228 / September 29, 2023

Why Indians Love Government Jobs: Kuku FM Founder

31 Minutes

228 / September 29, 2023

Why Indians Love Government Jobs: Kuku FM Founder

31 Minutes
Listen on

About the Episode

This week’s episode is an HONEST look at why Indians love government jobs, how Kuku FM is aspirational for Indians & whether Indians are now changing their views on private jobs as we welcome Lal Chand Bisu, founder of Kuku FM, to the Neon Show!

Are Indian Masses Willing To Pay For Subscriptions?

Furthermore, Why Do Tier-3 City Indians Aspire For Government Jobs?


Most Popular Kuku FM Series?

All these captivating topics and more in this DOWN TO EARTH conversation. A real look into the spirit of the man who runs a company that handles over 2 million active subscriptions… Tune in NOW!

Watch all other episodes on The Neon Podcast – Neon

Or view it on our YouTube Channel at The Neon Show – YouTube

3 Lessons Learnt From Lal Chand Bisu | A Newbie’s Perspective


1. Indians are not against paid subscriptions!
Lal was very clear that it is not the basic idea of subscriptions that Lal is against. Rather Indians need to clearly see the value being added in order to make an investment. While Indians behave differently than Western countries, they are still willing to pay for 3 “essential goods”: Education, Status-driven products & Health. Create a product that tackles any of these 3 categories and subscription models can work!
2. The Era of Government Jobs Will Slowly Decline!
With the exponential rise of the internet, aspirations in India have also taken off. The newer generations no longer only have 2-3 paths that they can take. They can invest, become a YouTuber, learn other skills. So rather than going into government jobs like previous generations, they can take other unconventional paths!
3. Lal Chand Bisu shows us the tenacity of Tier-3 City Indians!
On a personal note, the very first thing I noticed about Lal was how down-to-Earth & honest he was. A story of tenacity and hard-will is usually the commonality between many tier-3 city Indians. More often than not, they are looking to solve a problem that 80% of India is facing and therefore don’t pick a niche but rather an essential solution.

Lal Chand Bisu 00:00

This is the wrong perception that Indians don’t pay. The new generation started changing. (SPEAKS HINDI) With internet increasing, people’s aspirations also increased that “I want to make money off of the stock market and become like (Rakesh) Jhujhunwala. I want to be a YouTuber.” Our traditional education doesn’t allow to fulfill all that so that is where we got the idea of starting Kuku FM. It worked very well. Highest engagement… Highest listening time.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:26

(SPEAKING HINDI) In 2012 is when you started your entrepreneurship journey and now after 10 years, everyone knows Kuku FM. However this 10 year journey has been quite unknown for the company so what was the conviction—


Lal Chand Bisu 00:35

(SPEAKING HINDI) I wanted to do something I enjoyed so that was only what I wanted to do. For that if I have to do anything…

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:40

Hi, this is your host Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Today I have with me Lal Chand Bisu, founder of Kuku FM. Kuku FM is India’s largest audio platform with 2 million paid subscribers on its platform. Bisu welcome to the podcast.


Lal Chand Bisu 00:55

Thanks, thanks for inviting me here.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:57

So you are building a very different product, right, which is for the masses in India, tier two, tier three. At one point in time, people said that, you know, masses in India because you know, they are poor, they don’t want to pay for a content-based product. But you proved everybody wrong. And your audience is paying you between 250 to 400 rupees per year annually for the paid subscription of Kuku FM. How does it feel to prove everybody wrong?


