Podcasting is picking up in India only now, with better data speeds and more local content creators
Before we accepted the word podcast, a mash-up of pod, from iPod and cast from broadcast, the listening format was called an audioblog. It’s been around since 2004, but in India, podcasting is just picking up, with better data speeds and more options in terms of apps. Google has just come out with its own native one and indigenous content creators are trying their hand at it. Here are four popular ones, with their journeys.
Saif Omar co-hosts The Musafir Stories, a destination-based India travel podcast with his wife, Faiza Khan
On the podcast: We talk to travellers and experts about itineraries, destinations, experiences and all things related to travel. We have over 2,00,000 listens so far and are about 40 episodes old. Podcasts offer a great medium to have deep, meaningful conversations that listeners can feel personally connected with. My first tryst with a podcast was through the Amateur Traveler by Chris Christensen that took me on a virtual trip to different cities in the world. That has been my biggest inspiration.
On the Indian interest in podcasts and the road ahead: In India, initially, there were only a handful of creators and a tiny group of listeners. However, podcast networks like IVM and Audiomatic have ensured that the medium has gained quite a bit of traction. Music apps like Saavn have also started including them in their offerings. I believe that India will emerge on the podcast landscape, growing in terms of listeners and creators. The availability of cheaper smartphones, increasing affordability of data packs across the country and the launch of an Android podcast app by Google will ensure its growing popularity in India. As the quality and quantity of podcasts improve, so will the adoption. This is a cyclical process that leads to great content being produced and consumed. And with voice-based applications and technology finding an audience in India, it has become even easier to access and consume.
Top podcasts I listen to… Amateur Traveler, Revisionist History, Serial, How I Built This, Radiolab, Lore, Caliphate and Slow Burn
Deepak Gopalakrishnan co-hosts Simblified, an audio podcast that breaks down things that happen around us in a humorous manner, with Narendra Shenoy and Srikeit Tadepalli
On the podcast: My friend Naren and I were toying with the idea of doing something different and thought of starting a podcast that broadly dealt with breaking down important events from the news in a funny manner. We wanted to stick to audio and were not very keen on the video podcast format that many comedy groups, such as AIB, work with. The response has been slow and steady, and we are happy that we have a loyal listener base. We get a lot of repeat listeners. I was deeply influenced by The Bugle, a podcast that offered a funny take on current affairs and was hosted by Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver.
On the medium: We were one of the early adopters of podcasts in India. With the entry of platforms such as IVM and Audiomatic, the Indian podcast scene is bound to become more interesting. These platforms have podcasts that cover a host of genres, from the popular ones to the obscure.
Samanth Subramanian co-hosts The Intersection with Padmaparna Ghosh, a podcast that narrates stories melding culture, science and history in India and is on Audiomatic
On the podcast: My friend Rajesh Tahil runs a media company, and he and I had been talking about our favourite podcasts out of the US — ones produced by NPR, public radio stations, or startups. In particular, we both loved Radiolab, and at some point, he thought he’d like to set up a platform for podcasts in India, so he asked if we’d be willing to do a science podcast. The Intersection became one of four podcasts on the Audiomatic platform. We chose the medium, really, because it was new and interesting.
On the response: In a qualitative sense, it’s been great. We’ve met so many people who follow the show diligently, and tell us what they loved, send us ideas, and so on. The problem really has been in getting the kind of numbers that can help a show like this sustain itself. The podcast medium is still very, very new in this country. Converting new listeners to the medium, and to our show, has been a challenge.
On getting hooked to podcasts: I got interested in podcasts first because of Radiolab, and I still listen to it; it’s one of the stars in my Downcast app, which holds feeds to around 14 podcasts.
On building a podcast culture: In India, it is still early days for podcasts. There is a small section that is interested in the medium, though it has not reached critical mass yet. The ones out there are all passion projects. In America, podcasters have been helped by the old public radio tradition, of tuning into an hour-long show as you drive from one place to another. Podcasters simply leveraged this already-ingrained habit. And then, of course, they created excellent content — well produced, very attuned to how a show must be narrative, how to tell a story, how to be chatty and seemingly spontaneous. I’m perpetually amazed at the ability of these podcasters to sound conversational and yet coherent; it isn’t at all an easy thing to reproduce.
Vishnu and Shankar, co-hosts of Writer & Geek Show, a podcast on science, tech and history
On the podcast: I am a big fan of podcasts and have been listening to them for five years. My brother Shankar and I spent some of our time every day discussing science, technology, history and other interesting topics. I wanted to start a podcast on the conversations and extend it to an audience who might be interested in listening to us. Shankar came on board and we launched the Writer & Geek Show.
The response: It has been pretty good. As with everything, it takes time to build up an audience, but we do have listeners from six continents and we get regular feedback. Most of our listeners have been organic.
India and podcasts: I think interest in podcasts has gone up a lot in the past few years. There was a time when I used to explain to people what a podcast is, but now many of my friends and colleagues listen to them while commuting or while working out. Podcasts are unobtrusive and a perfect fit for our fast-paced society.
On the future for podcasts: I think that podcasts are going to grow in leaps and bounds, especially in India, because it is still in a nascent stage, and provides opportunities for early adopters to be pioneers.