InMobi ‘pivots’ to take on online Ad giants like Google, Acxiom, Experian directly

21 Jan,2015

By Krithika Krishnamurthy & Peerzada Abrar


Mobile advertising network InMobi is all set to woo large enterprises with a new analytics service that will mark a crucial shift in the business model of the eight-year old company that is looking to revive growth and investor interest.


The move, termed as a “pivot”, will see InMobi ­ combine data from clients with insights on consumer behaviour that it has gathered ­ create new marketing strategies for enterprises. This will pitch the company into direct competition with global players such as Google, Acxiom and Harte Hanks.


“The trials have already begun,” said a person with direct knowledge of the development. “This pivot will make In Mobi an early mover in this space.”


Experts are of the view that for mobile advertising networks that are increasingly dependent on algorithms that churn out programmed output, looking beyond is proving to be crucial.


“Companies like InMobi have to pivot because of the complex channels of data involved (online, offline, beacon, mobile),” said Michael J Becker, managing partner of mCordis, a consulting firm that advises companies on mobile trends and advertising strategies.


InMobi has so far gathered data from third-party website and partners, and mostly competed with Google and Facebook. It will now not only push advertisements on smartphones but will run marketing campaigns through email and other channels. Manish Dugar, InMobi’s vicepresident for finance and legal, declined to term the new business model as a “pivot” saying “finding new initiatives and scaling them is a regular activity in our industry.” The company according to him follows an investment philosophy of 60:30:10. While the bulk of the money is used to run the existing business, a tenth of the money goes into trying out “moonshots” which are at an idea stage.The ideas that make it past this stage are then provided with investment to scale and commercialise the idea.


“Big data analytics is one such initiative,” he said. The shift in business comes at a time when InMobi has been out in the market since last year to attract new funding of about $300 million (Rs 1,896 crore). According to people in the know, the company is seeking a valuation of $2 billion (Rs 12,640 crore) but not many investors have stepped up. SoftBank which invested $200 million (Rs 1,250 crore) in 2011 has since invested an additional’ . 30 crore so far.


InMobi’s competitors are closely watching the new moves by the Bengaluru-based company.


Mobile advertising company AdNear gathers both online and offline data, much like InMobi plans to do, and unlike InMobi, which is a third-party intermediary player, it works directly with brands.


“It’s (InMobi) a good company, but it has grown too big to pivot at this stage,” said Anil Mathews, chief executive of AdNear, whose startup raised $19 million last October from Telstra Ventures and Global Brain.


“The ad network business is dead. It’s gone long ago. The ‘network effect’ of an ad network doesn’t hold strength,” he said, referring to the emergence of exchanges that publishers and advertisers can plug into and bid for ads in real time. People with knowledge of the developments said InMobi’s CEO Naveen Tewari is trying to wooe investors with big-data analytics pitch.


InMobi is also looking to raise funding through debt from foreign banks if it does not get the valuation it wants from the investors, according to a source with direct knowledge of InMobi’s funding plans. According to a senior executive, InMobi which has 900 employees has crossed revenue of over $200 million `1,264 crore). “We are com(.mitted to our business model which continues to deliver phenomenal results,” said Dugar, who said the company serves ads to 872 million monthly active unique (devices).


The company announced that it turned profitable in the last quarter of 2014.


Competitors however question the company’s ability to survive cut-throat competition from the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Millennial Media, Twitter and Yahoo. “I agree they were early movers in mobile advertising and ran it very well, but the entire industry has become programmatic. They need a brute force to catch up,” said another top executive at a rival firm who did not wish to be quoted.


Source:The Economic Times

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