Lal Chand Bisu 01:27

(chuckles) I think this is the wrong perception that Indians don’t pay. I am in the startup world from last 10 years. My first company was in education space. So Indians behave a bit different from Western countries. (SPEAKING HINDI) In Western countries you can see individual income, how much they can pay and they will buy this product or not. But in India, you have to see as a family. If this family can afford it or not? Or if you see as a family, then Indians are like very… they spend but they are very particular in their spending. (SPEAKING HINDI) Mostly in three areas they spend even if they have to sell their house or land. One is education. Second is status driven things which could include marriage, dowry or even spending on clothes. Third is health. For health, people are ready to do anything. So India behaves a bit different than other countries and those who actually live here and understands the culture, they know that Indians are not like they will not pay. They will pay but they pay for like… They are very money conscious or value conscious. But yeah, it is not true that they don’t pay at all. Indians actually pay for things if they feel like their is a value added to their lives. So I think Kuku FM also fits very well in like for your aspiration like it is closer to education. And then like connect with your aspiration. We are also like fulfilling people’s experience in India. More than 90% content is in non-fiction side. Personal finances, history biography. Recently we did parenting content. All this content, if you talk to our users, our listeners, all of them want to grow in their life. They want to learn something. If a student is there, then they want to learn more while they’re commuting and travelling. If there is a shop keeper then they want to grow their business. If there is a security guard, they want to learn more. So this is linked to aspiration and aspiration is linked to status. So, yeah, the value connects from your status to aspiration to like then you want to do something.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 03:41

So, how is Kuku FM an aspirational product for the Indian masses?


Lal Chand Bisu 03:46

So, let me tell you the journey of Kuku FM. So, actually, like I started my first company in 2012 just after the college & education space. At that time like while we were working for that product, we used to talk to parents and kids. Most of the time we used to listen that ” I want to make child a doctor, engineer, or they find a government job. In my first startup like in 2015 I got acquired by then I started working in Toppr like I have spent two and a half years there. I was again in that like I was closely observing Indian consumer segment as to how people were behaving. There was interesting trend in 2015 to like 19,20. In the middle the internet grew exponentially because of JIO and with internet adoption, people’s aspirations also grew rapidly. Before we used to only talk about doctors, engineers & government jobs and with internet increasing people’ aspirations grew that “I want to make money off of the stock market and become like (Rakesh) Jhujhunwala. I want to link all my businesses together. I want to be a YouTuber.” So there are many small, small, small things like this and people wanted to become like that. Our traditional education does not help to fulfill that so to satisfy that aspiration, they would need something right? That’s where the idea came that we should start Kuku FM and to fulfill their aspirations, let’s provide the content. Audio fits very well because watching on video means watching on screen and to view it visually you would have to sit and watch it and even in text also, you would have to sit and consume it ideally. When it comes to audio… Audio is something that gives you physical freedom. That’s the beauty of the audio. So we started in audio and we started creating this content.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 05:32

(SPEAKING HINDI) So how much content is there in Kuku FM?


Lal Chand Bisu 05:34

So more than 90% content is in non- fiction side. So if I split in the genres: personal finance, history, biography, self-help, motivation. Recently we added parenting content also. So all this content is like aspirational. 10 years ago we aren’t even able to imagine that people would consume parenting content. Today, things have moved forward so rapidly that parents want to know how they can be a better parent, they believe they should know more about what their child goes through. So for that type of content, people are paying for Kuku FM subscriptions. So that’s the change actually like before 2010 was a different India. Today, everyone keeps different aspirations. These are the kinds of contents that people consume over the platform. There is some fiction also if you’re in the mood to consume some fiction but that is like more real life content but even in that also we try to add aspirational content.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:33

(SPEAKING HINDI) You’ve mentioned this previously that most of the content in Kuku FM is series-based content because India has been a TV-consuming country and that works best in fiction. The mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law based serials. How did you convert non-fiction content into a series?


Lal Chand Bisu 06:49

So when we started Kuku FM, we started with podcast. Many people get confused that podcasts are audio, but it’s not just audio as it is very vast and there are multiple big verticals.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 07:00

Like which ones?


