Music streaming app Gaana, a subsidiary of Times Internet, has been using technology like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to study consumer behaviour and enhance user experience. Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana walks us through the platform’s plans to attract more consumers
Q] Earlier this year, Gaana raised around $115 million. Where have you been spending this money? A majority of our investment has been on technology and product to improve the user experience on the app, which currently reaches out to over 80 million users and 1.2 billion streams a month across 16 music languages, including Indian regional languages. Over the last few months, we have increased investment in Machine Learning and AI to improve our recommendation algorithms and today almost 15% consumption on the platform is being delivered through our recommendation engine.
Q] How are you leveraging AI to improve consumer experience? AI and Machine Learning (ML) has been the key driver in leveraging the user behaviour for understanding taste profiles and tailoring music listening experiences for each unique user. Our most prolific use case for AI/ML has been in music personalization and recommendation features, and these now power over 15% of our monthly streams. We have scaled our systems to now auto-generate AI/ML curated playlists such as Daily Mix, Weekly Mix, My Top Songs on a daily basis for a large user base and we have observed significant uptake in retention and engagement of users engaged with these sections.
Q] While you have had the early mover’s advantage, the music streaming market in India has become pretty cluttered. How are you differentiating yourself? Our large user base has helped us understand the evolving music tastes of Indians and also take a lead in differentiating through initiatives such as Gaana Originals and Gaana Exclusives that offer a repertoire of songs available only on Gaana. We have invested in building differentiation in our content strategy for the regional markets like Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, etc. A major differentiation has been our AI/ML initiatives with a strong focus on personalization/ recommendation features. Similarly, recognising the growing usage of voice as an interaction tool in India, we have launched the Voice Assistant feature to provide a complete hands-free music experience. We are now launching a music smart feed powered by our ML models. We are also engaging with users offline by curating onground experiences like Gaana Music Festival, Gaana Lager n Barrel, Gaana Crossblade.
Q] How big is your user base and subscription base in India currently? We now have more than 80 million monthly active users with an active subscription base. Over the next few years, we would like to see penetration of our paid subscription grow to high single digit percentage.
Q] What kind of growth has Gaana witnessed in the past few years? Over the past two years, we have witnessed tremendous growth with our monthly active base growing 7X, while our monthly playouts have jumped 14X and music consumed per user has grown 100%. This growth has been aided by our investment in technology and our experiments with new content formats. Earlier, most of our consumption was from Hindi Bollywood music, but now regional is a big game and non-Hindi content contributes almost 40% to our music consumption.
Q] What kind of following do you have in Tier II and Tier III cities? Changing Internet penetration has led to a significant growth from Tier II and Tier III cities. This is especially seen in regional language consumption; for example, Ludhiana and Amritsar have been significant contributors to Punjabi music consumption growth on the platform. Similarly, Bhojpuri music consumption has seen a spike from regions of eastern UP and Bihar.
Q] What kind of advertising is Gaana doing on its platform? Gaana has a two-pronged strategy for advertising revenue - primarily through brand integrations, sponsored brand hub and our innovative audio plus companion ads.
Q] How are you further improving your app to make it more interactive and user-friendly? We have attempted to make the experience easier for new Internet users by incorporating icons and insignia to indicate elements such as play, video, album, playlists. We have also improved our player experience and on-boarding process. Over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out these improvements stagewise to our users.