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Vserv’s Dippak Khurana On AudiencePro, Payment Cycles, Telco Data, Privacy & More

Following Vserv’s launch of AudiencePro, which provides advertisers the ability to target consumers on the mobile web better with data from telecom operators, we spoke with Vserv Co-Founder Dippak Khurana about, among other things, payment cycles in mobile advertising and managing cashflows, user privacy and access to data.

MediaNama: What’s the idea with AudiencePro?
Dippak Khurana: If we take a step back at mobile advertising, if it has to achieve its true potential, mobile ads need to become more relevant. Advertisers are looking for the relevant audience. As a mobile ad network, we get data, we’re able to track clicks, do re-targeting, which we’re able to do independently. If we combine that with AudiencePro, it combines this data with telco data.

MediaNama: How does this work, in terms of the relationship with the telco and their data? What’s the process of targeting, and what kind of data gets shared with your system?
Dippak Khurana: From a telco point of view, their biggest asset is a customer relationship. We get broad parameters like average ARPU, demographic, data usage patterns (if he’s consuming less than or more than 5mb), the city of the user, and as we are working deeply with the carriers, we’re getting the content consumption pattern – cricket, music, football, based ont he content consumed on the network. These get us surround information, instead of pin pointed information, combined with the device, the content being consumed at that time on our network. It makes it richer for the advertiser.

MediaNama: There could be serious privacy issues with this.
Dippak Khurana: We don’t store any data. It’s on their (the telcos) network. Fundamentally, our servers are in the Airtel data center. These data points are broad ranged, not pin pointed. If he is a low, medium or high ARPU customer. It doesn’t tell us what he is spending. It tells us the category.

MediaNama: What about content consumption patterns?
Dippak Khurana: We just get to know if he is a sports fan or not, music fan or not. We dont’ get exact data. We get a range – low, medium, high. From an industry point of view, no one is interested in getting pinpointed information, and is something we wouldn’t entertain because of user privacy.

It makes is proud that we’re the first ad network in the world to roll something like this out. It takes a significant amount of time to roll something like this out. Our platforms are deployed within the Airtel data center, we don’t cache data. We serve the ad and move on.

MediaNama: You say you’ll allow customers to opt out of the Audience Pro program. How?
Dippak Khurana: We have a commitment to user privacy policy, and we’ve offered a page where users can enter their number and opt out of it.

MediaNama: Who sources the ads? Do the telcos?
Dippak Khurana: We source the ad. Nothing changes in the market. This is the marriage of an ad network and a telecom operator. Vserv reaches out to 80-85 million users globally. These users are on our network, and browsing thousands of ads, and with further targeting, we’ll give more targeted ads to users. We continue to sell the ads. Our relationship is with the audience – it’s the Vserv audience., it’s not the Airtel on deck audience. The big enablement on this is the offdeck environment. 95% of the users are off deck, browsing the open mobile Internet. Primarily, originally, the user first belongs to the carrier.

MediaNama: Are you deployed on Airtel Live (Airtel’s on-deck WAP portal)?
Dippak Khurana: We’re not deployed on Airtel Live, the WAP deck.

MediaNama: How does it work when Airtel advertises with you?
Dippak Khurana: A telco would advertise with an agency, in case of Airtel, through Madison. They have been advertising with us, and it will be interesting to see if they use AudiencePro or not.

MediaNama: Do you do click-to-buy ads? There are serious issues of improper billing with click-to-buy ads.
Dippak Khurana: We don’t do click to buy ads, we take users to a landing page, and there the user can buy an ad. In case of our Vodafone partnership, there is a double confirmation. Fundamentally, we as a network realize that, from a VAS company’s point of view, on Vodafone, because of 70% revenue share, no one does that (improper billing with click to buy). They are just asking telecom operators for healthy margins.

MediaNama: What’s your payment cycle for your publishers?
Dippak Khurana: We pay to all publishers on the 65th day.

MediaNama: What’s your payment cycle like from advertisers?
Dippak Khurana: Indian advertisers pay from between 90 to 120 days, and some agencies stretch it to 140 days. On the international side, the payment cycle is 75 days. It does affect our cashflows, so a large part of our capital gets sucked into working capital.

MediaNama: How do you deal with the cashflow issues?
Dippak Khurana: We keep it very tight, so we don’t have…I don’t want to push the publishers beyond 65 days. So, how can I convince advertisers to pay within 90 days? We have a loyalty points system, and their campaigns get priority on the basis of the payment cycle, which is how we keep it competing with our advertisers. If he is paying us the same CPC or eCPM, the weightage goes to the one who is prioritized. That puts pressure on the advertiser to pay on time.

MediaNama: What’s the shortest timeframe you’ve witnessed, for payments?
Dippak Khurana: There are many Indian advertisers who work on a 60 day cycle. that’s the shortest time in India.

MediaNama: What’s your split between Indian and International business?
Dippak Khurana: Our focus is global, and we are 100-105 people. 65% of our business is International, up from 45% from the last time we spoke.

MediaNama: We’ve heard that one issue with the AppWrapper type full screen ads is that users don’t have an option but to click on the ad.
Dippak Khurana: That isn’t true. It’s an interstitial ad, and you have a homepage takeover, but you have a right soft key says visit site, and left soft key says skip ad.

MediaNama: How much do apps contribute to your revenue?
Dippak Khurana: Apps are 65%-70% of our revenue.

MediaNama: Is the mobile web going to be a declining opportunity as websites become responsive?
Dippak Khurana: Even if sites become responsive – the call to actions on mobile are very different from the call to actions on the web. If, as a publisher, I am making my banner ads available to mobile users or not, they can display.

MediaNama: What are you plans going forward?
Dippak Khurana: We are going to soon launch it with many telcos globally. We being the first ad network to enable this part, it endorses our strength and our leadership in the mobile space. We should be making an announcement with another leading telco very soon, in the next 45 days? One in India and one international. Emerging markets are our key focus: South East Asia, India and Middle East and Africa. Then at the second level are the developed markets. With the adoption of appwrapper adds more and more developers. Appwrapper is a global product, and through developers in Asia, we have access to global markets. We have a BD resource in Europe, and a team which sources advertising globally. We sell directly. We have been marketing Vserv as a brand globally, and trade marketing is very strong for us, globally.

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