More Than 4 Million Unique Indian Listeners On Saavn Says Vin Bhat

Vin Bhat CEO talks about Saavn, the road ahead and the stats that grew after the Facebook open graph integration


When Facebook partnered with Spotify, my US friends were cluttering my timeline that how much they like the Social Music. The integration not only meant sharing what music you are listening to in real time but also finding out what your friends are listening to and thus staying informed about particular music genres, tastes, etc. The popularity of Spotify made me confident that Facebook surely is going to look for such partnership soon in the Asian belt and especially in India. And the two important reasons that would trigger this: 1) The growing number of Facebook users in India and 2) The craze of music and Bollywood in India.

So finally the wait is over. Facebook has announced that Saavn (which stands for South Asian Video Network) and Gaana are the music apps that have been integrated with the open graph.

Saavn is an ad-supported digital music service for Indian, Bollywood and regional South Asian music available globally on Web, iOS and Android devices. The service that allows you to listen music online legally also allows creating, sharing playlists and also adds an element of radio where users can create radio stations by song and Saavan will show similar songs too.

Saavn boasts of having 1 million plus licensed tracks, of that 99% is Bollywood, devotional and regional music in its kitty. Saavn is similar to Spotify in some aspects but its niche audience and its global reach to 219 countries makes it stand out as expressed by TechCrunch.

saavn cofounders
Saavn CoFounders-Vin Bhat, Paramdeep Singh and Neal Shenoy(left to right)

To know more about Saavn, the growth and the road ahead, I spoke to Vin Bhat (Vinodh V Bhat), Co-Founder and CEO of Saavn. The email interview that was done is shared below:

1. I have been a fan of Saavn but then there are others in the market. So what is the USP of Saavn?

Design, design, design! We’re a team of passionate music listeners ourselves, so we built Saavn to work intuitively, and work right! Our job is never done; we listen to our users’ feedback and are constantly making changes and improvements to our website and apps to make them better.

That’s really what makes Saavn special. Of course, we have all the basics too – our services are fast, they’re free, and they’re legal. Today, we have the largest library of music available to South Asians in the world. We built intelligent search into Saavn, with autofill and alternate spellings, so users can access whatever they want in that catalog quickly.  We also allow users to listen to music and engage in other activities like searching, browsing, building playlists, etc. at the same time.

Here is an example of our products evolving to suit our users’ needs:  The original version of Saavn Music for Android we built worked perfectly on mobile networks in the US.  After hearing back from our users in India, however, we realized that we needed to account for the fact that Indian mobile users are sometimes on slower networks. To that end, we developed adaptive streaming.  Now, our apps automatically detect network speed and choose the appropriate file size and quality to stream to the user. Thanks to adaptive streaming/variable bitrate, Saavn listeners across India can enjoy high-quality sound without a buffering lag, despite variations in network speed.

2. Integration with the open graph of Facebook has given the extra push. How has been the response so far in India? And would love if you share the active number of Indian users and the duration of time they are spending on the site.

Being chosen as a partner by Facebook has been amazing for us. We saw monthly active users of our Facebook app jump from 35,000 to 785,000 in just 30 days. These listeners have generated over 750 million Facebook story impressions since the launch in December.

The response of Indian users has been tremendous. Today, we have over 8 million unique listeners and more than half are in India.

3. Saavn has apps for Iphone and Android so would you be focusing more on the mobile market considering its growth in India and what has been the response from the mobile market?

Absolutely. Everyone knows the mobile market in India is growing at an explosive rate, and the response to our products there has been so positive. It’s because of features like adaptive streaming, which I mentioned earlier, and our willingness to develop our products so that they work everywhere. Fortunately, consumers seem to enjoy what we’ve done so far.  We have a 5.0 star rating the iOS App Store and 4.5 star rating in the Android market, and this has held steady well after 15,000+ reviews globally.  We are seeing thousands of downloads per day in India alone and based on this traction, we’ll expand beyond just iPhone and Android apps.  In addition, we’ve been getting partnership interest from various companies in the mobile ecosystem and look forward to exploring those in the coming year.

4. What else is in store for fans and will regional content be one of your focus areas?

We’ve set out a lot to accomplish in 2012, and I think our overarching focus, now that we’ve gotten it right in one language, and on a couple of platforms, is that we’d like to make Saavn available for as many South Asian music lovers as possible.

Something we get over and over again is a request for Saavn Music for Blackberry – and yes, this year will see our Blackberry app launch! Our new Saavn homepage has already launched, and it’s just a sign of things to come. There’s an all-new and updated iOS app on the horizon, with some unbelievable new features that our users are going to love.

We have a huge amount of “regional” content licensed, and we’re looking forward to really bulking up our Tamil site this year, in addition to launching in several languages. Our users have been asking for Punjabi, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Malayalam, Gujarati…and you will see several of these going live in 2012.

Thanks Vin and its good to see Saavn focusing on design and making user experience easier according to geographies. I believe startups like Saavn not only provide music on demand but also help curb music privacy. However I also feel that a lack of a strong Internet infrastructure in our country has put brakes in the growth of such services. Hopefully in the coming years, we would see some positive changes.

So do you prefer to listen to songs online on portals such as Saavn or you still prefer the traditional ways?

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