Both subscription & advertising are core focus areas for our business: Mihir Shah

JioSaavn Vice President of Consumer Revenue Mihir Shah spoke about the platform's monetisation strategy and how it is building both the advertising as well as the subscription revenue streams

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Jun 9, 2021 8:44 AM  | 8 min read
Mihir Shah

Having positioned itself as a mass premium product, music streaming major JioSaavn has seen a 4x growth in its paid subscriber base. As many as 98% of JioSaavn's paid base are direct subscribers. Between JioSaavn Pro and JioSaavn Plus, the platform has seen healthy ARPU growth. The platform also has a thriving advertising business with 300 brand partners across industries such as FMCG, Media & Entertainment, Ecommerce, Retail, and Mobile & Accessories.

In an interview with exchange4media, JioSaavn Vice President of Consumer Revenue Mihir Shah spoke about the platform's monetisation strategy and how it is building both the advertising as well as the subscription revenue streams.

Excerpts:

The Indian audio streaming industry like its video streaming counterpart has seen the entry of new players. What makes it so lucrative and where does the industry stand today?
The adoption of audio streaming services in India has been growing at an accelerating rate over the last few years. At JioSaavn, we are constantly evolving, innovating, and bringing our users' multiple experiences and exclusive content. Competition is essential in any market and industry. It keeps us agile and helps mobilize growth allowing us to stay ahead of even the most established global players. Our diverse and evolving content catalogue paired with our creator and user-first products has been the differentiator.

Within the Indian audio OTT industry, how is JioSaavn positioned in terms of key performance metrics?
JioSaavn continues to lead the audio streaming space with our media entertainment catalog currently comprising 60 million+ tracks curated across 18 languages. We are a mass premium product and appeal to a very wide user base and this is visible in the growth of our paid subscriber base which saw a 4x increase over the last year.

Can you talk about your subscription plans and how has the user response been?
JioSaavn Pro is our marquee subscription product. With features like ad-free listening, downloads, one-click JioTunes (caller tunes), exclusive rewards on music and lifestyle brands, exclusive content and high-quality streaming, it comes with the highest value proposition available to users across all platforms. In Nov 2020, we unbundled Pro into feature-based subscription packs under the JioSaavn Plus umbrella and today offer two variants - a subscription-only pack for ad-free streaming and another one only for unlimited JioTunes.

Since its launch, we’ve seen significant growth in our subscriber base (JioSaavn Pro and JioSaavn Plus). Over the last year, we’ve witnessed a surge of first-time paying subscribers and a significant uptick in subscriber retention rates. We’ve also seen healthy upgrade rates from Plus to Pro continuing to deliver healthy ARPUs.

How many direct subscribers do you have and how many are through third-party tie-ups?
Millions of users are purchasing a JioSaavn subscription and our paid-loyalty base continues to grow at a triple-digit growth rate year on year. 98% of our subscriber base comes from our direct channel i.e. from our own app or website. We do limited third-party tie-ups as of today.

What is JioSaavn's strategy to grow its subscription business?
Starting out over a decade ago, JioSaavn has had the first-mover advantage in the country. We have made great headway because we understand our users, what they want from our service, and the nuances of a complex and crowded marketplace. It is this deep-rooted customer knowledge that forms the basis of anything we do to convert our free users into paid users. We will continue to invest aggressively into building differentiated product experiences for our subscribers, focus on the growth of our lower-priced feature-based subscription packs, and innovate with our content catalog backed by data.

What is the strategy behind offering feature-based plans rather than duration-based packs?
Towards the end of 2020, having analysed our paid-user behaviour and listenership data, we introduced JioSaavn Plus. It was a conscious decision to launch a tailor-made feature subscription rather than duration-based subscriptions that really solve for the best-in-class user experience. Given that our subscription plans are offered monthly and annually (long-term duration packs) we maintain healthy ARPU rates.

How many advertisers do you have onboard and who are your key clients?
We work with over 300 brand partners each year. Our key clients range from various consumer-focused industries such as FMCG, Media & Entertainment, Ecommerce, Retail, and Mobile & Accessories that find value in partnering with JioSaavn and have continued to benefit from our unique audio-premium display mix of ad experiences. FMCG brands such as Nestle and Mondelez engage with JioSaavn to create cutting-edge campaigns that are at the forefront of creativity and innovation. Mobile app leaders such as Amazon, Bumble, and Swiggy continue to leverage our ad platform technology to reach an audience that is relevant and engaged.

How are advertisers using JioSaavn to connect with consumers?
As a company, our mission is to help brands become relevant to the diverse JioSaavn audience, and we do that in more ways than one. Depending on the context in which brands wish to reach out to our users, we offer multiple solutions to make that connection happen. Our well-stacked suite of ad experiences spans multiple formats such as audio, display, and video. In addition to this, we also see an increasing influx of brands associating with our playlists and podcasts in the form of curation or custom creation, as the experience enables them to tell a compelling story to the listeners.

Apart from in-app media & content integrations, brand partnerships may also extend to offline channels. For example, Nestle KitKat partnered with us to run a multi-channel activation which also included JioSaavn Pro branding on 25 million KitKat packs and in-store promotions for a special co-branded offer. Brands also find value in being associated with our Pro Rewards feature to engage with our subscriber audience base.

What is JioSaavn's revenue split between advertising and subscription and which revenue stream is your key priority?
We are a user-first company and our core focus is always on enhancing the listener’s experience on the platform, whether the user is on a paid or a freemium model. Through subscription, we provide additional value through rewards and exclusive content experiences, whereas on the ad-supported freemium version, we create native ad experiences that enhance brand recall. Both subscription and advertising are the core focus areas for our business where we will continue to make significant investments with time.

What is your content strategy to stand out from the crowd?
What we’ve been able to build for South Asians across the world is much more than an app. We are in the business of culture as much as we are in music. We’ve curated user experiences that drive growth. During the pandemic we introduced JioSaavn Live Anywhere, a Live concert IP  to build on the connection between the audience and the artist. In April 2020 and since, we have hosted multiple Pro-only live events with artists like B Praak, Amaal Mallik, Zaeden, Ritwiz, Madboy Mink, and Tienas, among others. Everything from our innovative new product JioSaavn TV to our regional and diverse content catalogue and our consumer-first product offerings will grow to be the differentiator for us.

The music market is commoditised as the same music is available on multiple platforms. How important is differentiated content offering in building user loyalty?

Our focus has always been on building a user experience; we want to create a culture that is shaped by music. While any content (music or video) can be a commodity, user experience can’t be replicated. We want to provide a unique experience for our users which will bring them back to our platform and catalogue offerings.

What role does tech play in enhancing consumer experience?
Technology has given us the ability to listen to our users, to understand who they are, to learn why they are making certain choices over others, to understand why they are using our product. Technology has enabled us to get this information in real-time. This allows us to make intelligent product decisions, relevant communication to targeted audiences, and improve consumers' lives by offering them convenience in anything they do. On the creator side of the music marketplace, tech is creating new business models where music is now being created with software tools, plug-ins, off-the-shelf digital sounds, online collaboration tools, etc replacing the traditional recording studio. There’s a lot of excitement yet to come as technology meets creators.

The music industry faces revenue leakage due to piracy. Has the emergence of OTT audio platforms helped in reducing the impact of piracy due to easy availability?
Over time there have been several efforts to fight piracy by both the Government and the Industry. The emergence of 4G, deeper market penetration, and creating a product experience for everyone with a value-for-money subscription package have seen music piracy fall dramatically.

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