Indian Streaming Service Saavn Taps Former Google Exec as COO

India's top music streaming service, Saavn, has hired digital veteran Mahesh Narayanan as global COO. Narayanan will oversee Saavn's planned expansion in 2015, just as foreign-based services like Guvera and Rdio have arrived in India, the world's second most-populous country.

Narayanan arrives to Saavn from German display ad company Sociomantic, where he led all operations in India. Prior to that he worked at Google in their sales department before taking on a senior role at AdMob. Following Google's acquisition of AdMob in 2010 he returned to Google as Mobile Head for India.


Narayanan started his new job, which is based in Mumbai, a few weeks ago. In a statement, Saavn co-founder and CEO Rishi Malhotra said Narayanan will be involved in "360 degrees of the company to help make everyone better and bring us into the next chapter of growth and revenue."

Saavn, known primarily for its catalogue of Bollywood music, had 30 million unique users in 2014 and is approaching 200 million streams per month, with 90 percent of users on mobile. The past year also saw a sizable bump in subscribers to its Saavn Pro premium services. The company has recently partnered with Twitter, T-Mobile, Snapdeal and Sony Music.

"I am most passionate about digital technology and music," Narayanan said. "Saavn represents my vision of the ideal blend of both passions most aptly. I've had the opportunity to help many leading global technology media companies achieve success, and I genuinely believe that Saavn is primed for the same caliber of success."

In December, Saavn, released a list of its most active regions in India, leading with Mumbai, Delhi, New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderbad. In a interesting move, the service also revealed its most-active users, which showed that the top three Pro users were actually located in the United States.

The subcontinent is a hot topic across the music industry. Senior Universal Music exec Max Hole, visiting the country to formulate Universal's strategy there, recently spoke to India Times about their plans. "I am very interested in the music of the growing middle class in India," Hole told the paper. "They have the money, are inquiring, fashionable, and love dance music, they like the West and Western influence, but I suspect they want their own music." Indeed they do, as Saavn's success with its local-focused catalog has shown.