Music has been a part of our culture since the dawn of time. And, throughout its rich cultural history, India has produced a plethora of musical luminaries. However, as the years have passed and the times have changed, so has the music. But one thing remains constant: people love and enjoy music.
Now, fast forward to the present… Music has flourished in India in ways that no one could have predicted, from yesteryear’s music gurus to YouTube stars to people displaying their talent on Instagram’s reels today, a paradigm shift has occurred over the last two decades.
At the same time, the country’s music industry is flourishing. While music and music education careers have grown in popularity among India’s rapidly growing young population. Even Indian families, which once considered music to be a taboo, are now encouraging their children to defy the status quo and pursue rewarding alternative career paths.
As a result, the business side of music education is at an all-time high, with a large number of music schools in operation. In addition to that, people’s growing preference for the creative fields has resulted in a greater demand for qualified and experienced teachers. With music education at the forefront of the EdTech revolution, Internet penetration has fuelled this demand even more. Technological advancements in the last decade, such as high-quality video conferencing, digital whiteboarding, and file-sharing, have facilitated this adoption by both teachers and students.
Nonetheless, despite all the advancement and the increase in demand, a lack of qualified instructors for various music genres and even for instruments is a setback. Finding the right teacher is even more stressful. The lockdowns have only revealed the gaps in this segment.
After identifying this gap as an opportunity for a business platform, in the midst of the pandemic, Hyderabad based businessman Dr. Lakshminarayana Yeluri founded Muzigal.
“It’s a unique platform that democratises music learning by connecting music teachers with music learners,”
remarks Yeluri while speaking to SME Futures.
Founded last summer in July, the start-up connects 400 teachers to over 10,000 active learners and has clocked up over 40,000 learning hours. “Muzigal is offering on-demand live classes to provide a seamless, customised learning experience. At present, there is no other platform that offers the value proposition of customised on-demand learning,” says Yeluri.
So far, the platform has been well received, and its revenue is now growing at a rate of 20 per cent month on month.
Muzigal is a solution to the parents’ search
Online music lessons are not a new idea. They’ve been around for more than a decade. Some websites and apps, such as hobby class aggregators and online EdTech platforms such as Byju’s, also provide music instruction. However, there was a scarcity of specialised online music learning platforms. In addition, the pandemic hastened the adoption of online classes. With this, Muzigal became the first exclusive player to organise this segment.
It was Yeluri’s love of music, as well as his own personal experiences as a parent, that inspired him to create Muzigal. It was a eureka moment for him, in his own words.
“I’m a music aficionado, and I struggled to find suitable music teachers for my children during the pandemic. With the world shifting to the online mode of education, I noticed a large, underutilised pool of teaching talent which could fulfil the aspirations of music learners. It was a eureka moment for me, and I decided to create a digital platform to connect willing and enthusiastic learners with talented teachers,” he says.
Ups and downs of the digital avatar
With 20 years of entrepreneurship experience, Yeluri knew that Muzigal’s journey too would have its fair share of challenges. “We planned a growth-oriented journey with a long-term sustainable vision in 2020. But the ‘digital turn’ in the music education industry is still challenging,” said Yeluri.
As the founder of a unique start-up, Yeluri faced challenges at various levels.
For starters, there is a reluctance to adopt online learning. Conditioned to living in the digital world, we often assume that others too would be as comfortable in doing everything online as we are. But what seemed to be an easy task initially, wasn’t.
Yeluri says, “There appeared to be a lack of understanding about virtual classrooms, as opposed to instructor-led learning in a physical environment. However, the industry is well aware of such new learning-teaching possibilities. But initially, it was a challenge to familiarise both teachers and students with online music learning.”
To solve this issue, the Muzigal team worked on finetuning their Teacher Onboarding Team, and they also provided technical and non-technical support to the user groups.
The next very common challenge for any EdTech platform is the ineffective management of teachers. According to Yeluri this is due to poor connectivity which is still a major issue regarding online learning for many Indians.
Yeluri, commenting on this particular issue opines, “Communication is a fundamental issue for online learning, as music teachers in remote sites may face technical problems, or they might not be adequately responding to student needs effectively. Therefore, this causes challenges not only for instruction but for the management of music teachers as well.”
Yeluri further tells us that the Muzigal team also faced connectivity challenges. “Particularly when the teachers or students have unstable internet connections and inadequate camera setups. However, we have a proficient and dedicated team that has worked day and night to circumvent these roadblocks with knowledge-sharing sessions and one-on-one technical support,” he avers.
