“We are going to have a lot of alliances and partnerships with Indian companies in the next one year,” admitted Rdio’s India Country Head, Shamik Talukdar, when we asked him what the focus area for the company was for the coming months. Talukdar was in Mumbai along with Rdio’s International President Scott Bagby, ahead of the team’s impending shift to the city from Pune, where they are currently based.
The San Francisco based digital music streaming provider had entered the Indian market earlier this year post their March 2014 acquisition of online streaming service Dhingana.
“Music is a very personal thing. Music tastes are different all over the country. Even before Dhingana, we have been looking for the right partner to work with here in India. In January 2014, we discussed with Dhingana different ways of partnership and it just made sense to acquire them, get the team and use their expertise here to make Rdio as local as popular,” informed Bagby.
More than six months later, the company is now seeking to stamp its authority in India, a country it sees as among the top 5 geographies for it (Bagby informed us that the Indian Rdio team is the largest outside of the US).
But it is just not about music, says Bagby. “It does not make sense to be a ‘me too’,” he said. Internationally, Rdio has ties with media companies and uses their expertise to create ‘curated’ stations.
Curated stations are something that Rdio feels will be the differentiator for the operator in India. These are playlists that are either determined algorithmically, based on listening patterns, much as YouTube does for videos. They can also be created by individuals, which are then suggested to users according to their listening preferences.
Going a step ahead, recently, Rdio recently tied up with the second largest operator of FM and AM radio in the US; Cumulus, to deliver its radio content for Rdio users. Partnerships like these are something that Rdio wants to explore in India too.
“We are definitely looking for partnerships (with radio operators). The good thing about radio partnerships; we have done these in US, Brazil and Canada, and you will see it in other countries in the future too. If you see radio content; it is not just music but also things like interviews with personalities, local news, sports updates, even comedy skits. But at the core, one of the key things they do is program music and let other people discover music. From this they earn their advertising revenue, so we see a lot of synergies with radio stations,” said Bagby.
However, he insisted that streaming music can never replace FM radio. “What you will see is a lot of things that radio cannot do and that is make content available on-demand,” he said. The company is also going to be looking at other alliances with partners in various segments like retail, telecom, media, etc. to expand its presence in the country and reach out to consumers.
Rdio depends on two business models for revenue— an ad-supported free version and a subscription-based model. However, Scott Bagby, International President for Rdio, is quick to point out that Rdio does not see it as heavily dependent on advertisements for revenue.
One thing that Rdio is banking on in India is a hybrid model called Rdio Select, which combines the benefits of both. It is a model that has only been introduced in three countries prior to India; the US, Canada and Australia.
In India, Rdio will be priced at Rs 99 per month for the full subscription model and Rs 60 per month for Radio Select. The prices are definitely competitive if you compare Gaana, which is priced at Rs 170 per month.
Speaking of another service that Rdio had launched and then shut down in 2013; its pay-per-view platform Vdio, Bagby said that there were no immediate plans to relaunch Vdio. “One of the things you mentioned at the start were the challenges in obtaining licenses from music labels, there are equal challenges with studios. The restrictions that were put on us with the licenses were prohibiting innovation. We could not provide the product that we wanted.”