Founder's ClubTalks

Rishi Malhotra, Co-Founder and CEO of SAAVN


Exhibit : Hi Rishi, how do you describe music streaming in India? How do you foresee the same in the days to come?
 Music and entertainment streaming is less than 5 years old while mobile connectivity in India is just a bit older. We are now at a behavioral tipping point. The millennial generation is turning to streaming first as the organization, access, and experience enables 24/7 liquid access to global music and programming. Mobile phones are used less as phones and more for messaging, music, and social. In the days and years to come, our society will continue to turn from being automobile-centric to mobile-centric.

Exhibit : How is Saavn – India’s first online music streaming site – different from its contemporaries?
RM : Saavn is a different kind of company altogether. It starts with our global team. In my 15 years in media, I’ve never worked with a more talented and dedicated team. Every team member is a shareholder in the company and we care about the collective success of people on our team. As much as we are an entertainment company, we are equally a technology company.We’ve focused on building class-leading technology across data, mobile ad tech, and even content management. We’re solving a big problem in the world, so we’re a company that aims to deliver real, long-term solutions.

Exhibit : How was the first fund raising experience for Saavn? How has the latest one been?
RM : Fund raising is an important component in building businesses and we have always had investors who believed in the company vision and most importantly our people. People often confuse fund raising as a mark of success. Funds give you time to build a company, make mistakes, find the revenue model, grow a team, take some risks, and ultimately deliver a lasting business- if all goes right. Our investors and board are an important part of our team and are our routine advisors on things that we are doing well and things that need work. Any round of capital comes with gratitude and responsibility.

Exhibit : How was Saavn accepted by the music lovers when it was first launched? How has the acceptance changed since then?
RM : Saavn has evolved from being accepted by early adopter music fanatics to a more mass appeal of a broader user base. Some are daily music listeners and others are more occasional. As we get bigger and more people are living with Saavn everyday, we have to invest in different areas of the company from customer service to infrastructure to research & development. Acceptance has grown as users begin to spend more time on mobile and mobile becomes more central to all aspects of life.Streaming has become mainstream and this is just the beginning of scaled growth in India.

Exhibit : Saavn has completed almost a decade now. What changes can we expect in the days ahead?
RM :
 We continue to evolve our thinking as a company. Saavn has shifted from a product-thinking company to a platform-thinking company. Our aim is to continue to improve our Saavn core music platform and make sure we are delivering the best, fastest, lightest, and most delightful experience to people. We want to make people happy everyday. We are also expanding the platform capabilities with original programming, direct to consumer music releases, and various carrier partnership integrations. You will continue to see Saavn becoming a more daily component of digital life across multiple generations of users.

Exhibit : How tech-savvy is Rishi? What all gadgets do you own personally in your collection?
RM : I’ve got all the usual tech gadgets to help make life, work and play happen…iPhone, Mac, iPad and the usual. I tried out the smart watch but it was not for me…I could not live with yet another charging cable in my life!

Exhibit : Are you into social media networking? How do you perceive the same – work, necessity or addiction?
RM : Social media has become core media… this is where we get information first and it has the ability to collapse timezones. I followed the Olympics in Rio via Facebook and Twitter quite naturally. I think it’s important to balance your read/write ratios on social. It’s also a great living journal for family and friends. Social will continue to evolve to help drive everything from browser search content to commerce referrals to health trends. While TV is still at the center of every living room, it’s become the least social of all platforms.

Exhibit : What car do you drive? And which model do you dream to own someday?
RM : I drive a Porsche 911 and believe it’s the most perfect car ever produced. The car has an incredible history and is both, classically styled as well as appropriately modern. The car represents a unique balance between engineering, form, function, and just mind-blowing fun. It’s the only car I’ve experienced that actually STARTS the driver. This has been a dream car since I was a kid, so it’s an honor to drive it everyday.

Exhibit : Being the CEO of a music streaming service, how much are you into music? Which is your favorite genre?
RM : I’m a music fanatic and have been a musician since I was 10 years old. Music is always playing in my house, car, and at the office. Music is not just entertainment to me, but really a living photograph of life’s best moments. I can hear certain songs that remind me of all the moments of my life. I see the same happening with my kids and it’s awesome to see them take an interest in playing and listening to music. I listen to everything from Led Zeppelin to Dr. Dre to Miles Davis to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Jimi Hendrix to Nucleya to Stevie Wonder. Great music is borderless.

Exhibit : Given a chance to create a dream gadget, what will you come up with and why?
RM : As I get older, I have begun to think a lot more about longevity and applying pro-active data to health. People look in the mirror everyday to check their appearance and correct or adjust things based upon what they see, but we don’t have the ability to see a mirror of our internal vitals on a daily basis easily. I would love to see a patch technology that sits on the surface of the skin and is able to “read” your vitals like blood pressure, temperature and cholesterol. It could be used daily by anyone in any country to help identify health risks early.

Exhibit : Few unknown facts about Saavn you would love to reveal to our readers?
RM : When my co-founders Vin and Param named Saavn almost a decade ago, they chose the name Saavn for a few reasons. It stands for South Asian Audio Video Network, but also at the time they named the company Saavn in 2006, there were no Google searches for the word SAAVN.




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