Rohan Patil , Managing Director , AppLift India
Mobile advertising has been one of the fastest growing among new industries since its inception, and India, though at a nascent stage, is not far behind. According to a FICCI-KPMG 2015 report, growth in digital ad spends in 2014 was 45%, touching Rs 43.5 billion as against Rs 30.1 billion in 2013. Out of this, the share of mobile advertising grew from 10% in 2013 to 14% in 2014, notching up Rs 5.2 billion.
As Indian smartphone users grow in number, companies switch to the mobile-first approach, and an estimated $100-billion global mobile advertising industry beckons, sky is the limit for opportunities in this space.
In an exclusive interview with India Digital Review's Romit Bhattacharyya, Rohan Patil, Managing Director of AppLift India, discussed at length about the state of the mobile advertising market, some of the challenges the industry is faced with, the company's India business and future plans, and more.
Q. How do you view the mobile advertising industry worldwide? How important is the Indian market in this perspective?
The most mature (and saturated) app economies in the world are Western Europe, North America, as well as Japan and South Korea. However this is in terms of smartphone penetration and monetization (monetization rate, ARPU, ARPPU).
Indian market is very important for us. With the boom in smartphone usage in India, the in-app advertising market is flourishing, vibrant, competitive.
In terms of verticals and goods, the Indian market is much more focused on e-/m-commerce than digital goods. In Western and “developed” markets, developers making the most money are mobile game developers offering digital goods (in-app purchases), which cost nothing to produce. In India, the situation is opposite: no one buys digital goods as they are too expensive (and useless), but as most people access the Internet solely through a mobile, the first revenue driver for the mobile economy is m-commerce.
Q. How has been your India business so far? How much does the country contribute to your overall revenue?
We are not really new to India, we have been doing business in India for the last 2 years. The Indian business has grown substantially in the past and it continues to do so till date. This was one of the main reasons why we decided to set up an office locally, so we could be closer to our partners and offer them the best in class services in mobile ad tech industry. Having said that, there have been of course several challenges and setbacks on the way, but we have quickly learnt our lessons and bounced back.
We won't be able to share the numbers, but our Indian business is amongst the top 3 contributors to our global revenue from non-gaming verticals.
Q. Who are your top clients in India and abroad? What is their average mobile advertising spend?
Globally we work with partners like Olx, King, Wooga and many others. In India, we work with almost all the major mobile app companies - Flipkart, Quikr and Practo being few amongst them. Unfortunately, we won't be able to reveal any numbers here but as mentioned earlier, our Indian partners are amongst the top 3 contributors to non-gaming vertical revenues globally.
Q. What are the main challenges one faces in reaching out and engaging with the digital audience, especially mobile advertising?
One of the main challenges in reaching and engaging with the digital audience on mobile is that of viewability and ensuring that ads are catered to the right audience through improved targeting and re-targeting capabilities. The quality of the app is also another challenge - advertisers can ensure higher engagement levels through improved navigation and ensuring that the app is well structured and built as a quality tech product.
Q. Who do you see as your direct rivals in India and globally? What is your strategy to stay ahead of their curve?
InMobi, Komli Media & Pubmatic in India and Glispa globally.
Mobile media buying (advertising) is either inefficient, not very transparent, or both. AppLift is a comprehensive mobile app marketing platform that empowers mobile app advertisers to acquire and re-engage quality users at scale. We offer transparency and efficiency at the same time, and our core focus on data, technology and services helps us to stay ahead of the curve and provide superior solutions to app advertisers.
Q. What are some of your key marketing initiatives in India?
Our key marketing initiatives in India are centered around creating brand awareness for the business as well as employer branding for hiring the best tech talent from top universities in India (such as IITs, IIITs and NITs). We have already hosted a tech meetup as well as a hackathon within a couple of weeks of opening our brand new office in Bangalore, and both events were a huge success. Based on the positive reception, we're looking to have more such events in the future. Our aim is to make our state-of-the-art office in the heart of India's Silicon Valley in Bangalore a hub for tech events and R&D in the city. Additionally, we look forward to attending all major tech events taking place in India.
Q. How much importance do you give to the social media platform when it comes to marketing?
Social media plays an important part in our marketing efforts. We use it to regularly communicate with our followers on the latest company updates, the events that we're attending, the latest news in mobile ad tech, sharing of images from initiatives being conducted within the company (e.g. for ‘Movember’, we featured some of our employees growing beards in order to encourage donations to the Movember Foundation). We also use social media as an avenue to communicate to audiences on the latest research and report releases of AppLift. Most recently, we released a paper on fraud afflicting mobile programmatic traffic. Social media helps us reach and connect with a wide array of audiences in every initiative that we undertake.
Q. Could you please list some of the key areas where you will invest in the immediate future? What is that investment amount?
We are planning to invest in hiring talent. AppLift is rapidly expanding in India and has doubled its headcount since June this year. We will continue to increase by another 70-80%, approximately taking us around 90+ employees by May 2016 and 65% of this growth would be in the area of technology hiring.