In Preparation for QuoteUnquote with KK (Kapil Khandelwal) Season 3 (2022), partners with Hubhopper for India cross-platform strategy push

QuoteUnQuote with KK on Hubhopper

India’s leading business podcast QuoteUnquote With KK ( produced by healthcare and investment industry veteran, Kapil Khandelwal of Toro Finserve LLP has partnered with Hubhopper, India’s largest podcast hosting and distribution platform.  The podcast reaches over 200 million listeners world-wide and organises a virtual fireside chat with thought leaders around the world on various current issues and topics across covid pandemic, self-growth, business, economics, investments and socio-politics. The show successfully completed its silver jubilee episode recently.

On partnering with Hubhopper, Kapil Khandelwal, commented “during 2021, with Pandora (not available in India) and some other platforms distributing our Podcast to English, Spanish and other foreign language listeners globally, our split of Indian and foreign listeners skewed from 90:10 in 2020 to 55:45 currently.QuoteUnquote with KK started with the intent to bring ‘outside-in’ perspective to our Indian during the lockdown on what the future holds, given the tremendous uncertainty amongst people, corporate executives and listeners. During 2021, India has demonstrated exemplary leadership in not only managing Covid situation and inoculating over one billion vaccine doses in the quickest possible time. Therefore over the last few months, we had been witnessing a steep rise in our foreign listeners whose interest in India has peaked. Our Season 3, will focus on the India success stories and continue the ‘outside-in’ perspective of the global thought-leaders focussed on India. We also need to address our core co-hort of Indian listeners who have been motivating us all along to produce such content. Moreover, our pilots with Zee5 and Dailyhunt as the first podcast on their platform to deepen our reach to the core Indian listeners has been very positive and successful and validates our cross-platform strategy we implemented for podcasts for the first time in India. Hubhopper partnership builds onto our experience to reach deeper to the heartlands of India and further execute our cross-platform strategy to introduce QuoteUnquote with KK on their platforms”

Gautam Anand Raj, Co-founder, Hubhopper says, “We are on the verge of a new dawn for podcasting in India with both creators and listeners adopting the medium as a staple within their daily routine. We are extremely proud to partner with QuoteUnquote in bringing their content to new ears across the country.”

On the launch occasion, Vani Garg, Associate Executive Producer QuoteUnquote with KK and Founder, Consoul said, “in the mobile first era, OTT transformed the video content distribution on demand with hyper personalisation shifting consumers from Cable/Satellite TV to their mobile phones. We are witnessing the same shifts with the consumers for authentic audio content which was predominantly on our FM Radio to cross platforms and podcasts on apps. Our strategy of distributing the original thought leadership audio content of QuoteUnQuote with KK is paying off. Consumers in India are not still mature for a Subscription Audio on Demand (SAOD) like Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) on OTT and we will continue to monetise our content through Advertising Audio on Demand (AAOD) like Advertising Video on Demand (AVOD) on OTT. We are witnessing a dire shortage of content for AAOD in India. QuoteUnquote with KK has an early mover advantage and a large following of listeners globally. Our partnership with Hubhopper further deepens on our cross platform strategy to reach out maximum Indian listeners on Jio Saavn, Hungama, Gaana, Wynk Music, mobile phone platforms such as Xiaomi Music, Jio Phones – KiaOS wallet platforms such as Paytm, PhonePe and in cab entertainment systems such as Ola Play, to name a few ” 

Season One (2020) and Two (2021) of QuoteUnquote with KK, with all 25 episodes, is now available on Hubhopper platforms.

Article in afaqs!

What Drove QuoteUnQuote With KK to be India’s Leading Business Podcast to the World?

Why this Blog Now?

I was on a call with Padma Bhushan Awardee Dr. Jagdish Sheth earlier this week to wish him on his 58th Wedding Anniversary. He was the keyman and inspiration behind starting QuoteUnquote . I was updating him on the progress of our of the show. He requested me to share this experience for others to learn and figure out. Hence I am posting this blog.

Visit to the Showroom

In 2008, iPod Mini was launched as a very innovative product by Apple. I was at the Ample Showroom at Forum Mall. The sales person showed me the benefits of iPod Mini that apart from songs there was something call talk shows called Podcasts. I bought the iPod Mini and a Bose headphones. The next 2 years before my I lost my iPod Mini from my car, I was introduced to the world of podcasts. There were no Indian Podcasts back then. So most of the Podcasts I heard during my morning and evening walks were from Harvard, Stanford, MIT and other US Universities on leadership and management.   

The Covid Affected CEO’s Self-Motivational Drive and Mental Roadblocks

Fast forward to April this year, the Covid lockdown and crisis created a sort of a mental road block in the minds of circle of CEOs in India and amongst my peer groups who I was talking with. The uncertainty, lack of experience in crisis management of this sort and driving their people and companies out of this was their deep concerns that they expressed to me one-on-one. This also made me think hard and wonder on the road ahead.

The Vehicle Design Template

One of my weekly board calls with Dr. Jagdish Sheth, I openly shared my feelings and empathy towards my peer group with him. That’s when he recommended to organized a virtual webinar for my peer group of CEOs to which he would address to allay their concerns and provide a road ahead given he was in touch with the PM and other folks in the power center in India. We started off with a Virtual Fireside Chat which he would moderate with a few global thought leaders and himself. That was the birth of our vehicle to address the Indian CEO diaspora. The launch date was set and we burnt our bridges with the world and a brave announcement to invite my circle of CEOs to attend this Virtual Fireside Chat free of cost and openly share their fears.   

