A Musical Mission, Aided by the Pandemic

Kadence, one of India’s leading musical instrument brands, has big plans to expand this year, including in global markets such as the US, which has an annual consumer market for music of about $8 billion dollars–all thanks to the pandemic.

While the pandemic and the lockdown has led to a global reset, it also has allowed people to try their hands at something new, including  cooking, art, and music,  either as a new hobby or as a re-invention of their profession.

Kadence saw a big surge in sales of ukuleles and guitars during the pandemic, says founder Siddhartha Jhunjhunwala, who boasts an impressive list of marquee clients such as Indian music composer A.R. Rahman, Indian playback singer Shreya Ghoshal, and cricketer Virat Kohli.

In particular, ukulele sales soared and tripled during the pandemic, says the company, gaining popularity with beginners taking on a hobby and with accomplished singers making music during lockdown.

The ukulele, commonly referred to in India as the “chhota guitar,” has just four strings, and is easier to learn, letting most people learn to play a song in just a month. It has helped that celebrities like musician and Indian playback singer Shreya Ghoshal, and business tycoon Warren Buffet, have learned to love and use this instrument.

Kadence combines high quality, affordable musical instruments with a coaching program that helps emerging musicians lose their stage fright. By being the only brand that gives its patrons an opportunity like this, Kadence has developed a niche for itself.

The company, set up by Jhunjhunwala in 2010, shifted from manufacturing lights and equipment for the stage, to musical instruments in 2015. The intent was to make musical instruments more affordable in India, but the shift saw the company entering a different world.

“I came to Bangalore to study and with a dream of creating something of my own,” says Jhunjhunwala. “While pursuing my bachelor’s in business studies at Christ College, I fell in love with the Garden City and made it my home.” But since he comes with a familial understanding of business, he chose to study the markets, and combined his interest in music with his sense of enterprise.

Kadence’s product mix includes, among other instruments, ukuleles, guitars, cajons, pianos and saxophones. Being a homegrown Indian brand and having the largest footprint in the country, it manufactures high quality instruments for the audience in India.

Siddhartha Jhunjhunwala, founder and director of Kadence.

“We have now also launched sales in the U.S.A., and we are receiving an overwhelming response,” says Jhunjhunwala, adding that a new manufacturing unit in Bangalore could increase production, cut costs and speed up delivery times for the Indian consumer. But then there is the market abroad to consider, too.

Jhunjhunwala explains the American consumer market is worth tapping into.

Kadence holds open-mic evenings relying on its motto, “Let’s music,” in Bangalore, Goa, Hyderabad and Delhi. These aim to bring people together to celebrate music like artists, and helps emerging musicians.

Kadence team has had to deal with the challenge of consumer needs shifting fast.

“We believe this is also our strength,” says Jhunjhunwala. “[There] is a notion in our society that learning music was only restricted to [certain] classes. But with everything going online, and learning instruments becoming easier, we want people to take up instruments and make it a part of their lives. We want people sitting around the bonfire [and] create music.”

Woman playing the ukulele.

The company is setting up a ukulele factory and working on a learning app for aspiring artists. With those options, Kadence, which already has a presence in India, Bhutan, Mexico, Canada and the U.S., plans to expand to six more countries in 2021.

“The music instrument industry is set to see another spike with the rise in awareness about the role music plays in reducing stress,” says Jhunjhunwala, adding that instruments like the easy-to-carry cajon, a percussion instrument, should also become popular.