One man, many names — television host, comedian, political satirist — Cyrus Broacha has kept people entertained for a long time. He is doing the same off screen as well via his podcast show called Cyrus Says, which now has its own official skill on Amazon Alexa.
Ask Amit Doshi, founder of IVM Podcasts, on how an association with a smart speaker helps the podcast industry, he said, “The podcast industry is still growing in India. So, Alexa is a service. It is not just about the Echo speaker and how do you interact with voice and that is an important thing going forward. Podcast is consumed when you are doing a primary activity and you can do that while listening to a podcast on a smart speaker. So, I think a smart speaker is strategically very important. I think that it is going to make a huge impact in the long run, especially the service aspect of it.”
IVM Podcast that started operations in 2015 has many as 67 shows in its kitty and has created about 3,500 episodes across these shows. Some of the show names include The Seen and the Unseen with Amit Verma, Election Soundtrack, Waddaplayah, SimbliFIED, Know your Kanoon, along with Cyrus Says.
Amid its wide variety of content, the podcast network has shows on cricket and election like Ganatantra, Election Soundtrack, Puliyabaazi that could raise interest for podcasts with Indian Premier League (IPL) going on and general elections around the corner.
A testimony to this is when Audioboom, a global on-demand audio and podcasting distribution platform launched a show during the Cricket World Cup, it witnessed growth in the listenership in India.
In terms of content the podcast industry has a lot to offer but when it comes to growth it has been slow as the adoption rate has been on the lower end.
However, Doshi is optimistic. He said that “the thing about podcast is that it is a question about getting people to listen to it. Once they find out about them they start consuming. And this is not for everybody. Not everybody is going to consume podcast at the expense of music. But certain amount of population is going to listen to podcast rather than consume music in their time. Once they find out that it exists at that point of time it kind of becomes their primary way of listening to things.”
He also cited a study which found that around 35 percent of people who listen to podcast will continue to listen to podcast but they will be consuming anywhere between five to seven hours of content. “So, once we get you into the ecosystem then the people who are going to stick with it are really going to be passionate about podcast,” he added.
He further explained, “generally speaking if you look at most radio markets in the world which are lightly regulated you will see almost 30-35 percent of listeners consuming talk content 75 percent will be consuming music content. This behaviour transcends geography."
"Now, in India because the way radio licensing is structured we do not have talk radio. That leads to larger challenge because most of the talk radio’s natural extension is podcast the same way television’s natural extension is YouTube and Netflix. In India, we don’t have that. It makes for a big challenge but also turns into a bigger opportunity because if human behaviour kind of prescribes that 1 out of 3 listeners is going to be listening to talk and the fact that they don’t listen to it right now is mainly education problem,” he added
And awareness is the reason why competition doesn’t bother Doshi. “Once there is more awareness it will be better for the podcast industry and that’s why I am happy when I hear more people are entering the industry. For me, it is a positive thing.”
He also believes that it will be content through which platforms will differentiate from each other. “Music platforms differentiate essentially on two things. So, they differentiate on their product type and the experience and differentiate on their content. Now, creating new content for a music platform, Spotify bought Gimlet Media and Anchors because they saw the possibility of differentiating through podcasting. Now, in India we will see audio platforms doing the same thing.”
While the podcast industry is yet to find the kind of popularity it enjoys in US, China and other foreign markets in India, IVM individually has seen massive growth, claims Doshi.
“Between 2017-18 we grew probably around four times as an overall audience. The amount of month-on-month growth we regularly see anywhere between 10 and 30 percent as our monthly growth from listenership perspective,” he said.
In terms of downloads, the app has grown 25 times since the time it started pushing its own platform in 2017. until 2016, IVM was in partnership with Saavn, a music streaming service.
“The growth is fairly high from a download consumption perspective as we are not investing in marketing and it is all on word of mouth,” said Doshi.
But how’s IVM getting brands on board as the industry perspective is that the advertising world is yet to take notice of the podcast industry.
“So, we work with brands in a couple of different ways. We have a few brands that are working with us on podcasts we have created. We have Paytm Money on board for the show Paisa Vaisa.”
"The bigger piece we are working on is that we are working for brands. So, we have a show called MF101 and we are working with Aditya Birla Mutual Funds. Similarly we have other projects that are currently being put together,” he added.
So, how will the podcast industry see a breakthrough in India?
According to Doshi, the need of the hour is right content. “Google podcast is a fairly big deal. So, Google podcast doesn’t require downloading of an app. It works like if you search for something you find a podcast. So, that becomes a big positive.
“Saavn and Spotify are also working a lot on podcast and we will see other OTT platforms doing something in the space. Distribution is a key thing and (over the top) OTTs will help in that,” he added.
He also said that “we do a show with Cyrus so he brings popularity outside of podcasting in podcasting and we need to start having more such hosts who are interested in doing podcasts.”
Other growth area is regional shows as people like to consume content in regional languages, believes Doshi but again the major hurdle is awareness.
Currently, Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru are the biggest markets for IVM but it is the tier II and III markets the company is looking to tap into.
IVM has regional shows in Hindi called Puliyabaazi, a Marathi show called Golgappa doing very well, Kannada show called The Thale Harate and another Hindi show and is focused on creating more content in different languages.
So, what potential podcast has in India?
According to Doshi, podcast has the potential in India of what talk radio is in rest of the world. “So, if you look at talk radio in other parts of the world for example most of us have heard about Sean Hannity because he is a host on Fox News. His audience on radio show is seven to ten times higher than his television audience. So, if television audience is in 100s and 1000s the daily listeners are in millions. I see this as a very large potential market that is completely untapped at this point of time.”
Whether podcast can replace radio Doshi said that “the cost of licensing in radio is incredibly high, the kind of content that is allowed to go and not allowed to go. There is a wide population in India that is not well served by radio.”
However, to see audience shifting to podcasts “it will not be easy because we are training behaviour,” said Doshi.