Talking sound and content with the founders of IVM Podcasts, one of India’s biggest podcast networks
IVM has podcasts on a wide variety of subjects, from public policy to food
With 90 shows and over 4,000 episodes, IVM Podcasts is India’s biggest podcast network, featuring current events, public policy, LGBTQ+ issues, sports, history, food, advertising and more. Just ahead of International Podcast Day on 30 September, Lounge caught up with IVM Podcasts founder Amit Doshi and co-founder Kavita Rajwade to discuss the future of podcasts in India, and why producing one needs more than just getting two people with a mike into a room. Edited excerpts:
Recording a podcast is relatively low-tech. So why do we need podcast producers like IVM?
Rajwade: That’s like saying anyone with a phone can shoot a movie (laughs). Of course, they can, but the question is what kind of quality will you achieve? The role of a podcast network like IVM is to get the right hosts and the right concept, planning shows, trying stuff out, and then producing the best quality podcast possible in terms of sound engineering, editing, etc. We handle everything at the back end, so the host just has to take care of the content...there is a checklist of 162 items for one episode. This includes creatives and artwork for the episode, sharing them on social media, descriptions, music, editing, audiograms...
Doshi: Listening to a podcast is a single-sense experience, so you can’t get sound wrong. The DIY podcast—it’s just not that easy. You are asking a host to give two-and-a-half hours of their time, so you need to be conscious of quality. Plus, the scale of it. We have a team of 30 people producing 45-50 episodes a week. You can’t DIY that.
Does IVM play a role in how the shows are structured or is that up to the hosts? Also, how do you identify new hosts and build shows?
Rajwade: It depends on the show and the host. Some hosts are looking for direction while others are super happy to figure it out themselves. As for finding new hosts, we do a lot of personality mapping (on social media, etc.) to identify people and topics that would make for a great podcast. Some of our hosts were guests on other podcasts. And then we get a lot of pitches—at least four pitch emails a day from people who have an idea and want to develop it into a podcast. See, the challenge is to get hold of a concept that can run over multiple episodes. Someone may have a great idea—but it may not be sustainable after one or two episodes.
Do you see podcast culture catching on in India?
Doshi: By our estimates, there are four-seven million people listening to podcasts in India. That’s not an inconsequential number. But it will take time for podcasts to go mainstream here compared to, say, the US, which has had a huge talk radio culture. In India, conversational audio content was really negligible before podcasts, and this is also because of various government restrictions around what kind of content radio and FM channels can play. We don’t have something like an NPR (National Public Radio), which was to podcasts what TV was to Netflix. So the audience has to be built from scratch.
What kind of financial model are you following at IVM?
Doshi: With our hosts, we have a co-IP creation and revenue-sharing model. We are working with companies to create branded content for them—for instance, we are creating a podcast for (global information technology firm) Accenture which will have the same quality and production values as any of our regular programmes but geared to a specific audience. Also, we have brands advertising through “host reads" (when the host reads the ad—this can be scripted or extempore, either pre-recorded or recorded live, and is one of the most common forms of advertising in the medium).