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Universal Names Vinit Thakkar COO as Part of 'Strategic Expansion' In India

Mumbai, India
Sanjog Mhatre/Getty Images

Mumbai, India

Thakkar’s promotion is one of several appointments made by the major today.

MUMBAI - Universal Music India (UMI), a division of the Universal Music Group (UMG), has unveiled a series of appointments to its leadership teams as part of “a strategic expansion” that will further its commitment to growing the market for non-film music in the region.

Vinit Thakkar has been promoted from senior vice president to the newly-created position of chief operating officer, India and South Asia. Along with Hindi film director Mohit Suri, Thakkar has been instrumental in the running of UMI’s VYRL Originals sub-label. Since its launch in January 2018, over 40 VYRL Originals tracks have been released by 25 artists. The acts include those exclusively signed with the label such as singer-songwriter Arjun Kanungo and the duo of vocalists Sukriti and Prakriti Kakkar as well as popular Bollywood names such as composers Mithoon and Tanishk Bagchi who work with it on one-off singles.

In his new role, Thakkar, who joined in UMI in 2012, “will be responsible for driving India’s overall content strategy, strategic initiatives and operational efficiency,” UMG said in a statement. He will continue to report to Devraj Sanyal, the managing director and chief executive officer of UMI.

Aiding Thakkar will be Gaurav Chaturvedi, who has been appointed as vice president, domestic labels at UMI where “his role will focus on the expansion and development of VYRL Originals alongside several other key label initiatives to be announced in the coming months”. Chaturvedi, who will report to Thakkar, moves to the major from Star India where he was assistant vice-president, marketing and led marketing strategy and activation for the Star Sports network.

Also joining the UMI team is Pranav Thakker who has been recruited as general manager, new business development at Universal Music Group Brands (UMGB) for India and South Asia. Thakker, who handled brand partnerships at popular Indian YouTube channel The Viral Fever prior to joining Universal, will report to Preeti Nayyar, vice president, new business development, India and South Asia. Among UMGB’s most prominent initiatives is the Sterling Reserve Music Project, a “quasi label” created in 2018 in association with Indian whisky brand Sterling Reserve to release music by non-mainstream Indian acts.

The appointments reinforce UMI’s position as a label focused completely on “non-film music”, a somewhat problematic term used to describe Indian music that’s not tied to a soundtrack. Notably, VYRL Originals releases were initially marketed as having sound “in line with contemporary Bollywood music with great production values, albeit without the canvas of a film”.

The label’s biggest hit of 2019, “Intezaar”, leveraged the power of Bollywood. The song, which topped the national airplay chart and has over 53 million views on YouTube, features the country’s most popular playback singer Arijit Singh. A number of the vocalists on its roster also sing for Hindi films.

That said, the recent success of VYRL Originals, and non-film music in general, has been concurrent with a creative crisis within the Bollywood music industry, which has been increasingly relying on remixes of older songs to generate hits.

Among UMI’s other non-film projects is Mass Appeal India whose first release was Hindi rapper Divine’s long-awaited debut album Kohinoor, which remains in the top 15 of Apple Music India’s Top Albums chart five months after it came out in October.

“Devraj and the senior management team in India have done an incredible job opening the door for non-film music to break into the mainstream and reach a new mass audience of fans in India, within the vast Indian diaspora around the world and hopefully beyond,” said Adam Granite, executive vice president, market development at UMG. “The potential for artist talent and creativity in India is huge and we are excited to support their efforts to bring original Indian music to the world and further establish UMG as the home for non-film music talent and success in the region.”

On the international music front, UMI was heavily involved in the promotions of recent concerts by two of its marquee acts, the inaugural edition of the One Plus Music Festival, which was headlined by Katy Perry and the finale of U2’s Joshua Tree Tour, both of which were held in Mumbai.

U2’s appearance was preceded by the release of “Ahimsa”, a duet with Oscar-winning film composer A. R. Rahman, who performed the song at the show.


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