“There is a key problem plaguing India today: Absence of a system to enable young, upcoming Indian art musicians to become professional artists. In India’s growth story, there has been very little focus on developing the creative industries.” – Sriram Emani, Co- Founder, IndianRaga
Team Startoholics was privileged to meet Sriram Emani, Co-founder of IndianRaga, who believes every musician is an entrepreneur and the concept of Art-preneurship is being pioneered.
What follows is an IITian’s journey from being the co-president of India’s largest student festival; Mood Indigo to having co- founded a start-up that aims to democratize Indian music through technology i.e. IndianRaga.
This start-up has encouraged many lovers of Indian music to confirm their beliefs of it being one of the purest forms of sound that can break the barriers of caste, race, religions or countries and bring together people with similar interests and create magic with their music.
Could you shed some light on your life before IndianRaga? What motivated this start-up?
After graduating from IIT Bombay, I was working in strategy consulting and was in New York City for 6 months, when I was exposed to the vibrant cultural environment of the city, and inspired to pursue my passion for arts and entertainment on a full-time basis. So I returned to India and started the marketing and business development team at the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai. After that I joined MIT Sloan for my MBA, and over the past two years worked with the President of Lincoln Center as a Strategy Fellow, and with the Global Digital Business team at Sony Music Entertainment in NYC.
IndianRaga was inspired by a combination of all these experiences that highlighted to me the need for a platform that connects musicians with opportunities. Previously reserved for established artists, today internet and digital media have democratized opportunities for younger artists. At the same time, amidst the deluge of content flooding the internet today, brands and curated experiences are more important than ever.
Hence IndianRaga seeks to be a brand that stands for excellence while using technology to maximize the opportunities for talented musicians.
Tell us something about your first step towards IndianRaga. Did you receive any funding from angel investors?
IndianRaga was kick-started by us winning the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge 2012 (Community Choice Award) where we were the only arts-related venture amongst 37 finalists, and had the maximum votes from across the world. It made us realize how strongly the need for such a platform was felt, and motivated us to launch with the prize money. Later we also won the US Creative Business Cup 2012. We have supported ourselves thus far through a combination of prize money, sponsorship support, and funding from family and friends.
IndianRaga is looking to raise a seed-round of funding to support our next phase of development, and are looking for investors who share a passion and vision for this space. The music-tech and digital music education space, especially in Silicon Valley, is expanding right now, and we are looking for the right mentors and investors in India and USA to help us take the next step in IndianRaga’s growth.
What challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey? What has been the toughest decision you had to make lately, if any?
The lack of data on the arts industry, and forums to reach out to our audiences in a targeted way are some of the challenges. But an interesting challenge for us has been, and continues to be is deciding if we should only connect musicians and opportunities, or if we should take an additional step of also creating opportunities.
The demand and potential for creating professional opportunities through curated festivals, music production, and arts education is high, and it was a tough decision to decide to stay focused on being a scalable tech platform that connects with existing opportunities. As a startup we are limited by resources but never by possibility and willingness!
‘A unique venture to promote young, dynamic leaders and innovators in Indian music’- To what extent do you think you have achieved it? In other words, how would you rate your own venture?
IndianRaga recently co-presented a major festival of Indian classical music and dance in New York City and that further expanded our base of connections. We have also received very positive feedback since our launch, and we keep interacting with musicians, labels, managers, audiences and teachers on an ongoing basis. However, we do have a long way to go, and I think it is too early for us to rate ourselves. We are at a stage where we are putting together a spectrum of opportunities for young musicians to see which ones are the most meaningful, and we have been successful at launching some very unique projects on that front including our most recent music video release. However, as our base of musicians and opportunities expands, it would be interesting to see how we can create a movement and sustain it.
What more do you wish to include to take IndianRaga to the next level?
We wish to include tech features on our artist profiles that enable them to create a global audience base and engage with them on an ongoing basis. In addition, we wish to partner with as many opportunities from across the world as possible to offer to the musicians on our platform, which needs a strong focus on business development and partnerships.
Once we are successful with music, we wish to expand to other genres such as dance, theatre, cinema and visual arts to make IndianRaga a one-stop destination for the Indian creative industry.
What one piece of advice would you like to give to the soon to-be startup founders?
My advice to soon-to-be startup founders would be to never hesitate to openly discuss your idea with as many people as possible.
IndianRaga benefited from the constant engagement we had with different groups of people, and the feedback and insights they shared willingly with us. A lot of this feedback is often cynical, particularly because it takes time for us to clearly translate the vision in our mind into a coherent and understandable description. But it is important to not get discouraged, and to keep using these as opportunities for constructive feedback, and you’ll be amazed to see how your pitch and your own vision starts developing more clarity!
If this story makes you want to receive a dose of some soothing Indian music, here are the links to the newly released music video series by them to create new-age compositions inspired by Indian classical music. The music is composed in traditional Indian classical style, and presented in a modern-day format. These were composed and performed at the 2013 IndianRaga Fellowship in NYC this August. Do check out these links and share your views with us!
Also check out MusicFellas, a social independent music discovery platform for those who take delight in listening to different types of music!