We'll be going after 40% of the market: Naveen Tewari

Last year, InMobi,  the Bengaluru-based advertising technology entity, had launched Miip, a product that offered contextual ads to target users on mobile apps. The product faced flak in the first few months, was refined and has been taken by Flipkart-owned Myntra, Paytm and Nuomi. “Our goal is to work with 80 per cent of the mobile commerce companies across the world,” says Naveen Tewari, co-founder and chief executive officer, in an interview to Raghu Krishnan. Edited excerpts:

How are you now doing as a firm?

Growing very strongly. We grew 30 per cent between the earlier quarter and this one. This is not GMV  (gross merchandise value) equivalent; it is true revenue  and pretty large-scale.

Are you at (annual) revenue of $500 million?

We will leave that for a later stage.  It is very large. We are growing across multiple countries, not only India. India is three to five per cent. Globally, we are growing strongly. We are the largest player in China; it has never been reported or Chinese news is not understood (here). We are the largest platform in China. One of the largest or largest in Indonesia. We are growing very fast in Australia, South Korea and the UK.

In India, we are a relatively small market but you look at the Indian eco-system and you would see Miip and five things that we are doing for this market. We are sure we will take on the leadership position even in this market.

How are you faring against competition from Google and Facebook?

They are behemoths and will take a fair share, 50-60 per cent of the market.  That leaves us with 40 per cent. We will be one of the large players going after that market.

If you look at the ad market in general, it is a very complex market. If you talk to an investor, they would basically say the ad market is bad.

Too many platforms?

But, how many of these platforms are at scale? The number of platforms at scale outside of Google and Facebook might be two or three.

You and who else?

The US and maybe Opera  and Criteo. Criteo is at a higher scale than us. But, if you take mobile, it is a similar scale. You kind of create two large players, three next-tier players and a few hundred very small players whose (annual) revenue varies is $10-15 million.

And, it is tough for them to scale?

That is why the emotions kick in and say the ad market is tough and ad tech is a bad play to begin. I agree it is tough but we have broken through the crowd. Therefore, we are okay with it. Yes, we still have to do five things to go up but we are clearly away from the crowd. We kind of  sit in  a very interesting position in the global market, in which Google and Facebook are the largest companies.

Some of the world's largest are ad companies.  Google, Facebook, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba are all massive companies and built by advertising.  Advertising as a play is very large. Therefore, if you are one of the  top five players in the world, the potential is huge.

So, you are among the top five ad tech companies in the world?

At a corporate level, we know where we are headed. If we are to be in the top five companies in the world in advertising, across US, China, India, Indonesia, Australia and Korea, we need to be  really good. We are strong in these markets. We are in the top three in every one of these markets. If I can take $200-250 billion, we will be in the top five and it is a really big market.

What is the role of Miip in this?

Miip is a platform that we partner with all the commerce players in the world. It is the biggest CRM (customer relationship management) platform in the world  for the mobile eco-system.

The mobile is full of distractions.  Marketers spend lots of money and are concerned on how to get a consumer back.  I spend so much to get you in and you left. Not that I did something bad but it (mobile)  is a distraction.  I need a platform that can get you back. This is the CRM. It basically follows you, allows getting you back by showing you the things you like and get you back and do the transaction.

But, it has taken time to perform. Did people have faster expectations?

You can't write off a product which had a larger vision to solve in a three-month window. We have been bold enough  to try and say, here is our vision for a space we are really excited on and here is how we are solving for it. It (criticism) kept us on our toes a little bit.  In the past eight or nine months, we have improved the return on investment to 15 per cent, If you are spending one dollar of ad, I will give seven dollars of GMV.  When we were not doing well, when the algorithm was not perfect, the cost would be 50 per cent.  We keep solving the problem.

Most of the global e-commerce firms have their own ad platform and  earn majority revenue from ads. Then, why will they choose yours?

An e-commerce company does not make money on transactions. They make money on three things -- the advertisement platform, payments and logistics. If any e-commerce firm builds their own ad platform, it requires a relationship with brands, which they have. Two things they need are technology and the ability to reach to a consumer outside of their app.

The biggest challenge anyone had on mobile was the ability to connect with customers. Marketers want customers. All the e-commerce companies can make revenue literally from one month. If anybody wants to build the technology in 24 months and hope to succeed,  it is a eight-year job. If you put 200 engineers, three years, you can build the platform and maybe not. Even if you do this, you need to build the network. All these publishers are with us.

For Flipkart and Myntra, you go only once a month. That is not enough to show them anything. You need to see them a lot more. On the InMobi  network, I can see you five to six times a day, across multiple apps.

Where will you be in two or three years?

Our goal is to work with 80 per cent of the mobile commerce companies across the world. Today, we have around 15 customers, 10 in e-commerce. This number should reach 50.


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