New Delhi: After conceding market share to rival Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel is now taking the fight to Jio’s turf – rural India – with the launch of a new audio-video streaming app targeted at the non-English speaking population possessing entry-level smartphones.
On Tuesday, Airtel announced the launch of Wynk Tube, an extension of its music streaming service Wynk Music targeted at small-town India that will allow users to stream both audio and video within the same interface, and switch between the two modes for a particular song. Currently available for Android smartphones, the service offers content in vernacular languages like Hindi, Punjabi and Bhojpuri as of now and is looking at Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Marathi soon.
This, the company believes, will help retain consumers and drive traffic in rural India where data consumption is lower than that in urban areas. Interestingly, Reliance Jio has made significant strides in the rural market through its cheap data tariff and entry-level JioPhone launched in 2017. In July last year, the telecom company said that it had already sold 25 million handsets.
As of February end, Airtel had 340.3 million users out of which 157.5 million are in rural areas. Out of Reliance Jio’s total 297.2 million users, 111.8 million users are in rural areas.
At 5 MB, the Wynk Tube app will be free for Airtel customers while non-Airtel users will be charged ₹99 a month.
“There is a massive opportunity in tier 2 and tier 3 towns in India or the people who live beyond the top 100 cities of the country as they are consuming content like never before," said Sameer Batra, chief executive officer — content and apps at Bharti Airtel, attributing the evolution to increasing number of smartphones, better data connectivity and cheaper data packs.
Batra said that while the content play on Wynk Tube is currently limited to music offerings, it may be expanded to other entertainment options such as live TV in the future. Original content, however, remains out of the question. “We are sure we don’t want to control the value chain but instead work with partners whom we can provide targeting and reach," he said. “Our model has always been to add value to the core telco consumer. The market is cluttered at the top end of the spectrum but it’s very interesting and open towards Bharat or India 2."
Airtel already has Wynk Music which it claims has 100 million users while Reliance Jio has JioSaavn app, which Reliance claims is South Asia’s largest streaming, entertainment and artiste platform. Vodafone Idea currently does not have any music streaming app but plans to launch one soon along with a global partner.
Stepping up music and content play has become imperative for telecom operators as they fight to retain high-paying subscribers in a low-tariff market. Bharti Airtel’s and Vodafone Idea’s revenues from wireless business dropped after the entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016 as they were forced to match Jio’s rock-bottom data prices.
Bharti Airtel’s profit plunged 72% to Rs. 86 crore in the fiscal third quarter from Rs. 306 crore a year earlier, while Vodafone Idea incurred a net loss of Rs. 5,004.6 crore last quarter, compared with Rs. 4,973.8 crore in the preceding quarter.
The Indian music industry is valued at Rs. 1,280 crore where digital channels account for 65% of overall music sales. While Swedish audio streaming platform Spotify entered the country this February, other players include local entities like Gaana and Hungama Music besides a few international services such as Apple Music and Google Play Music.