The Google-backed audio content platform Kuku FM has raised $25 million in Series C funding, underscoring the increasing investor interest in digital audio content. The investment will empower Kuku FM to enhance its audio content offerings further, expand its reach in multiple Indian languages, and invest in cutting-edge technology.
With a primary focus on catering to the ‘Bharat 2.0 audience,’ Kuku FM aims to solidify its position in the competitive landscape of audio content platforms.
Led by Nandan Nilekani’s Fundamentum Partnership and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with participation from Vertex Ventures, this funding will empower Kuku FM to enhance its content ecosystem further, expand its offerings in multiple Indian languages, and invest in technology.
With a primary focus on the ‘Bharat 2.0 audience,’ Kuku FM aims to consolidate its position in the South Asian market. “Kuku FM has created a niche category which caters to the unique and rapidly evolving demands of the new digital natives of India,” said Prateek Jain, a Principal at Fundamentum Partnership, in a statement.
“Moreover, Bisu and team have demonstrated a great understanding of creating a business model with a strong focus on unit economics and robust fundamentals,” added Jain.
What is it about?
- Kuku FM offers a wide range of audio content, including book narrations, book summaries, courses, and stories, spanning seven languages and various genres.
- Users can sample all content and unlimited access to the premium offerings comes at a monthly subscription fee of ₹99 or an annual fee of ₹899.
- As of the end of 2022, Kuku FM boasted 2.3 million paying subscribers.
- Educational and inspirational content that can be conveniently consumed on the go has gained the most traction.
- Hindi audiobook rendition of ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ has been streamed an impressive 40 million times.
Kuku FM’s Growth Trajectory
Kuku FM, founded in 2018 by Lal Chand Bisu, Vikas Goyal, and Vinod Kumar Meena, has been growing remarkably.
The platform monetizes its content through paywalled subscriptions for individuals and businesses. It offers diverse audio content spanning various genres, such as business, self-help, personal finance, historical narratives, religion, entertainment, and fitness. Presently, Kuku FM boasts over 2.5 million paid subscribers.
The company’s financial performance has been impressive, with its revenue from operations surging to INR 41.2 crore during FY23 from INR 4.4 crore in FY22.
Notably, subscription services for its content were the sole source of revenue for the firm in the last fiscal year. However, Kuku FM invested significantly in marketing and advertising, with expenses totaling INR 95 crore, resulting in increased losses of INR 116.5 crore during the same period.
“India’s creative industries have the potential to reach diverse populations and unlock income opportunities at scale. Our partnership with Kuku FM aligns with our shared gender and inclusion priorities and aims to empower underrepresented voices, especially those of women, fostering upward mobility and sustainable economic growth,” said Wendy Werner, IFC’s India Country Head.
Kuku FM faces competition from players like Pocket FM, Awaz, Headfone, Pratilipi, and Gaana in the audio content. Pocket FM, for instance, raised $16 million in funding in May, showcasing robust revenue growth and an annualized revenue run rate (ARR) exceeding $25 million by October 2022.
Audio content consumption is rising in India, driven by the widespread availability of affordable smartphones and internet access. As more Indians join the online community, the demand for locally relevant content in their preferred languages surges.
Kuku FM has gained a significant market share due to its unlimited consumption model, charging users a modest 99 Indian rupees for a monthly subscription or 999 Indian rupees for an annual subscription, granting unlimited access to its content.
With this fresh infusion of $25 million, Kuku FM plans to expand its content catalog, focusing on enhancing its educational content offerings. The startup collaborates with over 30,000 professional content creators, ensuring rigorous quality standards.
Kuku FM’s successful Series C funding round underscores India’s growing appeal of digital audio content.
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