Tech, management, and a passion for music – all these three ingredients have come together for Sriram Emani as he embarks on his maiden entrepreneurial journey with IndianRaga. An IIT Bombay alumnus, currently completing his MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management, Sriram is driven by his passion to connect talent with opportunities across the globe. Let's check out this new story in the making and also a story with lots of promise - IndianRaga and the road ahead.
Sriram Emani shares his vision, motivation, and the current action taking place at IndianRaga in an interaction with YourStory, in the excerpts below -
Founder and his vision
I grew up in Mumbai, balancing academics and a keen interest in Carnatic classical music (vocals), which I pursued as a student for over 12 years. In India, it is evident to anyone that while there are institutions and resources to support the pursuit of a career in engineering and medicine, the same is not always true for those who may wish to pursue a career in the arts. India has a rich and diverse culture that has untapped potential for professional arts management, arts education, and employment opportunities in the creative sector. IndianRaga aims to connect musicians with opportunities, and provides a tech-enabled artist management service for artists, to find global avenues to showcase their talent.The sheer number of Indian music groups, sabhas, recording opportunities, workshops, teaching/schools, springing up – not just in India but across the world – shows that a connecting platform is required to bring the musicians and opportunities together, in a coherent fashion. To add to this, if you include the various musical sub-genres, and other artistic genres, like dance, theatre, cinema, visual arts, and so on, the opportunity is significantly big.
The challenge in our case has more to do with the highly fragmented nature of opportunities for Indian musicians, and infusing a technology-enabled approach in a space that has relied more on relationships than on structured talent sourcing. An increasingly tech-savvy group of musicians and concert managers are our early adopters and helping us grow and expand. We do not encounter any challenges related to regulations in the market, at least at the current stage.
We are definitely targeting a global market, especially because a lot of high-paying opportunities for Indian musicians are often found in the West, and the number of cross-cultural collaborations is on the rise. I think our focus on connecting musicians with these global opportunities gives us an advantage over the others. In addition, the algorithms being developed for the platform will customise the IndianRaga experience to the user and ensure that the best talent gets highlighted on our site. This ability to curate the experience and retain a focus on quality will make it easy for managers, labels and audiences to navigate our site even when we have a large number of musicians signed up.
The IndianRaga Fellowship is our funnel for professional, highly talented musicians who will start being featured by us. Selected by a panel of international judges and experts on Indian classical music, the IndianRaga Fellows shall represent standards that will encourage concert presenters and record labels to source talent through our platform. This is our go-to-market mechanism. As the number and type of opportunities expand, we shall open the platform rapidly to a diverse group of musicians so that the demand matches the supply in terms of desired quality as well as quantity. We also think expanding to other genres will multiply both the opportunities as well as the base of artists for us.
Our revenue model will be a paid annual subscription model for musicians. For opportunity-providers like concert managers and labels, there will be incentives to maximise the number of opportunities, and a suitable pricing model with a combination of fixed and commission-based pricing will be adopted.
I am inspired by the role that music, and arts, in general, play in shaping us as individuals, and our achievements, both personal and professional. For example, research increasingly shows the relationship between musical training and academic achievements. Also, there is an increasing emphasis and demand for creativity, innovation and soft skills in the corporate world. In India, a lot of kids receive musical/artistic training out of their personal interest and support of their parents, but there is potential to do much more, and it would be exciting to shape that space. At the same time, I am passionate about technology, and convinced that it will redefine every sector as we know it today. Harnessing technology and emerging media to empower artistic talent is an exciting challenge and a meaningful goal for me.
We are witnessing the rise of the creative industry as a sunrise sector in several global economies, and I was able to learn more about this when I represented the United States at the global creative business conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year. The arts sector in India is ripe for such a change, and we want to ride that wave.
The IndianRaga team brings a wealth of experience from the arts, technology and management sectors from leading universities and organisations across the world, including MIT, IIT, Lincoln Center, National Center for the Performing Arts, Sony Music, and Silicon Valley tech start-ups. Our teammate Anasuya Mandal is a PhD student at MIT, and manages our marketing and outreach efforts. Neha Jaiswal, a computer science graduate from North-Eastern University, Boston, manages our engineering platform, and Arjun Shrinath, a techie from Silicon Valley handles product strategy and management.
The MIT ecosystem is an inspiring hub of entrepreneurship and innovation, and helped me take my first steps in this direction. Winning the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge 2012 (Community Choice Award) and the US Creative Business Cup 2012 helped me connect with several industry leaders and entrepreneurs who helped kick-start the journey. Of course, underlying all this is a deep-rooted and long-standing passion for the arts that keeps our team going! What is most exciting about IndianRaga is that we work with passionate and highly talented artists who are ambitious and energised, and that is contagious. Entrepreneurship offers an unprecedented opportunity to learn, meet interesting people, broaden your world-view, and potentially shape an entire industry. Can’t get more exciting than that.
Lots! We just released three music videos that are inspired by Indian classical music and presented in a new-format for younger, global audiences. We happened to produce them as an experiment during the IndianRaga Fellowship week, and it turned out to be an exciting project with our first group of Fellows. You can find them on the IndianRaga YouTube channel. We are also redesigning our website and adding several features based on feedback and data collected from professional musicians, and will be launching it in a couple of months. The 2014 IndianRaga Fellowship will be launched later this year, and interested applicants from North America can sign up here.
IndianRaga is looking to raise a seed-round of funding to support our next phase of development, and are looking for investors who share a passion and vision for this space. The music-tech and digital music education space, especially in Silicon Valley, is expanding right now, and we are looking for the right mentors and investors in India and the US, to help us take the next step in IndianRaga’s growth.
If you are an artist, do check out IndianRaga; and, if you are an investor who also believes in the potential of art and this space, then do reach out to Sriram Emani.