Lal Chand Bisu 07:00

(SPEAKING HINDI) Music is one of them. Podcasts are one of them. Then audio books, courses then you can (inaudible) religion. There are multiple big verticals. So we started with a podcast. The podcast is a captioned content format, long form captioned content format. Maybe this episode you speak about Kuku FM and then the next episode could be about Unacademy, or an education company. The third episode could be about a SaaS company. These episodes are not linked to each other. So in India we started with podcasts but within three months we realized that people don’t listen to podcasts at all. Even after listening to one episode, they will not tune in to the second one because it is not linked so we saw a big drop in views. Within three months, we realized that this is not working. Then in second iteration, we actually did this UGC content like Twitter for audio like you can say where anybody can upload content and anybody can consume it. Very bite sized content which is about three to four minutes long but even that didn’t work. However, we learnt a big thing that low quality content in audio won’t work at all. Like in video we might consume low-quality content on YouTube but in case of audios, you are using only one of your senses so if there is a little bit noise then you will get irritated and you will leave the content so that was a big learning. In the third iteration, we started long form series content and actually we connected this with soap operas that if people are consuming fiction in soap operas then it might be a habit for them. Discovery of the content can be difficult so they would still consume the content even if it is 500-1000 episodes long as long as they don’t have to repeatedly discover the content. So on that concept actually started this long-form series content in non-fiction side and it worked very well. Highest engagement & highest listening time. So from that we connected that India is like totally different where discovery is a problem but once you cross that barrier then no matter how big the content is then they will consume it.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 07:09

So how do you connect two episodes together in the non-fiction format?


Lal Chand Bisu 09:03

We have this long form series episodic content and every episode is 10 to 15 minute and it is one type of content. It is linked to each other. So each episode will be 10-15 minutes and every episode after that will also be around the same timing. So if you discover it one day then you can watch 5-7 episodes in one go then do that regularly on a regular basis. Consuming one content could take about 2-3 weeks and during these two to three week you also discover other content also. So if you stumble upon another series that interests you then you will finish the previous content and go on to the next one.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 09:32

(SPEAKING HINDI) Tell us a bit more about your best performing series.


Lal Chand Bisu 09:34

In Kuku FM, the most content that gets consumed is in personal finance. Our first winning series was also in personal finance and after that we started this biography section. People started listening to it and biographies is also closer to the personal finance content as we started with mostly these businessmen biographies, but then we started getting outside businesses and that worked really as well. Third one is the motivation topic.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia 10:06

(SPEAKING HINDI) And your background, right, is from Sikar, Rajasthan and your family is about 30 km away from Sikar where the main livelihood would be farming. So for you, government jobs would have been ideal path for your to be the earning person in the family so you chose a very different type of path which is also unconventional. You started your entrepreneurship journey in 2012 and so after 10 years everybody knows Kuku FM but these last 10 years have been quite unknown. So where did conviction come from that you wanted to go down this path as you were good in studies as well with entering IIT Jodhpur?


