Interviews

In Conversation with MeraGana’s Pradeep Anand

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Mr Pradeep Anand, Founder, CEO and Managing Director of MeraGana.com created a device-agnostic delivery platform of online and offline Karaoke on MeraGana.com. It provides unlimited access to the entire library for the period of subscription. We have subscribers from over 60 countries and have the most extensive library of Indian Karaoke in the World. He has worked in various positions in manufacturing in joint venture companies which were family-owned and which produced electric lamps, batteries, water meters and galvanizing and conversion of steel wire. Recently, we got a chance to meet him and have a conversation about his journey with MeraGana so far. 

Starting with the inception, Mr Anand said, “Basically my desire to bring Karaoke was since in the 1970s when I was in Japan and training about other things, learned about Karaoke at that time. In my mind, I was clear that if and when I get the opportunity, I will definitely do something with Karaoke. Initially, before MeraGana, we installed jukeboxes at many restaurants like Cafe Coffee Days and McDonalds, and that’s how I got in touch with the Music Companies. We stopped doing jukeboxes after a while due to Satellite Channels, they were ad-based, and then I programmed an online Karaoke site. There weren’t many at that time. Got licenses from the Music Companies and here we are!

Stating about how difficult it was to gain these licenses, he said, “It wasn’t that difficult because they knew me from earlier. In Music Business, it is more of a matter of trust. You understand that the person is going to pay the royalties on time and once you have come on an agreement, then it’s great. That is what I believe in. Ever since it has been going fine.

Talking about how the Music Industry has changed in the last two decades, he said, “It has changed drastically! We went from a very traditional environment to mostly digital, with a little piracy here and there. From cassettes to CDs and now going completely digital – it changed so fast that nobody imagined it was going to change so quickly. Then, of course, the mobile environment made it a survival issue, but now that has also changed. Revenues are not as substantial as before, but luckily, YouTube came to their help, and everybody has been uploading Videos in whatever form. I think the older Music Companies, like Saregama or T-series – when we went to them for licenses for our Music Jukeboxes, most of them expressed that they didn’t have rights to the clips but only the audio and the publishing. So we got the association together, and we will pay only the association – PPL and they would divide the royalties in the manner they deem fit. In return, PPL gave us the license for the Jukeboxes. So it was a legal concept, and after that, the music companies insisted on getting the clip rights also. Hence, they are lucky now because of YouTube helping newer music, mainly (older music you can’t do much).”

Talking about the pros and cons of building a global scale business in India, he said, “I think the internet has opened up doors. You can be in India, you can be anywhere. Once you open your site and have a platform to deliver a product – it’s open to people from all parts of the world. Today we have subscribers from over 60+ countries. Of course, Indians are ported everywhere, and word travels that there is a website called MeraGana, and people have picked up.

Speaking about the role of a derivative product like Karaoke in India and how it would flourish in India, Mr Anand said, “There have been reasons why Karaoke did not grow in India. Sufficient availability of content. Earlier there were audio tracks available with a booklet of the lyrics. It’s okay – you have the music track separately and booklet separately, but there is no combination of the two available in a synchronized video. Even when it was possible, in Japan and other places – they would put it up on the screen, and that was an expensive proposition making it out of reach for most Indians. Our target has been to make it affordable. Make it so cheap that people can use it. We charge 249/- per month for unlimited usage, which is virtually nothing. We have been fortunate to keep our costs under control, and the music companies are also backing us because they also want the industry to grow.

Speaking about their subscription database, he said, “We have a substantial subscriber base, and our market share in the United States is about 16% which is quite significant. We have wanted to do the same in India, but India has problems of its own. The main problem being the Payment Gateway. For payment gateway, you need permission from Reserve Bank of India to do auto-renewals without the consent of the subscriber. So we are trying to get some portals on board for India because in the US we have PayPal and others, but no gateway for debit/credit cards, net banking or other things. We will still take the time, I think. There is a significant chunk of the market we lose out on.

Speaking on other products or services they have built, and it’s contribution towards the Music Industry, he said, “We have also been concentrating on making a Karaoke Hardware make it easy for the Indian user to use. What you really need for Karaoke to work is the instrumental track, the words and your voice. If your voice comes from your microphone, which is attached to the mixer (where the audio track and your voice mixes), along with the effects like Reverb or Echo (to enhance the quality of your vocal), the enjoyment of Karaoke is totally different. We worked very hard and almost a decade ago pushed out our microphone, which after connecting to a phone or a laptop or a TV can help you sing.

Speaking about the process of getting the instrumental tracks ready, he said, “We have a database of 14,000 records – all recreated by our music producers in Mumbai who listen to the song and replicate it piece by piece to make it as enjoyable as possible for our audience to provide them with an authentic experience.

Talking about competition in the sector, he said, “There is competition. Few have received funding as well. But competition is healthy because it keeps you on your toes, and we are still here. So…

After an elaborate demo of the microphone and listening to Mr Anand sing mellifluously to a favourite nostalgic track, it was enlightening to meet this vital Music Business Professional who has helped carve out a Karaoke market in India. 

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