Amazon India’s massive bet on audio storytelling

Last year Amazon Audible launched Suno, an exclusive app for India and now it has a marketing campaign to provide stiff competition to Spotify, Gaana and others

Have you tried to put back the brown colour tape into a cassette?

Opening a cassette, handwriting a playlist for recording and finally messing the tape was childhood to me. Out of the many cassettes, my dad also had a four-part cassette of the blockbuster Bollywood movie Sholay. Listening to it would give me goosebumps.

Today times have changed and everything is about streaming on your favorite device. But the love for audio is gaining its due once again. Whether it be Amitabh Bachchan or Smita Patil or Vijay Raaz or Tabu one thing is common about all of them apart from being talented actors, they all have a mesmerizing voice. But for me listening to Naawazudin Siddiqui is dope. Be his dialogues in Manto or Sacred Games or Raman Raghav 2.0, every word including cuss words are touching.

The voice of Nawaz now finds a place in Amazon’s push for audio storytelling in India. He is narrating the first episode of Thriller Factory. All I need to do is close my eyes and plug my AirPods.

According to a company release: Amazon Audible recently launched a full-blown marketing campaign promoting its India first app Suno. According to the company, “Suno is home to a vast library of 60 audio shows in Hindi and English across genres like romance, thriller, horror, comedy, and self-help in a variety of formats including scripted fiction as well as non-fiction.”

The brand has launched a set of videos to promote the app. One such video presents the Bollywood’s ageless diva Tabu narrating a story that is definitely not for the faint hearts.

These creative spots are an interesting way to promote the storytelling effort from Amazon Audible. Conceptualised by Orchard, Publicis Groupe these ads will now run on TV to movie screens.

Suno – an India exclusive app

Amazon’s push for audio storytelling started in 2018. Initially, Amazon Audible was focussing as a service to read books for you—a great option when you don’t have a free hand to hold a book. And with a narrator list comprising Stephen Fry, Jim Dale, and Jeremy Irons, book listening experience was immersive. Amazon Echo integration was also present in Audible, so you can ask Alexa to read aloud a book for you.

But by the end of 2019 Amazon shifted gears and introduced a new service called Audible Suno that offers free access to “hundreds of hours of audio entertainment, enlightenment, and learning.”

The app launched exclusively for India from the world’s largest seller and producer of audio content said the aim is filling the “idle time” listeners have each day during their commutes and performing other daily chores. “The launch of Audible Suno in India illustrates the commitment the company has in the country,” said Audible founder and chief executive Don Katz.

Audible has got almost everyone from Bollywood and has covered every genre. From comedy to horror to socially relevant subjects such as mental health, sex education and the rights of the LGBTQ community.

Here is a sneak peek of Pankaj Tripathi’s inspiring story on his own words with Anupama on Kissa Khwabon Ka.

Voice boom in India

Initially, it was the video and now it is voice. Video still has a stronghold – adult Indians spend a little over two hours daily watching digital videos, which will go up to 2 hours 21 minutes next year. Thereby overtaking the US on time spent on digital videos.

Voice is a rapidly growing market and the latest report states the speech and voice recognition technology market stands at Rs.149.95 Cr as of December 2019. And it is expected to grow at 40.47% to reach Rs. 210.63 Cr by the end of 2020. Titled as the ‘Voice Technology in India: Now and Future – Consumer and business perspective’ is a report from the WATConsult’s market research division Recogn.

“On a daily basis, voice assistants are frequently used to listen to music (65%), get daily news and updates (64%)”

Spotify’s original podcasts for India

Earlier last year Spotify the streaming giant opened up officially in India. Later it announced that it is launching three original podcasts for India – 22 Yarns with Gaurav Kapoor focussing on cricket, Love Aaj Kal relationship advice by Aastha Atray and Ankit Vengurlekar and a fiction thriller by Bhaskar Bose.

Read: Spotify’s bet on podcasts in India

The company also promised to offer a better discovery of podcasts, data, and monetisation to podcast creators. Spotify is now planning more acquisitions for podcasts and the company is willing to spend around $500 million.

India’s largest music streaming app Gaana crossed 150 million monthly active users in December 2019, making it the country’s first music streaming app to have crossed the mighty mark. According to Gaana, the growth comes after multiple innovations including its newly launched 3000 strong podcast library including its promising “Gaana Podcasts Originals” featuring youth icons hold great promise for sustained growth in 2020.

Gaana Podcasts Originals

Gaana entered the podcast market in 2016 by forming a partnership with Radio Mirchi 98.3FM to offer two of the latter’s famous radio shows, Mirchi Murga and Hansi ke Phuwarey, on its online platform. At the same time it also launched its first original audio series or podcasts hosted by film actor Ashish Vidyarthi. The company has aggregated content from podcast platforms like IVM and Audioboom.

By the end of 2019, Gaana announced its first batch of the platform-exclusive line-up of podcasts and shows, including ‘Ummeed’ with Zakir Khan, ‘Confessions’ with Sunny Leone and ‘Life ki Ranneeti’ with Rannvijay Singha.

These are a part of the brand’s overarching vision to host the country’s widest and most diverse range of original audio content by the end of FY 2021.

The music streaming app is set to produce and launch over 50 shows and podcast originals by the end of FY21.

JioSavaan and podcasts

Then there is JioSavaan producing and distributing some of the popular audio podcasts such as NoFilterNeha, Thank You For Sharing, Take 2 with Anupama and Rajee, etc.

In addition to Gaana and Saavn, the Google Podcasts app said India is also among the top five countries since its launch in 2018. There are other players like All India Radio powered by the PM’s Mann Ki Baat, Indus Vox Media that has been in the scene from 2015, Aawaz.com, etc. who are developing the podcast market in India.

Amazon’s entry with an exclusive for India shows the seriousness the market has and the marketing spends seal the discussion. Bringing regional content creators on the platform will be an unsaid move like it is already doing for it’s OTT platform Prime Video.

ReadHow regional is defining India’s digital future

Looks like long commute and the day by day worsening traffic in high-tech cities have a solution. Even though not an ideal one.