From Adoption to Kashmir Blackout, Suno India Is Voicing Issues That Matter

A recent addition to the media landscape, podcasts are already a booming industry based on trust and inclusivity. Padma Priya, co-founder of the Indian podcasting platform Suno India, shares insights.

By Manvi Pant

Padma Priya had been a journalist and avid podcast listener for several years before she launched a podcasting platform herself. “The seed was germinated at a time when my husband Rakesh [Kamal], our dear friend Tarun Nirwan and I were all in our respective full-time jobs,” she narrates.

The force behind the platform was a pressing need to have a more authentic and human approach to disseminate information. “We wanted to eliminate all the noise and deep dive into issues that demand attention,” she shares. That’s how Suno India was born in 2018, based in Hyderabad and Delhi.

The trio launched the platform alongside their first and India’s only podcast on adoption, Dear Pari, which transpired from Padma’s and Rakesh’s own journey of having adopted their daughter, Prakruti.

Born and raised in the city of pearls, Hyderabad, Padma spent a significant part of her childhood in Delhi as well. “It was pretty fun with fair share of crushes, heartbreaks, back biting friends,” she jokes. She was 13 when her family moved to Trinidad and Tobago. “I spent a year and a half there. My stay at this beautiful Caribbean island country opened me to different cultures. And Trinidad and Tobago share a historical connection with India. That got me hooked to its history.”

Padma Priya

She shares her own snippets of history about the word podcast. Fifteen years ago, The Guardian writer Ben Hammersley while writing about the audible revolution, coined the word ”podcast”, and since then, this digital audio platform has grown by leaps and bounds.

In India, given the digital penetration, the growth is slated to be exponential. In June this year, PWC projected an upward curve for podcasts in India with listener numbers set to increase 34.5 per cent by 2023.

But why did the team behind Suno India choose this medium? “We did not want to get lost in the wave of YouTube Channels. Today, there are videos of all lengths going down our throats. They feed us information in snippets but don’t capture the nuances. And, given the attention-deficit world we live in, it’s less likely for anyone to watch a one-hour video unless it is a matter of their interest. Hence, we decided to offer a platform that encourages active listening,” she says, highlighting another advantage with audio: anonymity.

“For instance, many of the topics chosen by Suno India are very sensitive. Not everyone wants to put their face to their story and this is where audio helps.” Some of the topics they have covered include climate change, the Kashmir internet blackout, and body shaming.

After having dabbled into audio stories for her previous organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Padma acknowledged the scope podcasts offer in terms of comfort, weaving a narrative or building a story. MSF, which translates to Doctors without Borders is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare.

Team Suno India

Talking of her five-year journey with MSF, Padma says, “I met such incredible and high-spirited people that it kept my hope alive. As journalists, we are always at risk of vicarious trauma, and that can sometimes take a toll on our mental health, but what kept me going was a belief that – as long as there are kind people and people who put humanity first than cast, creed, religion – the world will not fall apart.”

Entrepreneurship is demanding. There are caveats to it that no one talks about, for instance, dealing with failure or balancing professional aspirations and family. Padma agrees, “It’s very challenging but a huge learning experience! It is very recent that we have got great advisers to help us navigate through the start-up space in India.”

A multilingual and multigenerational platform, the team of Suno India aims to scale up the business in the coming years, including creating more content for children of different age groups and in various languages.

Lead image: Rudy and Peter SkitteriansPixabay. First published in eShe’s December 2019 issue

Syndicated to CNBCTV18

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