A little more than a year ago, Flipkart launched Flyte with more than a million tracks spread across a wide array of genres. The objective was to revolutionize the Indian market by offering high quality, DRM-free music downloads at an affordable price. The recording industry hoped that the digital music store might entice Indian music lovers to give up piracy. Fifteen months on, it’s clear that Flyte didn’t quite live up to the expectations. Flipkart has announced that it will be shuttering the service on June 17, 2013. Purchased music will continue to remain available for download until August 18, 2013.
“We have realized that the music downloads business in India will not reach scale unless several problem areas such as music piracy and easy micro-payments etc. are solved in great depth”, said Mekin Maheshwari, head of digital media and payments at Flipkart. “Which is why, we feel that at present, it makes sense to take a step back from Flyte MP3s and revisit the digital music market opportunity at a later stage.”
Maheshwari’s statement highlights just how deep rooted the problem of music piracy is in India. With dozens of websites offering the latest music releases for free, and local CD-wallahs selling pirated media with hundreds of songs for less than a dollar, most Indians consider purchasing music legally a folly. Flipkart also made its task harder with a crude delivery system. The online music library lacked even the most basic features, and the download manager was stupid enough to drive anyone up the wall. There were also rumors that Flipkart had failed to renew their licensing agreement with the music labels. Flyte had managed to amass almost 100,000 customers during its short existence. So, it’s also possible that stubborn record labels sealed their fate more than music piraacy. Apple recently stepped into the Indian market with the launch of iTunes in India. It’s unknown how well it is faring in India; however, Apple is unlikely to give up so soon.