Lal Chand Bisu 10:53

(SPEAKING HINDI) Yeah… So if I start from my village… So yeah I am from a small village in secret town that is in Rajasthan. Where the farming used to happen, was where we used to stay. So my schooling happened in the village until 10th grade. So, in villages you end up staying in a bubble and I remember that until 9th-10th grade I had no gone outside of the village at all. So mostly my life was there only. So like in in initial days that is true that most of the parents or older generation believed that government job was best option with the idea that if you studied properly and got a government job then your life would be set. So if I remember my initial days, I would remember that what my motivations were also… As nobody thought differently than the rest fo the people living in villages, I remember even I was planning to go into a government job. Initially i wanted to go into the army then I was thinking of becoming a teacher. All this changed when I started loving science. While I was like in class seventh-eighth, I recognized that going into science could prove to be very costly and that arts or commerce would be a cheaper option. Our family was also like they wouldn’t spend lots of money to send you to Kota or other education centres but I started getting so much into education that I wanted to really study and go into science. My angle was that if nothing came out of it then I would go into becoming a teacher. In 10th grade I scored well and got somewhere close to top of the class then people started coming to help. So the headmaster of my school also came to help saying that I will send you to the city and sponsor your education if you want to go into science. So he sent me to a good school and I took maths and science there. So my journey went there and then in mid 11th grade I learnt about IIT class and JEE exams and how it was one of the most difficult exams to take. When it’s touted to be one of the most difficult exams then you start to get curious also about what this exam is like. Then I started talking to other students and some of them were doing coaching classes outside as well. I started taking their material and got a keen interest in it and found it to be amazing and something next level. So I started preparing for JEE and brought some books for it. I didn’t go into any coaching classes but brought the books and with this interest, I got selected into JEE as well. Then I went to IIT Jodhpur and in there it was a different atmosphere there as you meet some of the smartest people in India there. There my interest in studying went away. I suppose it happens with a lot of me but it happened with me as well. From there, I started reading a lot of books still and started off with biographies and slowly slowly I started like I started getting this idea that entrepreneurship is also an option where I can start my own company. Most of the atmosphere in college is that you’re getting ready to go into jobs and you have an idea of what kind of job you want to go into. However, after reading the biographies, I realised that I wanted to do something big. Upon learning about entrepreneurship I realised that ou can start your own company as well in the internet era, it’s even easier. You can connect from my journey that I’ve always been in the education system so I had no exposure outside of it. I started thinking of ideas but outside of education I couldn’t think of any ideas. So I started thinking that from my initial journey that the biggest problem I’ve faced is the quality of education itself. Only two students came out of the village if I look back as well. The after that, coming out of 12th only around 4 people from that school had gone on to do colleges. Then when you go to college, there’s an entirely different transition. I had a language transition as well. In my village, I used to speak in Marwadi dialect. Then when I came to the city, I had to start speaking in hindi. Then once I went to college, everything was in English so these transitions were also there. However, when I switched to English, I recognized that many aspects of life are happening in English itself. All the knowledge that matters is existing in English. All the knowledge we learnt in Hindi was simply translated from other educational books that were originally in English.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 10:59

Some of the world’s best knowledge is actually in English.


Lal Chand Bisu 12:31

Yeah in English exactly. So I started exploring ideas in this domain about how to solve the quality problem that existed in education where people aren’t able to receive good education and I can solve this problem through internet because you can control the content distribution. You can provide the best quality content to a wide range of people. So I started my first company just after the college because of how spirited I was feeling after reading the biographies, etc. and at the same time I think in the startup ecosystem also started like Flipkart came as well. So I started reading news about Flipkart that wow it’s become such a big company. If we needed to order the books, then we could do it from Flipkart. We started using Facebook as well around 2009. So when you’re in college then you start discussing these ideas and reading about how all these companies were once small and then became what they are today and we are actually using their products which gave us such a thrill that they are making a mass impact on society. That’s how I also decided that I want to make a big impact and that’s the spirit I started my company with. I started with a test prep platform thinking that we should start with 11th-12th standard student. So I was from the first batch of IIT Jodhpur and so I had no seniors a well because we were the first to graduate. approved the first batch of it for like Morocco senior data MRP or I got that thrilled to start the company I was the only one who started the company can see the start date. Yeah, so like, there was no one to mentor me so zero knowledge about a startup. I just knew a problem and what its solution could be but nothing other than that. So I created a website and started talking to schools and talking to them would cause a lot of friction because getting to the decision maker was quite difficult. We would get sent from one faction of the staff to another and so it was an interesting journey. I learned a lot and in 2015 I got offer from Toppr that let’s work together as our goals are similar. At that point they had raised funding, but only then did I realise that funding also needs to be raised (chuckles). So I got some feeling that something was missing so let’s work together. This entrepreneur journey has been long and started from a while back as I was always curious and wanted to do something thrilling and big.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 19:30

But where did this instinct to do something different come from?


