Niloufer Dundh, Founder & CEO, Ventes Avenues, recounts the journey of the mobile media company from a meeting at Starbucks in 2014 to its current state of growth and trajectory
Q] From meeting at Starbucks more than four years ago to now, tell us how the Ventes Avenues journey has progressed…
We had a dream… We spent several Saturdays from June 2014 onwards at Starbucks over a single cup of coffee each from 9 am to 2 pm... Bala (Balamurugan Mani) typed away on his laptop, Fauzan (Fauzan A Rahim) took notes in his little black diary and I wrote on Starbucks paper napkins... Then one day we just decided to start...You need a big heart to start, you need to be supremely selfmotivated and nimble-footed... you need to be always looking for new opportunities and stay hungry. Above all, you need to be blessed to find simply amazing human beings as co-founders.
We are now in a fabulous moment of growth and trajectory... we have a solid team of 55 across Mumbai, Gurugram, Bengaluru and Shanghai. We have recognised the changes we need to make, the adoption of new technology and the new thinking we need to infuse, to take Ventes today to Ventes 5.0.
Q] Ventes Avenues calls itself a Business Enabler. How have you helped businesses achieve their goals? And how do you pick which businesses to work with?
We are not a network and we are not an agency; we found a sweet spot for ourselves, a gap we saw in the market. We decided to help enable large publishers who do not have the ability to set up teams in India to monetize their inventory, we partnered with them to represent them in India and help them achieve their goals here. We do this by bagging exclusive rights to the inventory we represent and set up teams to explain the benefits of this publisher. We seek partnerships with publishers we believe have the right audiences and have shown traction in the India market.
Q] You recently forayed into the Programmatic Advertising ecosystem. What are the platforms where you will make your inventories available? Have marketers realized the benefits of using tools like programmatic or is there still a long way to go, in terms of awareness?
The entire industry has accepted Programmatic with open arms and considering our strong technology chops, it was a natural transition for us. However, we want our Programmatic solutions to add genuine value to our customers. Our in-house Header Bidding platform ensures the best yield for publishers. Advertisers, on the other hand, can look forward to targeting the right audience cohorts on our premium inventory via programmatic channels. With a device reach of about 200 million in India, we are able to guarantee scale and accuracy for audience-targeted campaigns. Our inventory is available on more than 30 DSPs including DV360, AppNexus, BidSwitch and The Trade Desk.
Brands have realised that they don’t necessarily need to pay a premium to reach users on a certain app. Programmatic advertising has made it possible for brands to target this same set of users at a much more reasonable price. Enabling brands to reach premium users at a competitive price is precisely what we at Ventes Avenues hope to achieve through our programmatic offering.
Having said that, we still see a lot of potential in offline advertising at least in the near future.
Q] With the digital advertising ecosystem in India moving rapidly towards audience-based buys, how has Ventes adapted to this?
Ventes is in a unique position to address audience-based buys. As our largest publishers are in the utility space, we have access to real time understanding of apps people use, this recency of appographic behavior coupled with device, interest and city forms our first party data bucket. We clearly communicate that we do not collect personal data. We use third party tools to validate age and gender.
Q] Which are some of your partner brands currently, apart from Cheetah Mobile?
We choose our partners on the basis of ad opportunities and their audiences, as explained earlier. Besides Cheetah Mobile, we work with Meitu, which is very popular in the camera space, with a DAU of 10 million. A popular app from Meitu is called Beauty Plus. We are currently working with Xiaomi too on select ad units.
Q] How has your partnership with Cheetah Mobile worked out for you so far? Tell us about the experience of monetizing Chinese mobile brands/publishers in India.
All publishers/mobile handsets we work with are global brands, which have great affinity across the globe and have a huge acceptance in India also. Cheetah Mobile is listed on Nasdaq. Meitu is listed on HKG Stock Exchange and Xiaomi today controls 30% of India’s smartphone market.
We have been working with Cheetah Mobile since April 2016. It has been a fulfilling journey; together we have upped the ante in India and made the App Locker Ad Unit a very powerful advertising tool that is opt-in, 100% viewable and has been used by over 120 brands. We continuously innovate and work on sharp accurate audience cohorts to deliver better results.
Q] What kind of growth and innovation has branding/advertising seen on mobile in the past few years?
We have seen a multifold growth in the mobile branding space, as brands are always looking for high impact viewable ad units which do not hamper user experience, such as the App Locker Ad Unit, the Splash Screen Ad Unit, Branded Notifications. The good news here is that brands are willing to look at platforms other than the Big Two.
If you have a strong audience case and innovative ad units, if you work with trust and transparency, you can build a scalable business in the mobile advertising space in India.
Q] What is your assessment of the scope of mobile advertising in the Indian market compared to what you see in China? What is it that holds India back?
The increased use of 4G and rise in the sale of low-cost smartphones have made India the second largest online market, after China, with over 460 million Internet users. Mobile, now being the centre of the digital ecosystem, is eventually turning India into a mobile-only market from a mobile-first one. Mobile ad spends are growing at 63% in India currently.
China is unique as 80% of digital advertising is on mobile, with 69% of this just on BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent); these platforms have taken a mobile first approach to advertising. In India, we are battling consistent connectivity, our ads are not made for mobile, they are adapted, mobile today is demanding ads in shorter edits, in vernacular languages, for us we will need to think voice first and yes there is TV which offers brands reach at a good price and talkability. Our mindsets are changing, our youth are demonstrating that they are watching, reading everything online… from now to 2022, we will see a wave of change and we all need to ride this wave with new formats, data and technology.
Q] What do each of the three partners – you, Balamurugan Mani and Fauzan A Rahim - bring to the table at Ventes Avenues? What does the rest of your team look like?
We all have our own unique skills, we respect each other as we complement each other. We work on the single premise ‘All for one and one for all’. We have hired a team of talented believers, we seek grit and attitude, we are happy to train and to take along people from other domains, we nurture freshers and are looking to ignite their entrepreneurial streak. We have an open culture, all ideas are welcome, we do not expect our team to do what we cannot. Our mission is to offer value to our advertisers though our deep understanding of mobile brand solutions.
Q] What’s priority just now? And what is your vision for the company going ahead?
Scale, Scale, Scale… is our priority right now, to build adtech as a layer, grow in India and expand to the Far East and be known for offering bespoke mobile ad solutions to our clients and agency partners. Our vision is upping the ante in technology and marketing precision in mobile advertising.
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