Exclusive | Scaling up through tech innovation: Ripple’s Anuj Kumar

Source: ADGULLY| View Online Article

Ripple is Affle’s next generation rich media and video advertising network for all smart devices. The latest network data released by Ripple, proves that the face of the Indian Mobile market is changing at a fast pace. Ripple since its launch in India in August 2012 has been growing exponentially, has achieved tremendous success and already reaches out to over 65% of all mobile internet users in India. While 65 per cent of ad requests to Ripple come from feature phones, 35 per cent of them are made by smartphone users.

Ripple is delivering integrated advertising solutions across all smart screens – Mobiles, Tablets, PC’s, Smart TV’s and more. Ripple’s innovative rich media and video ad experiences coupled with rich audience intelligence technologies enhances user experience and engagements thus creating measurable return on investment for it’s leading advertiser and publisher partners.

Adgully met Anuj Kumar, Co-founder and Managing Director , Ripple. Kumar in this conversation elucidated about the growth of Ripple’s business in India along with their significant achievements over the past one year.  He also spoke about the strategy for the future and how Ripple will position itself as an industry leader in its domain.

Adgully (AG): Tell me about Ripple and how the journey has been since it’s launch nine months ago. What kind of opportunity did you see in the market when Ripple was launched?

Anuj Kumar (AK): We were actually looking at different kinds of trends in the market and some businesses like the mobile advertising business, BTL business etc so basically the device integrated businesses. The point where we saw things evolving was the digital and mobile content growing in markets like India. It was important for advertisers to have consumer specific strategy rather than a device specific strategy. This perception has led Ripple to build a company which is the first cross screen ad-network focusing on all screens like pc, mobile, tablet, smart TV etc. So from an advertiser’s point of view he can reach out to his tech savvy consumers through various mediums as most of them are consuming content through multiple devices. So I would say it has been a fairly exciting time for us in terms of growth since the company has grown quite well since the last nine months of launch.

AG: Could you share more about the focus area?  Is it agency driven or is it client driven approach that you follow?

AK: I would say being an ad-network our focus area lies on both agencies and the clients but in terms of actual business we see bulk operations coming in from the agencies. We have also seen a growing  expertise even within the agencies in terms of digital advertising.

AG: So could we say that Ripple is an ad network?

AK:  Ripple is an ad network and we refer to it as a  cross screen rich media . It is typical like any other ad network but what is different about this network  is that you can cross screen and leverage it. For e.g. if someone has seen your ad on the pc how you can re- target them on a mobile device and so this kind of intelligence makes it very valuable for an advertiser. Also there is a lot of focus on rich media advertising which is beyond the regular panel advertising. So one is the cross device intelligence and targeting and the second is the advertising experiences which go beyond the typical and regular banner advertising. So our expertise focuses on these two  areas.

AG:  How has the Indian market adapted to a mobile ad network?

AK: If you look at any industry today mobile is really the focal point of digital content consumption in India. We see a lot of potential and growth in the market. Looking the penetration here I would say Indian market is probably the only market in the world where mobile internet traffic  is greater than the PC internet traffic.Mobile searches are higher than the PC searches. So from the consumer’s end point I think the take up has happened. From the advertisers end point we have been in this market for over 6 years and during the initial years we saw a lot of hesitance from advertiser’s to jump on the mobile band wagon but from last 12- 15 months the trends have been more positive than what I have ever seen in the journey of  the last six years.
India continues to be a big driver for our business in Asia and the exceptional growth rates seen by us in traffic and business here are very encouraging. It’s interesting to note that Smartphone % traffic share which we are seeing in India currently is at par with South East Asia % traffic shares for Ripple.

AG: What kind of budgets do you see clients allocating to the mobile marketing business and the ad network?

AK: There are two kinds of advertisers; one is big brand advertiser like Unilever, which includes companies that are spending on all mediums and for those brands I would say mobile has reached a stage where they are commanding 5 to 10 percent of their ad spends and the second category of advertisers which is very unique  is the mobile only advertisers. There is a large segment for that especially like mobile app developers, mobile VAS content etc. For those kinds of categories the ratio of spending on mobile is almost 100% which will enable consumers to download the apps to a larger extent hence the focus area becomes mobile only. The third category is people whose business is mobility which include telecom carriers or handset manufacturers  because they would know what kind of handsets people would upgrade to and it creates imminent sense to  focus on new devices and services being launched in that space. So there is greater relevance for mobile advertising . So for both the categories i.e. carriers and manufacturers the spend  percentage would be  higher than the regular brand.

AG: Does the mobile business still  need a lot of evangelizing. People come and talk at various forums but  when it comes to spending it is seen that they are not spending as much as expected Could you share your views on this?

AK: Well, I would say in a way it is right. But also at the same time I would say the mobile business is becoming simpler day by day.  If we zoom back to two years back I would say mobile advertising was fairly complicated because if somebody had to leverage mobile there were multiple channels to reach out for the users including SMS, voice mails etc . So traditionally what we found was that given the fact that the system was very complicated most people had inertia against spending on mobile. Now mobile has become much simpler in terms of becoming a device used to reach out to the digital content. Hence much greater growth has been happening .Yes of course there has been a lot of talk in the market about the medium’s growth but that talk converting into action has actually started to happen over the last 12- 15 months.

AG: Of late what we see is that there are some clients who are trying to target the rural mobile market extensively whereby mobile sees a high usage. Would you concur on that?

AK: Yes it is true. We see a lot FMCG advertisers getting into that area quite extensively through mobile. But our business is related more to mobile internet and cross screen advertising so we would not be doing significant business in the rural areas right now since mobile is still much more an urban phenomena. So as far as our business is concerned, it is different hence we would not be getting into that direction.

