India mobile ad startup Vserv aims to be no. 1 in emerging markets by 2015

Founded in January 2010, Vserv.mobi, a Mumbai-based startup with a global reach, aims to be the leading mobile ad network and app monetization platform across emerging markets.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

The mobile advertising market has grown phenomenally in the last few years across the globe, owing to a steep increase in the usage of smartphones all over the world. With many users adopting mobile devices, the game has shifted towards phones, tablets, and phablets globally. Developers, brands, and advertisers are using this medium to communicate with their audience intensively to drive monetization.

Mobile advertising has been a path-breaking trend in the connection economy, with various avenues available to developers, marketers, and publishers. That isn't a surprise, as mentioned in this article by Telecompaper; mobile advertising market is expected to quadruple by 2017, with great interest built by Western markets. At the same time, Android being a major force in the smartphone market is a key driver among the emerging countries due to the popularity driven by low-cost Android devices. An interesting insight shared by Juniper forecasts almost 200 million in shipments by 2018, compared to just 10 million in 2014. These numbers look surreal and overwhelming.

Dippak Khurana
Dippak Khurana, CEO and co-founder, Vserv.
Image: Vserv

However, Dippak Khurana, CEO and co-founder of Vserv.mobi, and his team realized long back that the mobile medium would be the next big disruptive opportunity due to its expansive reach. The app development ecosystem in the US and the UK had taken advantage of this a long time back, and started minting money from paid downloads. However, when it came to emerging markets, there were many fundamental systemic challenges because developers from these regions could not blindly emulate their Western counterparts.

"The stagnation of the mobile internet ecosystem in emerging markets formed the genesis of Vserv. Turning this insight into opportunity, we decided to start Vserv, a mobile ad network focused on emerging markets in January 2010," said Khurana.

The company enables content creators, ie, developers of mobile apps and mobile site publishers to monetize their work through a "developer-first approach and philosophy". At the same time, advertisers can use these apps and games as an effective vehicle to reach their target customers.

2013-10-17 14_05_40-Mobile Advertising Network for Premium in-app Ads and Global App Monetization _
Image: Vserv

It wanted to address the various challenges in the emerging markets to plug the various gaps the developer ecosystem had when it came to monetizing applications. It saw that mobile advertising, while being "super targeted", still lacked key targeting parameters required by brands like demographics and spending power. While this data exists with different entities across the ecosystem, it is fragmented and therefore unusable in a scalable manner.

Keeping this challenge in mind, it rolled out one of its products, a really smart audience-targeting platform called AudiencePro. The AudiencePro platform enables audience profiling in a scalable manner through telco integration.

No doubt, it derives its core competitive advantage from its understanding of emerging markets and the unique challenges in the mobile ecosystem in these markets.

"Having pioneered the business of developing mobile apps/games in India, we understood the nuances and complications of app or game development," said Dippak. According to him, the three key ways the company stands out are:

  • Broadest platform support: It is the only ad network with app media across smartphones, tablets, and smarter feature phones, thus providing advertisers with unparalleled reach and engagement

  • Unique go-to-market strategy: Focus on emerging markets as the "sweet spot", with revolutionary products that convert market challenges into opportunities

  • Product differentiators

Its two key products are the AppWrapper and AudiencePro. AppWrapper is a simple app monetization platform for mobile developers. It enables premium advertising and great pricing models on any app, without coding, in just one click, helping developers monetize using both premium ads as well as micro transaction models.

AudiencePro is a platform that combines the scale of the Vserv global mobile ad network with comprehensive user data from telcos to change how advertisers can reach their exact target audience across all mobile platforms. AudiencePro enables advertisers to target consumers using demographics, spending power, network usage, location, content relevance, and device-specific data through various mobile channels.

He added that originating from India, which is the best representation of emerging markets, they were quick to grasp the following emerging markets dynamics:

  • Lower GDP per capita and low credit card penetration in emerging markets meant that users in these markets just did not have the ability to pay for full apps via OEM app stores

  • Emerging markets have a mix of both smartphones and "smarter" feature phones, but this dynamic was not being addressed by others in the app monetization space

  • Implementing micro transaction-based pricing enabled by telco carrier billing is complex for developers

The founders of the company were clear that these challenges needed to be addressed, and since no other mobile ad network was solving these unique issues posed by these markets, they saw it as an opportunity and seized the first mover advantage to establish a firm presence in emerging countries.

Within around four years, the company has grown quite a bit, and it works with an array of developers, publishers, and advertiser customers, including the likes of Sony Music, Glu Mobile, and Disney.

Quite a significant thing to note is how the AppWrapper has re-kindled innovation and app development for individuals and student developers from countries such as India, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

With a team of five people, it started in January 2010. Ajay Adiseshann, founder of Paymate, was its angel investor, and in March 2011, the company raised $3 million series A investment from IDG Ventures, which was tracking its growth from the very beginning.

"Our goal is to become the number one mobile ad network and app monetization platform across emerging markets. The company's aim is to be a $100 million company by 2015. Today, we have offices in Mumbai, Delhi, London, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, San Francisco, and Ho Chi Minh City and rapidly expanding in Latin America, Middle East, and Africa," he added.

Full disclosure: Srinivas Kulkarni works at Social Wavelength, which is a social media agency retained by Vserv.

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