Hubhopper may have started life as a social network in 2015, but in 2017 it pivoted into a content aggregation and publishing platform. Today, the Delhi-based startup is one of India's largest platform for podcasts and audio content with over one million hours of content across 15 languages, 12 million devices, and 10 demand and supply side products and platforms.
Selected as one of the Tech30 companies by YourStory at TechSparks 2019, Hubhopper was founded by Gautam Raj Anand to “re-construct the previously broken audio content creator process in the country” by attempting to grow the creator industry, democratise creation, and give everyone and anyone a voice.
“We are a distribution over a destination play. What that implies is that we are more platform-agnostic where people consume audio content. We just want to make sure that we are the ones that empower and enable that consumption,” Gautam says.
Hubhopper wants to ensure that wherever consumption is convenient, whether on smart speakers, IoT devices, in-car entertainment, or on flights, and wherever people are consuming audio content, “whether it is on other applications or streaming platforms like Castbox or Spotify, a large amount of the time, part of that content is actually powered by Hubhopper."
The Forbes 30 under 30 company Hubhopper, which has topped the Google Play Store and Apple app store in India, is currently the largest repository of Indian audio content in the country. Some of the services it provides to podcasters include hosting, recording, and distributing material free of cost.
Founder Gautam won Entrepreneur magazine’s ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award for Hubhopper’s innovation in technology enabling content creation and consumption.
Gautam, 27, Founder and CEO of HubHopper, got a bachelor’s degree (Economics honours) from Delhi University. He worked with Barclays Bank for a year as a senior risk analyst, after which he decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge.
“We soon realised that we had over a million hours of content, but people were consuming the same seven-10 percent of content when they came to Hubhopper. This was localised Indian content. There was clearly a gap between demand and supply; everybody wanted Indian and local content, but there wasn’t enough supply and we wanted to find out why,” he says.
Gautam’s next step was to approach the grassroots creator community and ask why people weren’t generating more content. This led him to realise that the creator process for audio content in India was “completely broken”.
The first break was the realisation that people did not really know what “podcast” meant.
“We associate the word podcast with business acumen content, with Joe Rogan or Seth Gordon, meant for people who have Apple phones. Even when I first started consuming podcasts I immediately jumped to Harvard Business Review content and things like that,” he says.
He adds that India has a very rich history of audio content, be it the Hanuman Chalisa, Guru Granth Sahib, or stories of Mahabharata and Premchand, stating that “we don’t use the correct nomenclature – podcasts”.
“When we used to listen to cricket commentary on the way to school, it was a podcast, but no one called it by that term. The company that coined the term was Apple, and people automatically associated it with this. Nobody was thinking Red FM Baua and podcasts. So, they were listening to podcasts and saying I don’t listen to podcasts,” Gautam says.
How does Hubhopper work?
Hubhopper is both a signed-in and a signed-out platform. It essentially means you can browse through its content even if you do not have an account. But, in order to avail features like Subscriptions, Bookmarks, Ratings, Notifications, etc. and personalised AI-based recommendations, you have to sign into the app. Sign-ins are through F-connect or Google.
Content from publishers is segregated category-wise. These include Around the World, India, Bollywood, Sports, Fashion & Beauty, Design & Arts, Health & Fitness, Gadgets & Tech, and so on. The strong focus on Indian content differentiates it from globally popular platforms like Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, etc.
Operational model and challenges
Speaking about how technical the creator process is, Gautam says:
“You need to find a hosting platform, recording platform, editing tool studio, all in different areas. Consumers had to initially pay for them and then generate code; after this, they needed to deposit this code into every one of these distribution platforms and finally get analytics for all of this somewhere else.”
Hubhopper lets people host content for free.
Speaking about an early challenge when it came to building this, Gautam says,
“We were the sheep and our creators were the shepherd. They guided us, and we built according to their need. So after the hosting and recording tools, we built editing tools.”
Since distributing was a big problem for creators, Hubhopper created a system so that with one click the content landed on all streaming platforms and integrations, with “analytics right there”. “If we didn’t have creators guiding us, we would be running blind in the space,” Gautam says.
A macro-level challenge was changing the mindset towards the word podcast and its association with audio content.
“Many people feel that creating a podcast is difficult. But, when they think about putting up a YouTube video, which is actually a lot more difficult, they find it very intuitive. Breaking that thought process was challenging. Because technology can be built really quickly, but mindsets don’t change that fast.”
Today, Hubhopper is the only company in India that has integrated backwards and built localised tools, software, and a community that addresses each aspect of the Indian audio content creator lifecycle.
This includes hosting, recording, editing, submission and distribution, analytics, online communities, offline monthly events, automatic website generation, plugins, and more.
Plans for the future
Gautam is keen to add more languages to Hubhopper in the near future. But his focus right now is “the product itself, and further solidifying the value proposition”.
“We have 15 languages today; I think languages need to be galvanised more on the creators side, because in every other format there are higher entry barriers. Videos are capital intensive, and text is literacy and language intensive, but audio isn’t. So a large number of people can literally get a voice through audio,” he says.
Gautam has a few words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“First, you need to ask yourself a basic question: Is there a problem that needs to be solved? Is that problem a real problem being faced by people on a daily basis? If that problem exists, is your solution actually helping solve that problem? And is it a scalable, defensible, and repeatable solution? Also, why you are the best-suited person to be solving that solution. This will ultimately drive you,” Gautam says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
YourStory’s Tech30 companies list is an annual selection of 30 carefully curated and disruptive tech-based startups that we believe will shape the new narrative for India and the world. To get a complete overview of the 2019 Tech30 companies list, download the Tech30 Report here.
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