The Vehicle Proto Type and Test Drive

 While we set about in motion inviting a few panelist for this Virtual Fireside Chat, we did not have a name of the model. In of our brainstorming sessions we called this QuoteUnQuote. While we could get confirmations with a few thought leaders, their calendar availability led to all sorts of logistics and vehicle assembly issues in our garage production shop. Last minute drop out of our key driver Dr. Sheth, made us think we should abbot the launch or defer it. I took the brave decision to be the back up driver and hosted my dear investment industry Dr. Mark Mobious on QuoteUnQuote. 750 industry CEOs and veterans attended the show. WhatsApp messages poured as feedback from them till late night. It may be believe that the test drive was successful based on the results of the direction it set out the roadblocks in the minds of the CEOs.

The Licensing Issues

One of the editors of a leading media house who had attended the QuoteUnQuote published a summary of our talk without any due reference and credit to QuoteUnQuote. This made me furious. Given the media industry’s blatant misuse and misrepresentation, I called up the Managing Editor of Business Standard and worked out a 4-episode deal to publish in their newspaper to further amplify the content from our virtual shows.    

Further Test Drives

While Dr. Sheth was freeing up his calendar, we went on with a few more test drives with the Gallup Chairman, who I had built up friendship since 2004 when he visited India to make an acquisition and start Gallup India. He had to apologize last moment as he was called on a major TV channel in the US to announce President Trumps approval rating. His replacement, Mohammad Younis, the Editor-in-Chief at Gallup filled up the shoes of the Gallup Chairman and the audience expectations. Dr. Jagdish Sheth followed up with his talk which further delighted the audience and built confidence in the CEOs.

The Virtual Vehicle Model Development and Configuration – Autonomous or Automatic or Manual Gear

By June 2020, the starving event management industry and its corporate sponsors had found a way to engage with their target audience virtually and blatant spamming of emails, SMS and WhatsApp on a daily basis for invites started pouring in. The personal time pressures, work demands and virtual webinar fatigue started to set in with my peer CEOs who yet sent out messages through their executive assistants on the next event to block their calendars. We were just not prepared to run our prototype in its current form to compete with the well-oiled big buck event management industry. On the other hand, requests started pouring in from the PR agencies to take their clients on our panel. This was not the intent or the drive with which we had started out. Our vehicle prototype design needed a drastic remodelling and a new drive. Back to the drawing board.

Uber or Ola?

The Indo-China relations escalations and PM’s Atmanirbhar bugle call was the back drop on which we set out for a model redesign. Uber was an American business model in India while Ola (I was an investor in Taxi For Sure seed stage) an Indian business for Indian, let us believe that our core audience was still the Indian diaspora and an Indian Ola-like though-leader with a global unicorn stature would better empathise with our audience in these increasing complex times rather than a foreigner Uber-like global thought leader to give an outside in view and perspective to issues . After several discussions with my CEO friends and those in advertising, PR, digital media, affirmed our belief that a desi podcast show giving the anytime, anywhere, anybody, anyways and anything experience is the way forward and would be available on-demand like the app-based taxi service to our core audience and also extend to the wider secondary audience.

Does Brand KK’s has the Audience Permission and License to Drive?

Our next challenge was who will be the host to anchor the show. Given the preoccupation of our initial star host, we zeroed into some of the celebrity hosts from the TV channels to take the mantle. However, their exclusivity to their TV Channels or other virtual events did not yield us any potential star anchor. The issue boiled down to can KK do it and carry it forward. It made me wonder if I am capable and would the core audience accept me or see it as a platform that would be a bragging of KK. Internally, I had to search what were my bragging rights to qualify for a successful show host if the podcast had to move ahead and the time pressures and demands on me. I had chaired industry bodies forums which has delivered the Biotech Ignition Grant Policy, Agri Reforms, Social Impact and Financial Reforms. After a few calls with my mentors, CEO club buddies, the consensus was that I should anchor and continue with the shows. After a few YouTube videos on podcasting and inputs from Spotify CEO and his team, I finally took the plunge to create the podcast. Now what do we call it?

Vehicle Brand and Launch

After a few creative iterations and ensuring continuity of QuoteUnQuote the consensus was to name the podcast QuoteUnQuote with KK with KK as the anchor host. For any new vehicle launch you need a you need a celebrity to premiere it. Given the Indo-China cross-border escalations at its peak, I called my dear friend Parag Khanna to come for the show which he gladly consented. The podcast show was launched with a huge India and International acceptance. Given the topic Parag carried, the first podcast delivered us over 1 million impressions. However the intent was for Indians by Indians. Here came the next challenge, how to market and go to more Indians?

Setting Up Indian Vehicle Distributors

There are many Indian podcast platforms. We went and tied up with Aawaz and Zee5 for hosting the show. Over the next few episodes the impressions multiplied 100x for each episode. Potential speaker requests and content request feedback started pouring in.

Periodic Maintenance of our Vehicle and Fuel Top-Up

Blessed with a strong analytics team and a Chief Evangalist Officer, our podcast vehicle came into the garage for drive-worthiness and fuel-top up. Every podcast show gave us insights on how the drive has been and what shifts in the gears are required. Armed with all the information and details from the last 10 episodes, our calendar for the next year and the drive for the 2021 was announced to the world and CNBC-TV18.

The Key Take Aways for any New Podcast Vehicle Launch

The dialogue from Dirty Movie, “Films work on 3 things, entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. However, for podcasts, my dialogue is, “Podcasts drive on 3 things, Content, Context and Commentator.”