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Saavn Hires Exec to Guide Post-Music Expansion

Mumbai, India 2014.
Peter Adams/Getty Images

Mumbai, India.

Saavn, India's leading music streaming company, is taking concrete steps towards expanding its service beyond music. Saavn has maintained an impressive user growth rate through this year, adding seven million users between March and September, reaching 18 million monthly users, and predicts to total 20 million monthly users by year's end.

Gaurav Wadhwa, a senior marketing consultant at Pepsi who previously worked for Red Bull and Viacom in similar capacities, has been named vice president of entertainment and original content at Saavn, it was announced today. He will "lead Saavn’s expansion into new genres via original programming," according to the company's statement. Saavn, which focuses on local repertoire in its home country, will likely do the same with its entertainment offerings outside of music. In its previous announcement of plans to expand beyond music, it pointed to a sports commentary partnership. That audio is the keystone in this expansion isn't surprising -- mobile is by far the most common way for Indians to get online, and audio data is far easier and cheaper to transmit than video.

Saavn Reaches 18 Million Monthly Users, Adds Ex-Vodafone CEO as Investor-Advisor

(Meanwhile: While Saavn zigs today, its Australian-borne competitor Guvera -- which touts 14 million users worldwide -- zags, announcing it would be expanding into the blisteringly competitive U.S. market. What happened to its U.S. launch, announced five years ago, is a mystery -- Billboard has requested clarification.)

India is the most-promising emerging market for tech and music companies worldwide. While prices are typically kept very low -- Apple Music, $9.99 per month in the U.S., is $1.79 per month in India -- the potential volume of customers is staggering. India is third worldwide in total Internet users despite just 20 percent of its population having regular access to the web. U.S., the country with the most regular web users, has reached near-total saturation (those figures according to Internet Live Stats). Add to that the fact that its northern neighbor presents significant regulatory and cultural difficulties for media companies, with tours frequently canceled and online content monitored closely.

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