The almost 120-year-old Saregama is ready for the future; here is how it is transitioning to stay relevant for the next few decades
Vikram Mehra, MD, Saregama IndiaSaregama
Vikram Mehra tells us about all that Saregama will focus on to be future-ready

The almost 120-year-old Saregama is ready for the future; here is how it is transitioning to stay relevant for the next few decades

Vikram Mehra tells us about all that Saregama will focus on to be future-ready
  • Saregama recently announced its result. Its PAT for Q4 stood at Rs 372 million, which was a 151% growth compared to the same quarter last year.
  • Over the years, the company has transitioned from being a music label to today creating IPs in the form of music, films and TV series, along with manufacturing and innovating on its portable music player, Carvaan.
  • Vikram Mehra, Managing Director, Saregama India tells us how the company has managed to stay relevant even after being in existence for close to 120 years, and all that it is doing to make sure it stays relevant for the next few decades too.
Four years ago, Saregama realized a need gap in the 40+ age group when it came to consuming music. People who wanted to listen to retro music were not able to access them easily. Many missed the good old days of Radio. That was the insight that gave birth to Carvaan, Saregama’s popular portable retro music player.

Since then, Saregama has kept innovating on not just Carvaan but also on its other offerings. The company which started as a music label company in 1902 has today gone much beyond that. Today, its portfolio includes intellectual property rights of over 4000 hours of TV content produced for channels in languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Bengali. Over the last few decades, the company has forayed into retailing music through physical and digital mediums. The company now also has a film production unit, Yoodlee Films and it is this diversification of its offering that has helped it not just weather the storm of 2020, but also be ready for the future.

In its recently released results, the company said that its Profit after Tax (PAT) for Q4 stood at Rs 372 million, which was a 151% growth compared to the same quarter last year. Its music licensing revenue in FY21 went up by 20%. While it has been a difficult year for many businesses, Saregama’s efforts at expanding its portfolio over the last few years is now paying off.

“The biggest transition that has happened for Saregama is that from an old-world company that used to be the custodian of music, we are today a new-age company, which is riding on the digital wave, in India and globally. Proliferation of smartphones and cheap data has led to a huge increase in the consumption of content and digital is pushing this explosion. And as Saregama, we are now sitting at the heart of all the action, be it with our music, our films or TV series,” said Vikram Mehra, MD, Saregama India.

Right now, the company is primarily focusing on two things, the creation of IPs, be it as music, films or TV series, and monetizing them. The second is to create a platform on the back of Carvaan to talk to the 35+ age group. While the original Carvaan was aimed at an older age group, the company is now innovating to make it attractive to a younger audience too. Last year, it had launched a Karaoke variant to appeal to the 35+ age group. Its Carvaan 2.0 version, which comes with thousands of pre-loaded songs, also supports podcasts now.

On how it has been able to stay relevant, despite being an almost 120-year-old company, Mehra said, “How you think as a company makes a lot of difference. In recent times, the average age of the company has gone down steeply. We are getting younger people on board who understand the new world better and asking them to guide us.” The company is also working on the acquisition of new content aggressively. It recently announced that it has acquired the music of a series of big-ticket movies which include Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming movie, Gangubai Kathiawadi along with his next movie, Akshay Kumar starrer Bell Bottom and Ajay Devgn’s Maidaan. Saregama has also acquired the rights of the yet unnamed official adaptation of the cult blockbuster, Anniyan, which will be directed by Shankar and will feature actor Ranveer Singh.

Last year, Saregama also struck licensing deals with Facebook, Spotify and Triller. Its music is now also available on various short video platforms like Moj and Josh where people can use them to create their content. Saregama is also heavily investing on regional music. “Saregama is one of the oldest music labels in the country and we have relationships in every music and film market in the country. Because of our legacy, we are harnessing those relationships and entering into Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi music. Our aim is to create enough content so that the kids of today who are going to consume content will keep on listening to this content for another 50 years,” he explained.

Last year, the lockdown also meant people were stuck at home. So while the sale of Carvaan, which is a product people want to experience before buying, saw a hit, its kids variant Carvaan Mini Kids saw impressive growth. “This is a product we have never marketed and yet it is the fastest selling Mini for us,” he added. Overall, Carvaan sold 1,10,000 units in Q4 FY21, despite retail sale having been massively impacted by the pandemic.

With the addition of a podcast feature on Carvaan 2.0, Mehra is confident of the monetization opportunities it opens up for them. “For us, till now, Carvaan was a one-time margin product, similar to say a refrigerator that you sell once and make money out of it and that’s it. Now with podcasts coming in, it creates a huge opportunity for us as a platform to start generating advertising or subscription revenue,” he explained. Mehra is also not stuck on getting Carvaan-only exclusive podcasts. “Our model is a little different. As a company, we are telling podcasters to bring their podcasts to us on a non-exclusive basis. And if ever we make revenue off of it, we plan to share 40% of it with the content partner,” he added.

If things go as planned, Saregama plans to start monetizing its podcasts in the next 2-3 years.