strung together. If there is a slight mistake then the whole garland gets spoiled.

Gradually I learned the shortcomings and paid heed to the comments that the listeners wrote on the platforms. In an audio platform, people prefer to listen rather than over reading and thus, the content has to be written in a way that it sounds good.

When I understood what people like to listen to, I changed my writing style accordingly. There are ups and downs, people might like something and dislike something else, but you give your best.

A senior from the organisation taught me to stick to my conviction and told me that “If you are sure of what you are writing, then there is no need to panic.” My team has been my biggest support, without which none of this would have been possible. They have always supported me and showed me the way to handle this. 

Kratika: My struggle with consistency, I would say. And then, I chose to be a freelancer, which is one of the best decisions I ever made.

How do you view the Indian audio streaming market? Is it poised for the next level of growth? What are the challenges faced by the audio streaming industry in India?

Rivansh: The Indian audio streaming market is poised for a big jump and is ready for the next level of growth. It is growing due to the constant efforts of artists from all over the country and will continue to expand by leaps and bounds. The challenges will be to keep the content relevant and grounded, so that the audiences are able to connect with it. The streaming audiences should be able to appreciate the material available on Indian audio streaming portals as compared to that available globally and keep innovating.

Mandakini: The audio streaming market has changed everything. During our childhood instead of reading books, we used to listen to stories from grandparents, mother and fathers. But today’s era is different. Nobody has the time to tell tales, however audio streaming has solved this dilemma, Pocket FM has solved this problem.

Not only this, even housewives who are home watch TV during breaks then hustle back. But audio streaming has aided them better. They can listen to it the whole day without any problems. People would spend time on YouTube and strain their eyes, but the audio streaming has solved this as well.

I strongly believe that audio streaming is a great platform. It is a boon for those people who feel lonely as it evades their loneliness with the stories available on these platforms. This has also given an opportunity for the content creators like voice over artists, writers, among other to bring out their talents and utilise their skills. Everyone might not have the talent to become doctor, engineer or IAS officers. This helps those creative people to focus on their skill and move forward.

Kratika: It is no longer about music alone. It has started moving beyond the conventional approach and focusing more on non-music categories. I think this will continue to be the key area for further growth too.

What would be your advice to aspiring content creators in the audio streaming space?

Rivansh: My advice to content creators in the field of audio streaming is simple – Keep your content real. Because when the content is something that the creators and performing artists feel with their spirit and keep it as real to their own imagination, surroundings and experiences, something extraordinary comes out of it. Else, the copying game won’t take you too far and the greater bad that it will do is to bore the audiences once and for all.

Mandakini: For those who are interested in writing stories, do it if you are passionate about it. Your tales reach people. Never give up! Competition is everywhere, but your skill is original to you and it depends on how you use it. People prefer to hear real things, so stay real. Stay connected to people and never stop writing.

  • Kratika:If you want to create high quality content then:
    Stay relevant
  • Research the competition
  • Be Consistent
  • Find your own voice and understand your audience.

Is Indians’ love for free content taking a toll on the audio streaming industry? Due to the plethora of free audio streamers, only three million people purchased music subscriptions in 2021. Which means the segment will remain advertising-driven. How can audio streamers sustain through innovation?

Rivansh: Free content versus paid subscriptions is a major matter all over the globe, but what matters is how much your content is an audience magnet. If the content is good, the clients, the audiences and the advertisements, will all keep rolling in and the artists as well as the companies will be happy with what their profit charts look like. Whether profits come from paid subscriptions or from advertisers, it is, in the end, just profit. And it is truly a great motivator. Innovation is the key and it will make sure that the creator’s content is what speaks for itself and it needs no other motivation but the sheer level of profits and the love of the audiences.

Mandakini: It is difficult to answer this question because the writer is related to the listeners. According to me, one can eat too many sweets, but he can always consume salt. Audio streaming is similar to that, we can listen to a song for a short period but a story keeps going and the curiosity builds up. We always want to know what happens next. There is a special interest that keeps a person attached to it throughout the day. Listening to music and stories are two different things.

Kratika: I think customers are willing to pay, but the question is what are they going to pay? Or how much they are going to pay? It’s all about giving the consumer a tipping point when he moves from free to paid and there is a reason that he does it.

Q. Apart from music, what are the other future growth areas in the audio streaming industry to be termed as digital audio space?

Rivansh: Audio series, short stories or children’s education and entertainment content, e-learning content, and skill learning modules, apart from music, are options in audio streaming that have the potential to push the growth in this sector. These areas are only bound by the imagination of creators and voice artists which means it is boundless and has the potential to be ever-expansive. The new audio space will continue to serve the masses in a brilliant way.
Mandakini: Audio series, audio stories are the new emerging category in the audio space that people tend to be liking. These audio series bring a refreshing experience for the audience that helps them break away from visual fatigueness.

Kratika: With the advent of audio space in the digital world, the audience had only music and podcasts for their offering which tended to bring listener fatigue. However, with the emergence of audio series, audiences have started bingeing on the audio content. We, the creator community, are optimistic that with a change in lifestyle, the audio genres will garner more audience time spent than any other media format.



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