California- and India-based Dhingana, a Bollywood and Indian music streaming service, announced today that it has closed $7 million in a Series B round fund led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from previous investors Inventus Capital Partners and Helion Venture Partners. BetaKit covered the company earlier in the summer highlighting its user growth, at that time it had 10 million users, and today it’s at 15 million monthly active visitors and a music catalog of 500,000 songs in 35 languages. The company will use the funding to continue building the user base while building a bigger catalog and adding to their team.
Originally launched in 2007, Dhingana now has users in 220 countries, although 60 percent of its users are in India, and the remaining 40 percent account for the massive South Asian communities spread our around the globe. It offers its music streaming service through an HTML5-powered site, in addition to mobile apps across multiple platforms, including iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android.
“We are going to continue to extend the lead as far as product quality, and then focus on the user growth. In the last 12 months we’ve more than doubled the number of users, all organic, and the speed of growth is picking up at a faster rate,” said Manu Rekhi, a principal at Inventus, and an advisor to Dhingana who is also currently heading the company’s marketing, in an interview. “The team is extremely good at responding to how people are using the product, where they’re using the product, and how to make sure the pain points are addressed.”
Monetization is something the company has been actively developing, and it rolled out an ad platform earlier in August, offering brands and popular Bollywood production studios a variety of ad options and niche targeting. Rekhi said the focus of the company is really to provide native advertising solutions built-in to the user interface to make the overall music listening experience as seamless as possible. It’s also considering other monetization options, including promoted playlists, audio ads akin to Pandora, and a subscription ad-free service it will launch early in 2013.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about how do we make ads that are natural within the usage of the platform. If you have movie studios that are launching new movies and songs that are closely associated, they’re actually really good advertisers. We try not to disrupt the user experience as much as we can, just stay in the background,” Rekhi added.
However, the race to be the go-to platform for Indian and Bollywood music streaming is heating up, but may be offset by the sheer population size of India and the South Asian community. Dhingana goes head-to-head with New York City-based Saavn,which has been called the ‘Spotify of India’ and has partnerships with Google Music India, in addition to being one of Facebook’s OpenGraph partners. Other players in the space include Gaana, Raaga, and GrooveShark, which also offers a sizeable offering of Bollywood and Indian music.
Rekhi said the company has focused mostly on organic marketing to date, so if they put some of this round of funding into user acquisition, and into promoting their ad platform with advertisers, they should be in a good place from both a usage and monetization standpoint. With 900 million mobile subscribers in India and counting, the company is primed to take a piece of that market share, albeit it will have to continue to convince users that the experience beats all the other ways they can get access to Bollywood music.