One of the world’s fastest-growing mobile markets is already a big hub for digital music consumption. Market research firm Juxt-Smart Mandate says that more than 97 million people in urban India listen to music online, mostly via mobile phones. That number represents nearly two-thirds of India’s urban Internet users, and 40 percent of the country’s Internet-connected population.

"Fast proliferation of smartphones and falling data rates have definitely contributed to the growing demand for music streaming on mobile,” Juxt co-founder Mrutyunjay Mishra told Economic Times.

Biggest Adoption On Smallest Devices

While smartphone adoption in India has been robust in recent years, the powerful, Internet-connected devices that make streaming possible remain just a small part of India’s mobile market: There are more than 1 billion mobile phone subscribers in India, with the number projected to top 1.4 billion by 2020, Swedish telecom company Ericsson says.

More of those subscriptions will start to carry data -- and when they do, many customers will already be accustomed to having music available on their phones. Before wireless broadband connectivity became common on the Asian subcontinent, mobile phone owners would get music on their phones in other ways, often by buying digital copies of songs loaded onto their phones’ secure digital (SD) memory cards at shops. Paramdeep Singh, co-founder and executive chairman of Indian streaming music service Saavn, said this gray-market practice remains a $1 billion industry in the country.

Juxt’s research shows that apps and browsers may be starting to replace those corner stores. The study found that a large majority -- 75 percent -- of the consumption happens on mobile devices, and apps have been key to that consumption. “They have been catalyst to the growth,” Juxt co-founder Mrutyunjay Mishra told Economic Times.

Home-Field Advantage

As streaming becomes an increasingly common mode of music consumption, services like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Rdio have begun waging a global war for listeners. India, the world’s second-largest country and third-largest economy, figures to be a key battleground, but it will be one where Western services face an uphill battle against local services.

According to the Juxt research, about 36 million people stream music on their phones via apps. More than 15 million of them use Gaana, and more than 14 million of them use Saavn. The third-leading service, Apple, has just 4 million active users.