India-focused streaming service Saavn expands into non-music content

India-focused streaming service Saavn has dipped its toes into non-music content after it announced a foray into long-form audio programming.

The New York-headquartered firm revealed its intention to move into video last summer, when it raised a $100 million Series C round led by Tiger Global, and this is a first step towards that goal. The move is similar to expansions that global services Spotify and Deezer have made in the past.

For now, it is starting with audio stories and podcasts which form part of a new ‘Saavn Original Programming’ strategy. The company has recruited digital media firm Indus Vox Media and radio journalist Neelesh Misra to help lead that push. Misra will provide two original series, while Indus Vox Media’s programming will include music-focused show Maed in India, comedy series Cyrus Says, and more.

Arré, a digital venture backed by entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala, is another content partner, while Saavn also unveiled an ‘Artist-in-Residence program’ to promote music talent.

“Today, we are turning Saavn from a music-only product to an entertainment platform — a platform with the best music experience, groundbreaking original programming, and a true home for artists and creators,” Saavn co-founder and CEO Rishi Malhotra said in a statement.

“Mobile is the new cable box and we’re bringing these channels to life; they’re made in India, for the world to hear,” Malhotra added.

Saavn claims to have a library of over 20 million songs, and more than 18 million users — most of whom are based in India, although the service is available worldwide. The startup is up against some fierce competition in India, where local players including Times Internet’s Gaana and Hungama, a music and film firm recently backed by Xiaomi, compete for attention. Apple Music and Australia’s Guvera are among the global names that are also present, while TechCrunch understands that Spotify is also casting its eye on the Indian market.