Podcasting in India:Need to build a strong listening culture – Amit Doshi

While launching Republic World, the mobile first destination of Arnab Goswami’s venture Republic TV, Vikas Khanchandani, CEO, Republic TV, had said, “We are also looking at podcasts, which is an effective way of content distribution and is a huge opportunity that has been untapped and under-leveraged so far.” 

That has basically been the journey of podcasting in India – great potential, but not finding too many takers to match this potential. The medium has not been able to come out of its niche positioning and gain a mainstream status. 

Podcasts are episodic series of digital audio files which a user can subscribe to and deals with topics that range from music and books to health. Touted as the new radio of the millennial era, the last one year has witnessed dozens of podcast shows springing up in different cities with localised content in India. 

The Indian podcast scene has a handful of notable players – Audiomatic, India’s first podcast network launched in 2015; Indus Vox Media; even digital music offerings like Saavn, Gaana and Hungama have joined the bandwagon with their original programming line-ups. 

Indus Vox Media is an audio entertainment network that has podcasts in diverse genres spanning comedy, sports, economics, culture, fashion and music. The network currently lists 10 audio shows on its websites, including ‘Adventures of Cheap Beer’, ‘Geek Fruit’, ‘Maed in India’ and ‘Drinks and Destinations’ among others. The network recently launched two new podcasts – ‘Anything But Bollywood’ and Season 2 of ‘The Rediscovery Podcast’. 

Economic viability and revenues 

Podcasting is still in its early days in India, Amit Doshi, Founder/CEO, Indus Vox Media, noted, but at the same time added that there has been great growth month on month and believes that this sector is on the cusp of the hockey stick. He pointed out that podcasting is already a viable business in other markets, but for it to be viable in India, there is a strong need to grow the audience and everything else will flow from that. “Podcasting needs people’s attention for it to attain sustainability in the Indian market, however, podcasters expect to achieve profitably this year,” Doshi affirmed. 

Revenue opportunities in podcasts exists in a number of areas, of which advertisements against content is the most prominent. Other revenue possibilities include AFPs (Advertiser-funded programming), events, syndication, merchandising, etc. The podcasting business in all major countries is majorly funded. Citing his personal experience, Doshi said that some venture capitalists have been positive about investing in podcasts, but he is not actively looking for investors at the moment. 

Podcasting as a platform for storytelling 

On the positive side, podcasting is witnessing a growing tribe of people creating original content for Indian listeners. Doshi is of the opinion that podcasting has emerged as a strong platform for storytelling in India and added that there are immensely talented podcasters who are using the platform to attain the same. Amongst these is Neelesh Misra, an Indian journalist, author, radio story teller, Bollywood director, scriptwriter and photographer. Misra is mostly known for his radio show, ‘Yaadon Ka IdiotBox with Neelesh Misra’, which airs on Big FM. The reDiscovery Podcast is run by a husband-wife duo who quit their corporate jobs in 2015 to start the podcast show, where they share their travel stories with the listeners. 

According to Doshi, all kinds and genres of content work well in the podcasting space as there is always an audience for everything. In the wide array of podcasters on Indus Vox Media, there are some who are closely followed by a majority of the people and are extremely popular. ‘TFG’, which is a daily sports show where they talk about cricket, football, fantasy sports, MMA, kabaddi, hockey and more, has garnered the most listenership and is one of the most popular podcasts on Indus Vox Media. In the Bollywood genre, ‘No Filter Neha’ and ‘Bollywood Scene Stealers’ have been well received by the listeners. ‘Maed in India’ is India’s first Indie music podcast; ‘The Seen and The Unseen’ is a podcast that aims to examine the effects of our actions; while ‘Geek Fruit’ is a show from an Indian perspective about geeks who love science fiction and fantasy. 

Brands levering podcasting 

Podcasting as a platform helps brands to create connect with their audiences and also to build brand stories. Brands engage with their audiences using podcasting by:

  • Advertising on a podcast with a brand story
  • Creating integrated native content in a show
  • Developing Advertiser-funded programming

Doshi feels that advertising on a podcast with a brand story works the best as it helps the creator and the brand in creating high value and a memorable experience for the audience. Indus Vox Media has been working with brands on developing AFP type content. 

Internationally, several brands have built stories through podcasting and that is done by finding the right fit to the right type of show. 

‘This Week on Tech’, which is a weekly flagship podcast, features roundtable discussions and debates surrounding current technology, news and reviews and books that panelists have enjoyed. Audible ads are also normally book recommendations. 

Bermuda-based Hiscox Insurance, which creates highly customised policies, did a series of ads on the show ‘Startup’, where the host spoke to some of the business owners they have insured about the unusual businesses they have started, which was a great brand fit. 

General Electric created a science fiction narrative podcast under the banner GE Podcast Theatre, called ‘The Message’. 

E-commerce portal eBay created a show called ‘Open for Business’, which talked about challenges faced by SMEs (Small and Medium sized Enterprises). 

What all these examples have in common is that they are a great fit for the message that the brand is looking to propagate.

The road ahead 

Owing to encouraging growth over the last year in Hindi and other regional languages, Doshi is confident of an “extremely positive” future for podcasting in India. According to him, “The opportunities in podcasting are massive as we are a country without talk radio, compared to other major markets, where talk radio is a major form of media. In India, the opportunity exists to have talk content delivered directly over the internet, leapfrogging the traditional delivery system, that is, radio, which is common in other markets.” 

Going forward, Doshi believed that audio podcasts will get more popular as content streaming gets easier, since mobile users will not always have the time to watch videos or read longer format content on small devices. Audio streams are a convenient way of catching up on events, or even for entertainment, when traveling as opposed to data heavy video. 

On a concluding note, Amit Doshi stressed, “For podcasting to grow further in the Indian market, there is a strong need to build a listening culture. Once a strong listening culture is established and people realise that long form talk is an option, we will see a major leap in the Indian podcasting market.”


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