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VC-backed Startup's Internet Radio Service Radiowalla Goes Live In Beta Testing; Also Unveils Social Networking Site

Venturenet Partners Pvt Ltd, a one-year-old startup that operates in-store radio channels, dubbed as SpotRadio, has launched its consumer Internet radio services under the brand Radiowalla. The new service basically offers a variety of special interest, Internet radio channels and is still in beta testing as of now (which basically means it is not fully functional for the public).

The Bangalore-based startup is co-founded by Harvinderjit Bhatia and Anil Srivatsa, who is also the former CEO of Kings XI Punjab (one of the cricket teams of the Indian Premier League) and former COO of Radio Today Broadcasting (Meow 104.8 FM). Early this year, the company secured an undisclosed amount in series A funding from Ojas Ventures Partners and it is already looking for series B funding (mainly because the company exceeded the number of stores targeted for SpotRadio).

Earlier, in an interview with Techcircle.in, Srivatsa had talked about the service, "Radiowalla will launch more than 30 radio stations and we aim to provide our listeners with lots of choice. So there will be a huge breadth of content. There will be music stations, as well as non-music stations. In terms of music, we plan to come up with a lot of variety – from regional music to country, jazz or any other genre."

Last we checked, the site offers Live music rooms- that basically offer music tracks across genres; Talk shows- celebrity talk shows with live call-ins; and On demand- that will offer voice-based programmes on cooking, news, lifestyle, etc. The company has tied up with Saregama and PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd, which is the Copyright Society for sound recordings), among others.

The only way to log in (to use the service) is via a Facebook account, but since the application is currently in beta testing, it has not been activated. Instead, users have to send a separate mail to the company to be a part of beta testing. According to the company, once the service is launched for the public in general, its membership is going to be free for the first three months (while the company loads up all the channels and features). After which it will apply a subscription based model.

As of now, various live music rooms are available for previewing which include Filmy Express- for Bollywood movie tracks; Marathi, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil and Bengali Radiowalla- that offer music tracks in regional languages; and Rock Attack and HIP HOP- for English music, among others. Once a user clicks on any of the rooms, a music player pops up at the left hand bottom corner of the page. Users can change the songs, change the rooms, mute the audio or even minimize the player, but since it is only a preview, the song plays only for a few seconds.

There are also a number of celebrity talk shows with the 'coming soon' tag on the site. Last we checked these included 'The Kiran Bedi show', 'between the sheets with Anil' (basically Anil Srivatsa, the co-founder) and 'Cricketwallah show'.

As far as delivery of the service is concerned, Srivatsa had earlier mentioned that Radiowalla will be available on any broadband-connected device and there will also be apps for enabling cross-platform coverage. And although the service will be initially launched only in India, going forward, the company is also looking to launch it in the USA.

A message on the site reads, "We figured that you can have your own doodhwalla, chaiwalla, dabbawalla... so why not enjoy your own personal Radiowalla?" The website already has 10,000 Facebook likes.

There are a number of free music streaming sites available for users like Saavn, Gaana and Dhingana, among others, but these don't actually provide the radio experience. In these sites users have to individually select songs to listen to them. Some of these sites do offer the option of playlists which allows the user to either form a string of songs as a virtual album or select from existing playlists (like Top 10 songs, artist song collection, etc), but this in turn defeats the purpose.

One peer group product is from Timbre Media. The firm has already rolled out Worldspace Radio on the Vodafone network, where it is following a subscription-based model wherein users need to pay Rs 30 per month with 300 minutes of free usage. But Timbre also has plans to launch Internet radio soon and that would pitch it bang opposite Radiowalla.

Social Networking Twin?

The company has also launched merispace.in, a kind of a closed social network where users can meet, network, chat and share their experiences. This is branded as a Radiowalla Network and there is a link to the separate site from the Internet radio portal.

We tried signing-up for merispace but instead received a message that said, "Your membership to merispace.in is pending approval. Your profile details must be approved by the administrator before you can become a member of merispace.in. You will receive an email once your profile is approved." Probably the site is taking the 'safe and cordial' part a little too seriously.

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