Entertainment portal iMusti.com which forayed into the eBooks market last year, offering regional titles for the first time in digital format, has just expanded its collection to 5000 titles. This California-based started with the idea of creating a social hub for Indian music enthusiasts worldwide. It has grown into a huge platform with over 2,000,000 songs and 26,000 albums.
iMusti streams and sells only licensed Indian content. Founder and CEO Samir D Khandwala aspires to build the most comprehensive archive of Indian audiovisual entertainment. “We are the first digital company to offer audio, video and books on a single platform. In fact, iMusti.com is the first one to offer regional eBooks in India and overseas,” he says.
Gems in junk
iMusti began in 2007 with an invitation from a group of music enthusiasts to make quality content available to everyone. It is more or less platform-agnostic as users can access it on computers, tablets, mobile phones – both Android and iOS – and even the Samsung Smart TV. They also have a customisable iMusti Radio.
When Samir and his team set out in search of “some of India’s most treasured harmonies”, they stumbled on something else. “We found that along with highly coveted music lying unheard in dusty records and cassette tapes, there were also books written by ancient philosophers, poets and romantics gathering moss in tiny shops in the heart of cities like Calcutta and Bangalore,” Samir recalls.
That prompted them to reshape their platform to include literary masterpieces in Indian languages. As not enough regional content is available on digital stores, this was an opportunity for them to create a new attraction on their portal by fulfilling an unmet need.
Pirates at bay
The biggest challenge for iMusti, besides sourcing the right sort of content, has been piracy. A study by Envisional, experts in digital piracy intelligence, found a massive increase in pirated content in the last two years. Envisional director of Piracy Analysis David Price wrote: “In November of 2011, we saw 297 million infringing users. By January 2013, that figure has grown to 327 million unique internet users, who are accessing infringing content at least once a month.”
To tackle this, Samir says iMusti.com has been spreading awareness on the importance of using licensed content. They would continue to bring high-quality legal content for its users, he says.
Another challenge they face currently in the eBooks space is the reluctance of publishers to adopt the digital format. “There are also challenges related to accurately converting books in some languages without grammatical errors,” he says.
Their target market has been people of Indian origin across the globe. With Indian classical music and Bollywood films becoming popular among non-Indians as well, iMusti's market is also expanding. “At present, this content is popular in the 30+ age group. India and North America are our primary target markets and the rest will catch up soon,” Samir says.
Amazon is one of their distribution channels, and the aim, Samir says, is “to be the No. 1 seller for Indian content on Amazon”. In 2014, we can expect more content and more distribution channels for it. In the first quarter of 2014 itself, they will add five more languages to their books category, Samir says.