This podcast startup by IIT alumni is revolutionising the traditional radio

Mumbai-based podcast startup Kuku FM is backed by Vertex Ventures, 3one4 Capital, Shunwei Capital and India Quotient. It has more than 5,000 creators on board.
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Podcasts have immensely gained popularity in the last couple of years. In 2018, India had close to four crore monthly podcast listeners, a sharp jump of 57.6 percent from 2017. The availability of cheap internet data and affordable smartphones has definitely given a boost. In fact, in 2019, 77 percent of listeners used their mobile phones to listen to podcasts. 

While biggies like Spotify and Jio Saavn are the popular options in the metros, people from Bharat i.e., smaller towns, are not far behind in the podcast game either. Leveraging technology to capture this trend is Mumbai-based KukuFM.

Founded in June 2018, Kuku FM aims to redefine traditional radio by making long-form audio stories, brief podcasts, fiction, and non-fiction audiobooks in regional Indian languages.

Available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, and Bangla, Kuku FM provides audio content across genres like self-help, motivational, educational, news, entertainment, spirituality, mythology, stories and shows, among others. 

Illustration Courtesy: YS Design

Founded by IIT Jodhpur alumni Lal Chand Bisu, Vikas Goyal, and Vinod Kumar Meena, Kuku FM has already registered over four million downloads on the Play Store, and has a community of more than 5,000 creators. 

The startup is backed by investors including 3one4 Capital, Shunwei Capital, India Quotient, and Vertex Ventures. The podcast startup raised an undisclosed amount in November, 2019. In its latest funding round, Kuku FM raised $5.5 million in Series A.

Seasonal entrepreneurs

Bisu and Vinod are second-time entrepreneurs. The duo had earlier co-founded edtech startup EasyPrep, which was eventually acquired by Toppr. Vikas, on the other hand, earlier led Toopr’s engineering efforts for its flagship product - Toppr Doubts. 

While discussing their next move, the trio researched about podcasts.

“There was a huge gap in India for audio consumption. The inspiration behind Kuku FM was simple -- to offer new, promising, and diverse audio content in Indian regional languages,” Bisu tells YourStory.

Vinod Kumar Meena, Lal Chand Bisu and Vikas Goyal, Founders of Kuku FM (L-R)

“Further, we wanted our users to get away from their digital screens and just enjoy the benefits of passive consumption of entertainment,” he adds. 

The startup now has a team of 50 people.  

How does it work?

Kuku FM works similar to video-sharing platform YouTube. It provides audio content in Indian regional languages with an aim to redefine traditional radio by allowing users to discover new and diverse audio content in their preferred language. 

The listeners can access Kuku FM’s platform for free. “It is an interconnected community for both listeners and creators. We also provide support to aspiring writers and authors to help them convert their books and stories into audio and market it to millions of people,” Bisu says.

The platform primarily targets aspiring Indian artists and storytellers. As an audio platform, Kuku FM’s responsibilities goes beyond just entertainment. It provides content that have the right mix of education and entertainment.

Team Kuku FM

The platform acquired its first set of customers organically through Play Store. Interestingly, Bisu says, “There is a huge demand among users for religious audios (Gita and Ramayana) and self-help audiobooks.”

Kuku FM’s daily users spend an average of 50 minutes on the platform. “This puts a heavy strain on the supply side. We addressed this problem by acquiring the necessary tools and creating a community marketplace for audio content,” Bisu says. 

It has more than eight lakh monthly active users.

Kuku FM's mobile app | Image Source: Kuku FM

The podcast market 

A report published by PwC in 2019 stated that the Indian music, radio, and podcasts market was worth Rs 5,753 crore in 2018 and that the total music revenue was forecasted to hit Rs 10,858 crore in 2023, growing at a CAGR of 13.5 percent. It further suggests that India was the world’s third largest podcast-listening market after China and the US. 

Players like Jio Saavn and Spotify have been betting big on podcasts. Besides these, players like Khabri, Castbox, Aawaz.com, and Headfone have been gaining traction in India. However, Bisu believes Kuku FM has a differentiator to offer. 

“Their (competitors) primary focus is on user consumption. On the other hand, Kuku FM provides a sense of community where the users can directly interact with the creators,” he adds. 

The startup is yet to monetise its platform and is still exploring options to generate revenue via ads and subscriptions. It is vigorously working towards providing meaningful and engaging content in various regional languages. “We plan to launch the support for more than 15 Indian languages soon,” he adds. 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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