Moving on, Muzigal’s intention is to be a comprehensive platform for music learners without sacrificing educational quality, which appears to be lacking in the other learning platforms. The intention to maximise profits at the expense of educational quality, is another challenge. “The reason for launching an online degree programme is typically associated with the mass reach and engagement it gives. However, as the online platform promises low overhead costs, it is sometimes seen as a medium to earn steady money while compromising the quality of learning,” he explains.
At present, there is no other platform that offers the value proposition of customised on-demand learning. Muzigal is just a start and is working to mitigate these challenges. “Online music lessons have enabled access to quality music education for a broad set of learners from all over the country. Previously, top-notch music schools and qualified and experienced teachers were accessible only in the metros and large cities. Now with Muzigal, students can seek quality music education that was previously out of reach for them,” assert Yeluri.
At the same time, Yeluri’s initiative to bring music teachers together on one platform is providing jobs to those music educators who may have struggled during the lockdowns and were having a difficult time due to being out of work.
Muzigal at work
“I established Muzigal to build a community-led platform for music learners and professionals,” claims Yeluri whose passion has resulted in engendering Muzigal’s extraordinary journey. But this isn’t the first time that Yeluri has followed his dreams.
Besides being an ardent music lover, Yeluri was a meticulous dentistry student, but his heart was not in the medical field. Yeluri sheds some light on his early days and tells us how he got into his other passion that is entrepreneurship. “I studied dentistry, but I soon realised that management and entrepreneurship were my true calling. I have over 20 years of experience in starting and scaling up businesses, including the Studio 11 salon and spas, where we scaled up to over 150 salons within six years,” he says.
Besides Yeluri, currently the Muzigal team consists of three other prominent members who are looking at the core functions of this start-up. Sagar Bhutada, who has eight years of experience in leadership roles across sales, operations and finance acts as the head of operations at Muzigal. Next in the management team is Sameer Joshi. He handles all things related to technology and has seven years of experience in managing a 360-degree digital enablement company. Then there is Phani Priya, who is a scientist-turned-entrepreneur and oversees Muzigal’s US operations.
Music across borders
In general, only the crème de la crème, or 1 to 2 per cent of musicians, go on to have a successful musical career. Muzigal offers Carnatic, Hindustani, and Western music vocal classes to help raise this rate. Students can also learn to play a variety of instruments. Guitar, piano, sitar, keyboard, and violin, among many others, are in high demand right now.
Initially Muzigal’s presence was restrained to India, but recently the start-up has expanded its operations in the US also, to onboard foreign music talent as well. “It’s one of the recent milestones that we have achieved in our journey. We are now onboarding US-based teachers on Muzigal so that students can choose from a diverse cohort. The idea is to make a variety of music lessons available for everyone, anytime and anywhere,” Yeluri tells us.
While they take a percentage of the revenue that the teachers earn on their platform.
On the app, anyone can sign up for free and can start taking free trials from registered teachers across geographies. “As the classes are self-timed, there is no restraint of geography, time schedules or availability,” informs Yeluri.
The platform provides live lessons on demand and also prepares students for various certification courses such as Trinity, Rock School, or the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM).
Muzigal’s journey ahead
For its future roadmap, the start-up has some big plans lined up. One of them is to empower more than 20,000 music teachers in the next four years. “Now that we have a teacher base beyond the Indian sub-continent, looking back at our journey, we realise that it has been an exhilarating one! We aim to be the one app for the 20,000 music teachers and one million music learners,” says Yeluri.
Besides that, Muzigal has also raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Kalaari Capital in February 2021, which has assisted the company a lot in its operations. “Since then, it has shown 4X revenue growth, with a 6X increase in the active users of the platform. Overall, the response has been good,” comments Yeluri.
According to him, the total offline music learning market is around $500 million in India, and Muzigal is establishing its leadership in the online segment of this market. He says, “We always knew that there is immense potential in online music learning, which was largely unorganised.”
Going ahead, the company’s plans include building a full-stack super app for everything related to music. Whether it’s standardised lessons or experiential learning, Muzigal will be the go-to destination for music aficionados, asserts Yeluri.
Muzigal’s team has ambitious plans to expand its presence in other continents, in addition to India and the United States. Just as we come to a close, Yeluri says, “We want to expand to other geographies. We currently have a presence in India and the US. We also intend to expand into Australia, the Middle East and East Asia.”