Aural storytelling has existed in some form or the other since time immemorial. Then came radio. But, the word ‘podcast’ is believed to have entered public consciousness in 2014, when Apple rolled out a standalone ‘Podcast’ app in iOS 8.
Wired magazine termed it a “fundamental moment” in the “crazy rise” of podcasts, which “elevated the medium to its highest level of public visibility”.
Since then, podcasts have known only one curve: upward.
Industry tracker Podcast Insights estimates that over 750,000 podcasts, spread across 18.5 million episodes, are currently available on different platforms. Apple Podcasts, of course, leads the market with 550,000 “active podcasts” in 100+ languages.
Other popular podcast platforms include Spotify, Podcast Addict, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Overcast, and several others. Globally, podcasting revenues have shot up, with the industry expected to generate $1 billion by 2021, according to PwC.
India too is witnessing an unprecedented podcast boom, fuelled by rising smartphone penetration, dipping mobile data prices, and the millennials' growing affinity towards on-demand content.
PwC indicates that India is already the world’s third largest podcast market. Only the US and China are ahead. Monthly podcast listeners in the country crossed 40 million at the end of 2018, growing 57 percent annually.
Further, Google states that India is one of the top five countries using its podcast app. There is a definite demand for local, Indianised content that has led to podcasts becoming the new battleground in the audio-streaming sector.
Today, on International Podcast Day, YourStory lists the best podcast apps for India-centric content.
Headfone is one of the highest-rated (4.7 out of 5) podcast platforms for India-focused content. The handiwork of two former Facebook employees, it recently secured $750,000 in seed funding from China’s Fosun RZ Capital.
Headfone specialises in vernacular podcasts, talk shows, short stories, and other forms of audio content. The app has notched up more than 500,000 downloads in less than two years. Its podcasts on religion and spirituality, kids and family, news and politics (including the PM’s Mann Ki Baat) are quite popular.
Interestingly, Headfone doubles up as a social audio network, and lets users record their own podcasts and publish them on a public profile.
If you’re scouting for Hindi podcasts, this is your best bet.
The brainchild of Mumbai-based startup Agrahyah Technologies, Aawaz.com is one of India’s first audio-on-demand platforms. It houses more than 300 hours of original audio programming in Hindi, including devotional chants and bhajans, celebrity interviews, stand-up comedy, health and wellness shows, historical and mythological stories, and more.
The app launched at the start of 2019, and already counts over 100,000 downloads. Some of the top shows on Aawaz.com are Akbar Birbal Ki Kahaniyan, Panchang, Masti ki Pathshala, and Katha Sagar.
Although Castbox is a global podcast platform, with over 10 million downloads, its popularity in India is growing.
India On The Drive, a Castbox podcast that focuses on India, consists of local news bulletins, talk shows, film reviews, and general interest and entertainment programmes.
Other notable titles include The Passion People Podcast (stories of entrepreneurs and inspiring people), The SOS Show (focused on mental health issues), The Musafir Stories (chronicling Indian travel tales), and Kahani Suno (stories from Hindi literature).
Hubhopper began as a social network but soon pivoted to a podcast directory and short-form content aggregation platform. It can be accessed with/without signing in.
It houses all kinds of audio content - podcasts, news, audiobooks, online radio, and throws up AI-based personalised suggestions for listeners. Hubhopper has a wide array of local shows “by Indians, for Indians” in Hindi, Kannada, and Tamil, besides English.
Its popular podcasts include Kalki Presents: My Indian Life, Cyrus Says, Sadhguru’s Podcast, Indian Noir, Stories of Premchand, and Mahabharata. The app has recorded over 100,000 downloads.
Suno India calls itself a “multilingual and multi-generational podcast platform for issues that matter”. Launched just a year ago, it distributes its podcasts on Spotify, Castbox, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts. It also makes content available for hearing on the Suno India website.
Some of its top podcasts areThe Lost Child (stories of crimes across shelter homes in India), Climate Emergency (on climate change and environment), Dear Pari (a narrative podcast on adoption in India), and Gasping for Breath (a show on lung diseases), and The Suno India Show (current affairs and general interest).
If you’re interested in stories that are under-represented or under-reported in mainstream media, then Suno India should be your go-to place.
In 2017, BookMyShow, India’s largest entertainment ticketing platform, dived into content to tap into the burgeoning audio-streaming market.
It rolled out Jukebox within the BMS app. The platform houses tonnes of free music, talk shows, and genre-based podcasts hosted by some of India’s most well-known comedians and RJs. Jukebox offers more than 2,000 hours of on-demand audio content, including 60 shows in multiple genres and languages.
It releases new episodes of shows every week. Popular podcasts on Jukebox include Keh Ke Loongi, Cricket Mahabharat, Zara Khauff Se Suno, and Comedy Sammelan.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)