Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music entertainment, today announced a strategic expansion of its leadership team within India and South Asia, to reinforce its position as the leading music company for non-film music within the region and to accelerate its growth across the original artist, non-film music and hip-hop genres in India and South Asia.
Over the past three years, UMI has led the evolution of the domestic Indian music market with a series of strategic label launches, combined with increased A&R focus in original Indian non-film music and talent. This focus has enabled UMI artists to reach new audiences both locally and globally, whilst expanding the opportunities for non-film talent outside of Bollywood film music, which has traditionally dominated India’s commercial music and airplay charts.
In January 2018, UMI launched VYRL Originals, India’s first dedicated non-film label, which has released more than 40 singles, from a roster of 25 artists including; Mithoon, Asees Kaur, Arjun Kanungo, Lisa Mishra, Tanishk Bagchi, Sukriti & Prakriti Kakkar, Akull Tandon & -Vishal Mishra, establishing the label as India’s premier destination for non-film talent. In November 2019, VYRL Originals single ‘Intezaar’ from Mithoon featuring Arijit Singh & Asees Kaur made history as the first non-film release to top India’s national AirCheck T20 radio airplay charts for three consecutive weeks.
Since the launch of VYRL Originals, UMI has further extended and established the VYRL brand, partnering with broadcast partners Red FM to launch Ricky Singh Ka VYRL Countdown – India’s first character based non-film countdown show across 40 cities in India. This is the first and only weekly primetime show dedicated to non-film music. In addition, UMI launched the VYRL Top 20 Playlist across all digital partner platforms, curated and based on listening patterns and audience preferences from across India.
This was followed last year by the launch of Mass Appeal India, in conjunction with legendary U.S. rapper Nas. Mass Appeal India is the new authentic home for Indian hip-hop, as the genre continues to rapidly grow in popularity throughout the sub-continent. The label’s first signing DIVINE, the godfather of Mumbai’s hip-hop scene, released his debut album Kohinoor to critical and commercial acclaim in October 2019, with several major Indian hip-hop artists, set to debut music in 2020.
Devraj Sanyal, MD & CEO Universal Music India and South Asia, said, “We are truly in a sea change moment for music in India, with an audience that is consuming more music, video and content than ever before. Because of this we have worked hard alongside our partners over the past two years, to build and launch new sub-labels that put artistic creativity and collaboration at the heart of every release, and where artist’s voices and talent can be seen and heard, starting with VYRL Originals and Mass Appeal India and with further exciting initiatives to follow in the coming months.”
Adam Granite, Executive Vice President, Market Development at UMG said, “Devraj and the senior management team in India have done an incredible job opening the door for non-film music to break into the mainstream and reach a new mass audience of fans in India, within the vast Indian diaspora around the world and hopefully beyond. The potential for artist talent and creativity in India is huge and we are excited to support their efforts to bring original Indian music to the world and further establish UMG as the home for non-film music talent and success in the region.”
In order to support these developing labels and further future initiatives, UMI has announced a series of strategic appointments to strengthen its commitment to expanding the horizons for original Indian artist music and content long into the future.
Vinit Thakkar has been promoted from SVP to the newly created position of COO, India and South Asia, effective immediately. In his new role, he will work closely with Devraj Sanyal, MD & CEO Universal Music India and South Asia, to continue to strengthen UMI’s position as a true home for artists in the region. Thakkar will be responsible for driving India’s overall content strategy, strategic initiatives and operational efficiency, to ensure that UMI continues to lead and innovate in this rapidly evolving market. Having joined UMI in 2012, Thakkar has held several senior positions within UMI and was instrumental in the launch of VYRL Originals, alongside acclaimed Bollywood Director Mohit Suri. Prior to joining UMG, Thakkar held positions at Sony Music, Citibank and Titan. Based in Mumbai, he will continue to report to Sanyal.
In addition, Gaurav Chaturvedi has been appointed as VP, Domestic Labels, Universal Music Group India, responsible for leading label activity, strategy and releases for all domestic UMI labels effective immediately. The role will focus on the expansion and development of VYRL Originals alongside several other key label initiatives to be announced in the coming months. Chaturvedi will be based in Mumbai and will report to Thakkar. He joins UMI from Indian Media conglomerate Star India Pvt Ltd where he held the position of Assistant Vice-president Marketing and was responsible for leading marketing strategy and activation for their Star Sports network across all major sports verticals; Cricket, Kabaddi & Football to the channel’s global audience. Prior to joining Star India in 2013, he held senior marketing positions at Sony Music Entertainment India and Zee Entertainment.
To further enhance UMI’s capabilities across brand partnerships and artist campaigns, Pranav Thakker has been appointed as General Manager, New Business Development at Universal Music Group Brands (UMGB) for India and South Asia. An experienced branding executive within the region, Pranav previously worked at TVF (The Viral Fever), Big FM and DNA (Zee Media Ltd) and will report to Preeti Nayyar, Vice President, New Business Development, India & South Asia. In recent years, UMI has achieved great success in this field, successfully launching The Sterling Reserve Music Project in partnership with Allied Blenders & Distillers to incubate unique local Indian talent, that has helped unearth and release several breakthrough artists through its channels, as well as award winning campaigns with Aloft Hotels, OK Cupid, HDFC Life Insurance & Levis.
Sanyal and the UMI management team will continue to work closely alongside Adam Granite to identify further opportunities for UMI artists to reach new audiences and fans around the world, utilizing UMG’s unrivalled global network of industry leading businesses spanning more than 60 countries worldwide.
Vinit Thakkar said, “This is an exciting time for Indian artists and music, and we are looking forward to further expanding the horizons of what is possible to achieve with VYRL Originals and our other domestic labels. I am very proud that our efforts have resulted in creating a culture and category of non-film music in India. I am very excited about my new role whereby alongside Devraj, I will be responsible for driving UMG’s strategic expansion in the region.”
Announcing the changes, Sanyal said, “I am thrilled to announce these strategic appointments, as we look to marry our ambition to increase the scale and reach of original music in India and our continued focus and commitment to domestic A&R, with real action to help revolutionize the listening experience for Indian music fans. Under Vinit’s guidance, VYRL Originals has become the blueprint for non-film music success in India, and I look forward to working closely together with him in his new role to achieve further innovation and success. The addition of Gaurav and Pranav to our senior management team will help expand the boundaries of commercial success for our recording artists, label teams and amplify the opportunities for local and international artists to reach new fans, both here in India, and also around the world.”