Lal Chand Bisu 19:32

I will say that it’s been there right from the start. If I will talk about my village journey and my education that happened there, even as I wanted to do science, I knew that the future in it was not very visible—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 19:51

All must have say that do arts and then take up a government job—


Lal Chand Bisu 19:54

People said that I should take up arts as later I wouldn’t be able to study at all because of how expensive it was. My own family members were worried about how we could pull this off, but in 10th grade, I had that feeling that I want to study in this as I got good marks so I convinced my teachers that I want to go down this path. It was stubbornness for sure but I convinced my director as well that I want to do this and please send me to the city and please sponsor it because my family and I could not afford it. Then in 11th and 12th grade after the free education, I worked really hard and knowing JEE was the most tough exam, I got a thrill thinking I must go in this path only. I fight till the last mile if I really like and want to do something. In college also I got that belief that startups are something that could affect the masses and my family background is also such that I wanted to do something that could affect the whole society. Even though it was risky since everyone else was doing jobs risky but I calculated the risk believing that I could get the job if I really needed to and it wasn’t going anywhere. That’s how I finally decided that I wanted to go in the startup ecosystem.


Lal Chand Bisu 18:05

If you’re able to remember, what was the family income in your household when you decided to do 11th and 12th grade?


Lal Chand Bisu 20:57

So in farming, there are two season in Rajasthan and this isn’t a government job so it is not a fixed income. But if I do calculate then mostly about equal of running the household and spending a small amount on education, around 5-10 thousand. That’s why the family was unsure about going into sciences as it would cost a lot more.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 21:54

Why do you think that in villages, such as yours, getting a government job is the highest aspiration?


Lal Chand Bisu 22:02

(SPEAKING HINDI) So I will say one is safety. People want to feel safe knowing that if they get a job then there should be no risk involved. Hence, if they do land a government job, then they think they don’t have to worry about anything. Actually those who secure government jobs usually stay there for the rest of their lives as they are not able to grow at all because they are always in that mindset that getting a government job is the main aim and after getting it their lives are set. But I think the thinking fundamentally comes from there that you want your kid to be in a safer zone and therefore parents double down on getting a government job and staying close to them.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 22:47

I believe this mindset still exists in at least 20-30 million crore families?


Lal Chand Bisu 22:53

True. I think North belt is completely believes that a government job is a must and we must look to achieve it. When I was in college then I started thinking about how government job or like a private job… Private job is much much better than government jobs like and first time I realized that in 90% of government jobs you don’t have access or are able to sit for about 5 hours because of how bad it is. Take any government job offices and this is the case. If you take private jobs for example, your scope for growth is also so much higher. Like you always try to learn something and always want to do something. you’re also consistently amongst the smartest people while in government jobs your mind gets stuck in one place as well. In first year only I decided that I don’t want to go the route of government jobs. While the idea for entrepreneurship came later, I had already decided that I didn’t want to be on that side where there are intellectual people. Those who are going on the side of growth and doing something or the other to grow.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 24:02

In today’s day and age where parents are able to see how much private jobs are paying, how come they still want their children to go into government sector?


Lal Chand Bisu 24:15

So actually the number of successful examples are lesser. I will say that in the private sector, those who are living a great lifestyle and earning well then you’re not working with them as per say because you are mostly in tier 1 cities.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 24:23

But they are able to travel and meet you right… your relatives?


Lal Chand Bisu 24:24

Rarely they are able to meet. My parents haven’t come even once even though it’s been 10 years since I’ve gone down this journey. Additionally, if you secure a government job then most of the time i notice that they are getting them close ot their house so they are spending a lot of their time at home only and that is also a social circle because once you get the job, people start treating you with a different level of respect—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 25:09

Let’s go into the ‘Why’ of this as well because in India, entrepreneurship has become slightly more fashionable and you also mentioned how your family did not have more than 10,000 rupees as a budge to spend on your studies and now you’re running the livelihood of 2 countries. So I wanted to know how this safety net became so big.


