Gaana amassed much of this audience in less-populated cities — tier-II, tier-III and tier-IV cities — which the platform has keenly targeted with a combination of tiered pricing, regional Indian language content and user-friendly features such as voice-based search.
Agarwal and his team have also been quick to cater to changing consumption patterns by launching a string of original projects, such as Gaana Originals, a series of exclusive Hindi and Punjabi “non-film” or commercial pop singles the service has been releasing since 2017. Gaana also started staging the multi-city Punjabi music festival Crossblade in 2018, and in mid-2020 it unveiled HotShots, a short video platform following the ban on TikTok in India.
However, revenues have not kept pace with the rise in MAUs. While the number of paid subscriptions grew 2 1/2 times in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019, they accounted for a little over a third of the total income. At the end of the 2020 fiscal year, Gaana’s losses had risen more than 82% from the previous financial year to Rs352 crore ($48 million). Last August, Gaana received fresh rounds of funding from existing investors, the Times Group’s digital arm Times Internet and Tencent, which now owns almost 35% of the company.
Gaana’s main competitors in India’s crowded audio-streaming market are JioSaavn, which is owned by telecom behemoth Reliance Jio and also claims over 150 million MAUs, and Spotify, which is fast gaining traction since its launch in India in February 2019.
Prior to his half-decade stint with Gaana, Agarwal co-founded property website PropTiger and held leadership roles at jobs portal Naukri and GE Infrastructure.