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Gautam Raj Anand

Gautam Raj Anand

· Time to read: ~6 min

This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.

Gautam Raj Anand is the CEO of Hubhopper. — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

Learn how Hubhopper was started, and more detail about the platform, in a longer version of this interview in the Podnews Weekly Review podcast.

Gautam Raj Anand: Hubhopper is South Asia’s largest podcasting platform that democratises the podcast creation, distribution and monetisation process.

We distribute about north of what 220,000 odd podcast episodes and the average episode length is 16 minutes. So it’s much shorter than what you’d see in the West. And now there are two reasons for this. One is because most people on average will have started their consumption journey when they were children by consuming on the radio.

And in radio, as I mentioned, consumption was very interspersed between music and non-music, because there are only about 12 radio channels and they’re all fighting for the same amount of time.

So people’s consumption habits weren’t necessarily in consuming hour-long conversational radio, which you see in the west. Over here, people are consuming very short, you know, bursts of content, and that’s kind of, I believe, translated when people have moved from offline to online.

When you look at broadband, I actually believe India is an outlier here, because India is the cheapest internet on earth and it’s shockingly better in terms of quality. While podcasting has been growing, the availability of 4G and 5G capability across India is phenomenal, even across tier two, tier three cities.

Because the general length of an episode is shorter, automatically the file size is shorter, and because the file size is shorter, it’s not necessarily that much of a problem.

Sam Sethi: India’s super famous for Bollywood and three or four hour films. It seems very odd that you’ve got a nation that’s used to consuming long-form content that then goes to short-form content for audio.

GRA: I think it’s because when people consumed audio content, they were used to consuming it in a shorter format. But when people were consuming immersive, movie based content, it was meant to be a family experience that everybody went to the cinema hall together and then they enjoyed this hyper-reality experience with Bollywood. So they’re considered very different in terms of the consumption experience. You also see people in India consuming in a staggered format. So they’ll consume a little bit, then they’ll stop, then they’ll come back to the same episode, then they’ll consume a little bit again, then they’ll stop, then they’ll come back again.

SS: What are the biggest podcasts in India, then? What’s number one? What’s the genres that are number one? Is there a standout podcast?

GRA: The top by a long mile in terms of consumption is religion and spirituality. And, anecdotally, everybody knows that christian sermon podcasts still are among the largest in terms of the number of podcasts being churned out in the world. But in terms of consumption, just the sheer difference between this category and the rest is, I mean, it’s earth and moon level difference. I’ll give you an example as to why.

So, imagine a user base that is coming to platforms to consume one podcast which only has one episode, and they’ll come and consume that same episode, which is called Hanuman Chalisa, and they’ll listen to that same episode for 12 hours. And they’ll come back the next day and they listen to the same episode again for 12 hours without the expectation of a new episode ever coming again. It’s weird. I would say it’s such an outlier behavior pattern that exists Because these people never want a new season, they never want a new episode, they’re very happy with that one episode and that one episode will last them forever. So you’re looking at religion and spirituality essentially leading the fray here.

After that comes education and self-development, because a lot of people still associate podcasts directly with education and self-development and self-growth, so they’re trying to upskill themselves with podcasts. Then comes horror and true crime, because I think across the world that’s probably a genre that definitely does really well. After horror comes romance. Bollywood is very low on this list in terms of consumption.

On the creator side, you will see storytelling content being created the most, interview-based content being created the most, then self-development, self-growth content, along with business content. Then you see the arts, and then comes religion and spirituality in terms of creators creating this content. So if I was to prescriptively ever tell anybody which genre should they create and if they just wanted to have a successful podcast in terms of downloads, I would say go with religion and spirituality, because not too many people are creating it, but if you’re creating in it, you’re automatically going to be a bestseller.

SS: In the West, we have TV actors and actresses doing very well within the genre. Some people say that the celebrity driven podcast is becoming a bit passé. Looking at the indian or the south asian diaspora, the bollywood actor and actresses - are they trying to get into podcasting as well?

GRA: Tes, they are, but I would not say that they’re leading the fray. So, again, if you look at the West, my favorite podcasters are folks like Aaron Mahnke, or shows like Casefile or Bedtime Stories or how I Built this, etc. And I think a podcast, in terms of its longevity, is going to be more successful and much more impactful if the person who is creating that show is known because of the podcast itself. The brand of that person is not larger than the podcast and they came into the world of prominence because of the podcast.

SS: The one thing you didn’t mention was cricket. I’m amazed as a podcast genre, I would have thought that would carry a lot of weight within the South Asian community.

GRA: I’m amazed as well, and I wish I had a very quick and sharp retort to tell you why that was, because I personally do not understand why that’s not the case. I think maybe it’s because of a lack of really well-created shows within the cricket genre. We have, I would say, about 20 odd shows. They’ve had good uptake, but I don’t think that there are any call-out shows. I can probably share four or five names, and some of these names are driven predominantly because they were originals by platforms. So they’re I’m saying “podcasts” in air quotes, because they don’t have an RSS feed. So essentially, they’re being powered and they’re being pushed into the world very aggressively because of those platforms itself. But we would never see those numbers because either platform X or platform Y or platform Z is purchasing this content and is pushing this content out like a Michelle Obama type podcast in which it’s marketing dollars, that is, in the growth of the podcast.

SS: So in terms of platforms, we see Apple, Spotify and now YouTube becoming the dominant players. Is that mirrored in India as well?

GRA: No, they would not be in your top five. You’d see certain Indian platforms that do very well - incredible numbers and definitely not platforms to miss. If you’re a podcaster, you should definitely think about these platforms because they have less competition on them, they have less creators on them and they have a large amount of users. So it’s a nice hotbed where you’ve got less supply and nice healthy amounts of demand.

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