Lal Chand Bisu 25:33

So I think, to understand this better we would have to back a few generation. Most of them are farmers. Then our parents come and about 70% of the people in that village are farmers. There is not much difference between that generation and this one. They would also farm, get married in that same village and even find a village girl for himself. This is the first time in India that education is being taught on such a mass level then people started going outside but now they need their kids to be similar like how I saw about my parents that I took care of them. In India, children are like insurance for parents and they expect them to take care of them once parents retire and so if they treat their children with extra affection they believe the child will also one day hopefully return the favour. Now the new generation in India believes that since they are educated, they can take next step. This is where it becomes hard matching the parents’ expectation as to how they can stay close to them but also show them how well he/she’s doing on their education. So this is where the government job comes into play. Now the new generation in India believes that since they are educated, they can take next step. This is where it becomes hard matching the parents’ expectation as to how the. Next step is that all of them now get educated and it’s now on the internet as well. After this your aspiration never decreases as you have seen other methods of success and a better life. Till that point they had only been seeing a government job that involved being a doctor, engineer and knew of no other paths than this. But with Internet now you started thinking… The new generation started thinking that they could do so much more. Such as being YouTuber, invest in the stock market, etc. So our generation and the new generation after us is growing rapidly. Now over the time, I think it is changing in India. The safer side logic is coming from the idea that the previous generation took care of their parents so this generation should as well, but on top of all that they should also be working hard to secure a government job, etc. because they have been educated. It comes to government job and now government jobs are a status symbol. That comes again from the point that aspirations come from there. With internet, all this is slowly changing.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 27:58

(SPEAKING HINDI) So let’s say when relatives, and friends from back in the village listen to the podcasts, do you think they believe that some change has been brought about and that the new generation does not need to be pushed towards government jobs?


Lal Chand Bisu 28:17

I think parents have still not changed as much but the new generation has started changing like now some want to be YouTubers, some want to be instagram celebrities, some want to invest in stocks or some want to become businessman. So whenever I go back, kids understand what I’m doing so some people come to meet and ask how it’s operated—


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 28:34

So you go back to the village once in awhile?


Lal Chand Bisu 28:36

Yeah I go back once every 2-3 months. So some people come to understand how it works and they know what I’m working in but the parents’ generation still doesn’t understand what it is I do.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:03

They probably think you are doing radio work (chuckles).


Lal Chand Bisu 29:10

Yeah something like radio work but the new generation is much aware so that is changing but with parents that problem is still there.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:17

So what do you think you’ll have to do that in the eyes of your parents, they will believe that you did the right thing by not choosing a government job and you’re on the right path?


Lal Chand Bisu 29:28

For that I would have to leave this and go find a government job! (chuckles) So that they believe that I did the right thing haha.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:32

So in my opinion this generation has an option. You have an option. I have an option and so does my wife Nansi. Having the ability to change the lives of village kids through entrepreneurship, which is a very rare opportunity I think.

Lal Chand Bisu 29:47

Yeah, so like I am doing through my product. So like, that is my vision that I want to impact hundreds of million lives in good way. That was my vision with education . With this company I have the same vision that I impact the lives of 100s of millions of people. If some village kid listens to a good podcast maybe of a biography, which does not necessarily have to be Kuku FM’s. It could also be Tata’s biography would be great. This would be work for me as well and I want to do that so that they can consume that content and they can aspire that they also can become like that.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 30:25

Thank you so much that you shared all of this so honestly from your heart.


Lal Chand Bisu 30:29

Thank you so much for inviting me.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 30:31

And I think Kuku FM’s growth represents the new India’s growth as well. It represents an aspiration.


Lal Chand Bisu 30:37

Yeah, that’s our goal. So our plan is to cross 10 million paid users by next year and then 50 million by 2025. Thank you for inviting me.

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