Indian ecommerce giant Flipkart has formally unveiled its new digital music store Flyte, which was outed last week by a hawkeyed user. Music piracy is rampant in India with an overwhelming majority of downloaded music being illegal. However, much of the blame can also put on the unavailability of affordable and reliable digital music stores. Apple disrupted digital music and entertainment arena around the world with the iTunes store. Unfortunately, Apple’s disdain for the Indian market means that the world’s second most populous country is still an untapped demographic with plenty of raw potential.
Flipkart has already established itself as a clear leader in ecommerce. With the impending arrival of Amazon, it has been getting more and more aggressive. Recently it acquired one of its biggest competitors – LetsBuy. Even before that, it had acquired Mime360 and Chapak’s digital catalogue. Mime360 specialized in hosting streaming music, while Chapak had a catalogue with 40,000 filmographies, 10,000 movies and close to 50,000 ratings.
Digital music business is always a tough nut to crack. Flipkart is entering uncharted waters as most Indians simply aren’t habituated with purchasing music online, or purchasing music at all. The greediness of record labels often complicates things further. However, Flipkart’s dominance and reach offers it a killer advantage that might prove vital in this challenging segment.
To its credit, Flipkart is kicking things off on the right note. All the music in Flipkart’s catalogue is DRM-free (high quality MP3 files) and will work on any device and any operating system. Consumers can download each track a total of four times, and a download manager is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux to facilitate simultaneous downloads. Browsing through the music catalogue is simple and intuitive, and purchasing is easy as credit cards, debit cards, and internet banking is allowed. However, none of this would have mattered if Flipkart hadn’t gotten the pricing right. Thankfully, I think they have succeeded in making music affordable enough for the extremely price-sensitive Indian market. Like iTunes, Flipkart allows purchase of individual tracks, so you only pay for what you want to listen to. New and popular tracks are priced at Rs. 15, while Rs. 6 seems to be the baseline. Flipkart has managed to get a large chunk of Indian music publishers onboard, including biggies like T-Series, Saregama, Tips, Universal India and Sony Music. International record labels that have signed up include Universal, and Sony Music International. EMI is sadly missing. Currently Flipkart’s catalogue features music in English and Hindi, as well as regional languages like Tamil, Telegu, Punjabi, and Bengali.