The Maldives is a small island nation with only a population of approximately 420,000 people. In contrast, the population of Colombo alone was over 2 million people in 2012. Yet, this tiny island nation has an active music industry with many talented musicians. However, due to the market being so tiny, musicians can only earn an income by playing live gigs or creating soundtracks. But one startup aims to disrupt and change the music industry of this tiny island nation. Say hello to Lavafoshi.
The roots of Lavafoshi lie inside another Maldivian startup called Kodefly. Born in 2011, Kodefly is a boutique design & development studio in the Maldives. The startup was founded by two young entrepreneurs, Ali Haris and Hussain Inad. Soon, the two young entrepreneurs had built a reputation of building complex solutions for some of the largest companies in the Maldives.
When Abdulla “Alho” Nazim – the co-founder of Skytours Maldives heard of Kodefly and their reputation, he hired them to develop a system. As they worked together, Haris found that he had technical skills and Alho had great ideas. Together, they wanted to build a truly disruptive Maldivian startup.
In 2016, while Alho was traveling and Haris was pursuing his higher studies in Sri Lanka, the two met at Park Street Mews. This was where they first discussed the idea of building an entertainment application. After many more discussions, they had laid out the blueprint to create a Video-On-Demand application in the Maldives. They would call it Lime VOD.
In October 2016, Haris moved back to Male and the duo began working on their new venture. But this new venture was sunk before it began. How? iFlix entered the Maldivian market and partnered with Dhiraagu, which is the largest telecom service provider in the Maldives.
Haris and Alho saw that they didn’t have the funding or content to compete with iFlix. So they went back to the drawing board. They would spend weeks brainstorming ideas before they noticed that Maldives were avid music fans. And then they saw the problems faced by the Maldivian music industry.
People did use services like Gaana and Spotify. But neither service was easily accessible for Maldivian artists. So they decided to build a service which would help make the industry sustainable. And so they came up with the idea for a local music streaming service. This would be a streaming service that was exclusively for Maldivian music.
The service itself would make money through subscriptions and advertisements. Meanwhile, they would also pay artists a certain amount every time their songs were streamed. And to encourage original Dhivehi music, they would pay more for artists that published original songs on the new service. Initially, this music streaming service was called, Reethi Lava.
And so work on the began on building this music streaming service in December 2016. The duo then approached Mohamed Mirusan, who was a mutual friend that joined them as a financial partner. A month later, the new year dawned with the team having finalized the initial designs. These designs were just a collection of mockups. But that was enough for them share with artists, close friends, and family members to get some feedback.
The team then shared these designs with artists, close friends, and family members to get some feedback. Much of it was positive and with this feedback, they began developing the app in February. As development began, the team expanded to include two developers, a designer, and a social media manager. Together, the team shared a space with Kodefly to make Lavafoshi a reality. Initially, the team was hoping to launch the app in June or July.
But they didn’t follow a strict schedule. And with each countless iteration, people kept sharing feedback and the app didn’t stop growing in complexity. As the app grew even more complex, Inad joined Lavafoshi as its creative director. Finally, the team decided, “Let’s just launch it!” On the 15th of August 2017, Lavafoshi was officially available on both Android and iOS.
Once they launched, Lavafoshi had to conquer a challenge. This challenge was Yonder Music, which entered the Maldivian market in August 2017. Just like iFlix, they too formed a partnership with Dhiraagu. Yet this time, the Lavafoshi team was confident enough to launch and take a risk.
They felt they had a solution that catered to the local market. And true enough they did. Soon after they launched, they had gathered an audience of 11,000 users. Today, they have an audience larger than Spotify does in the Maldives. The biggest highlight for the Lavafoshi team was when people started comparing Lavafoshi to Yonder Music.
Lavafoshi is putting up a good fight against Yonder Music. However, they still have another challenge that they need to conquer. That challenge is the poor internet. Haris elaborated on this saying, “If you get 5 Mbps now, you may not get it the next minute. It’s not a stable connection.”
It’s not a problem they can fix entirely because it’s an external problem. The only thing they can do is minimize the problem. And to minimize it they plan to implement local caching, prefetching, adaptive and progressive playback.
In case you’re lost, local caching refers to storing songs on the servers of ISP’s or telecoms to ensure that they’re loaded faster. Whereas if you’re already listening to a song in an album, prefetching refers to downloading the next song in the album before the current song ends. Finally, adaptive and progressive playback refers to adjusting the quality of the song in a manner similar to YouTube videos.
So what’s next for Lavafoshi? Evolution. Internally, the company aims to evolve into a fully automated business. One where AI handles all of its day to day activities. For the rest of the world, this startup aims to evolve from a music streaming service to a social network. A social network where anyone can listen to songs and share them with friends. So if you’re curious to try out Lavafoshi, you can download it now on both iOS and Android.
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