AG: Please shed some light on some of the clients that you have worked with at Ripple since the past couple of months now?

AK: There are two kinds of partnerships which are key to an  ad network business. One is partnership with media owners or publishers. When they partner with you your  ad network  can reach out to a lot more consumers and your technology that you have built is accessible by a larger base of consumers . When we started Ripple our key focus was to build partnerships with some of the largest publishers out there so that we can offer something meaningful to the advertising clients that we have. At Ripple we believe in engaging ad formats and ad solutioning but where we differentiate is that we also help create new contextual ad opportunities which didn’t even exist earlier. In the last 8-9 months we have built a partnership with Yahoo . It is a very big platform because Yahoo still continues to be one the most accessed portals on mobile internet. Then we have announced a singular partnership for cross screen advertising with India Today Group , Business Today, Aaj Tak etc. Also ESPN Cricinfo has been one of our valuable partners with a lot of rich media advertising  which we have built out and has been integrated and  rendered out on their applications and sites which are obviously the most popular content platform in the country.
The money we earn comes in from the advertisers. So if you look at it category wise  one of the larger categories for us has been the mobile handset manufacturers with advertisers like Samsung , Nokia or Micro max. Also the other category which is fairly important for us is the automobile category where every player in the market be it Maruti Suzuki , Ford, Hyundai, GM any and every car manufacturer have been key advertisers because for those guys clearly  reaching out to the digital savvy audience is very important. The third category centres more around  consumer goods  where players like Unilever and  Cadburys would come in

AG: Going forward what plans and strategies do you have for Ripple in India ? Also in terms of competition, are there any strong players?

AK:   We would want to leverage our strategies in terms of expanding the cross screen media. Anyone playing in the domain of mobile only and video and  network etc are competition for us so  all companies which are running ad network businesses and video network businesses would clearly be competing with us. Right now the market momentum is very positive. The growth rate for what we are doing is greater than 100%. So with this kind of growth rate obviously there would be many players so that is what has been happening in the market but the market momentum is good enough to carry each one of us to grow much faster but more players means that there are more people evangelizing.  So we could actually  collaborate with these companies who from outside may seem like our competitors. But right now  I see a lot of likeminded companies out there who are working towards growing in the market since that is most important now. That will be the key objective .But I would much rather grow because the market is expanding than eat into 2% share of a competition.

AG: Ripple was launched in India .  Was it launched in other parts of the globe and  what would be the key focus at this point of time?

AK;  Ripple has launched across Asian markets.  We structured Ripple in such a way that we have a centralised R& D team which is based out of Singapore. So R& D team is central which is building out technology innovations for cross screen advertising which is used by the Ripple business across all markets and the sales and business development teams are local in the digital markets . As we have launched across Asia presently the two important markets with high growth are India and Indonesia. From an Asia perspective the latest data on the recent growth shows us touching 17 billion ad requests across the Asian markets, the numbers are  only growing but  growing in a greater way in India and Indonesia.

AG: What are the challenges you foresee for Ripple in India ?

AK: Today if we see  ad spent on  mobile or digital  is much smaller than what consumer can expect. In an ideal world if the consumer is spending  30 percent of his time on any particular device the advertisers too should spend  30 percent of their monies on that media . In India  mobile advertising is around 200-250 crore vs. TV advertising which is approximately about 20,000 crore. The challenge in India is that although the consumers are spending a great part of their  time on mobile the advertisers are not reciprocating  in the similar way. But the tide is turning and the gap is still too large and it may take another 2-3 years for the ratio to get equal.

AG: In terms of diagnostics and analytics does mobile have the capacity to serve more data in terms of reach then the website data or would you say  both have the same capacity?

AK:  I think its more in mobile as you get loads of device information. So, if someone using Samsung Galaxy or Blackberry Curve from an advertisers standpoint it’s a very important data as it creates consumer profile based on their purchasing power. Handset prices range from Rs.2000- 45, 000. It’s a very rich data that advertisers use to understand and target their customers who may be using a smart phone .There are a lot of surrogate parameters on the mobile and the way you access your data makes it a much  mature platform for the advertiser. On a mobile there is nobody providing third party analytics . In media it is really important that there is no third party measurement of the market. The rating system is very important for the growth of the industry On websites you have a third party deciding analytics but in mobile you don’t have this kind of system and needs it desperately to make sure that the market can continue the growth momentum.

AG: Could you elaborate on  your major focus area and  how you plan to  scale your business to reach greater heights?

AK:  A lot of our business is focused upon technology innovations and that’s how we were able to scale up our business significantly in the nine months of launch. Today we are one of the largest ad network in terms of reach, pitch for client and whatever we are doing. This has been possible because before we went out in public we spend significant amount of time in building this product. So we cannot take our position for granted and carry on with the same pace of innovation.  It was not easy as there are players in the market who are investing on new advertising experience technology. Leveraging technology is very important and if we fail to do that others will get chance to do it in a better way.

AG: Would you like to share with us the vision of the company?

AK: Ripple’s ad network is available in two avatars .Through Ripple we are confident of being at the forefront of this change and redefining how brands would go about connecting and engaging with the digitally connected consumers. The company helps you do that across screens and helps you build rich experiences for the most relevant consumer for your products.

For information and records Affle Group is a ‘Smart Media’ company. Affle Group has expertise in all key areas of the digital media eco-system. The Group’s businesses include Ripple, Media Lab and ad2c (a JV between Affle and D2C Inc). It operates across multiple Asian markets where it has successfully built its digital media business. Affle’s investors include D2C Inc (JV between Dentsu & NTT DoCoMo), Microsoft Corporation, Itochu Corporation of Japan, Bennett Coleman Company Limited (BCCL) & Centurion Private Equity.

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