Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Universal Music Group looks to expand footprint in India

Adam Granite, CEO, Africa, Middle East and Asia, on propelling the non-film category, cross-cultural collaborations and driving growth

Naini Thaker
Published: Jun 21, 2024 11:12:50 AM IST
Updated: Jun 21, 2024 11:18:04 AM IST

In India, UMG is looking to acquire companies across the music ecosystem, including labels and catalogues.
Image: ShutterstockIn India, UMG is looking to acquire companies across the music ecosystem, including labels and catalogues. Image: Shutterstock

The Universal Music Group (UMG) recently announced growth strategies for its expansion plans in India. In India, UMG is looking to acquire companies across the music ecosystem, including labels and catalogues. With an artiste-first approach, the multinational music corporation remains one of the few music companies with presence in India that is entirely focussed on the non-film category.

In 2022, UMG’s India business acquired a majority stake in music and entertainment company TM Ventures, which represented some of the biggest talents, including Arijit Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan, Nucleya. In November 2023, the company also announced a strategic partnership with independent talent management company REPRESENT to accelerate opportunities for independent artistes, such as Anuv Jain, Hanita Bhambri, Kayan, Savera, OAFF.

“We are an artiste-focussed company,” says Adam Granite, CEO, Africa, Middle East and Asia (AMEA) at Universal Music Group. Granite has been at the forefront of discovering and nurturing emerging talents, not just in India but at a global scale. During his recent visit to India, he spoke to Forbes India about the supporting Indian artistes, focusing on regionalisation and more. Edited excerpts:

On supporting emerging artists

India has a very healthy and thriving music ecosystem. We are deeply involved in supporting emerging artistes. In fact, we are the only major music company in India that is focussed entirely on the non-film category. Our entire team is focussed on helping artistes create the best content and reach as wide an audience as possible. Our roster of newly-signed artistes in India spans diverse genres and features artistes such as Varun Jain, Tricksingh, Dhanda Nyoliwala, Aditya Rikhari, and Jerry.

On the evolution of the music industry

For the first time, consumers can access music from all over the world—be it an Indian indie artist or K Pop—thanks to streaming platforms. Since there is access to music from all over, consumers are also now open to experimenting and discovering new music. And while there is an intrigue for Indians to engage with Western artistes, much of the global audience is also interested in engaging with the Indian market. They are seeing the growth and development of Indian artistes and the kind of music they are producing.

We have also been engaging in cross-cultural collaborations among artistes. For instance, in 2022 we released this song called ‘Voodoo’ by Badshah, J Balvin, and Tainy. For this song, we were surprised to see massive traction from countries like China and South Korea. In 2021, we released ‘Jalebi Baby’ by Tesher and Jason Derulo. We are likely to see many more such collaborations going forward.

Also read: AR Rahman: From the Oscar in 2009, to musical innovations

On driving growth in this competitive landscape

We have a unique offering in that we are an incredibly artiste-focussed company. We place artistes at the centre of everything we do. Not only do we bring a creative skill set, but as one of the world’s largest music companies, we bring global scale that is unparalleled. And that helps artistes on our roster, evolve and scale globally. The three biggest markets for the Indian diaspora includes the US, UK and Canada—which are predominantly English speaking markets.

On emerging opportunities

India is incredibly diverse with multiple languages, and that requires a very broad strategy with multiple labels and approaches to ensure that all market segments are catered to. We have 11 labels at UMG in India that are targeting various languages such as Haryanvi, Punjabi, Bhojpuri among others. And we will continue expanding across languages. It requires a lot of resources and investment, but it is also incredibly exciting and vibrant. We are always looking for partners to accelerate our growth and expedite our development plans here in India.

Over the next five years, we would like to see India move into our top 10 markets. Over time, it should be in the top five, but that is going to take a lot of market dynamics to shift, especially with regard to the transition from a free to paid model.