Indian advertising company scaling to MENA on strength of $27M round
When Chetan Kulkarni, CEO of Vizury, visited Dubai last month, it wasn’t to check out the Burj Khalifa or hit the malls. Founded in December 2008 in Bangalore, the company established a Dubai office last year as a base from which to expand to the Middle East, managed by Amjad Puliyali.
Kulkarni states that Vizury now offers CRM solutions for more than 500 online advertisers in over 40 countries across Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. “Vizury enables marketers to benefit from their data for one-to-one engagement with their buyers,” he said.
Ninety-eight percent of website visitors don’t buy anything in their first visit – which is the most critical problem advertisers face. Kulkarni believes that Vizury has the solution: programmatic display advertising.
Kulkarni reveals that friends and family were the company’s first investors. In November 2010, the company organized its first official funding round, led by Ojas Venture and Inventus, worth $2 million USD, followed by a $9 million USD round in October 2012. Nokia Growth Partners, Ojas Venture, and Inventus led the second round. “Vizury recently closed its third round of $16 million USD, led by Intel Capital, with participation of Ascent Capital and former investors,” added Kulkarni.
Funds from the last round will be used “to enhance product innovation on mobile and other platforms, as well as to expand operations in China, Japan, the Middle East, and Korea. We are also studying the possibility of entering the United States,” reveals Kulkarni. These investment rounds helped Vizury focus on technology and special products, says the founder.
Customers from a variety of sectors employ the services of Vizury, including clients in travel, e-commerce, health care, auto, and classifieds. The client list includes many of the leading players in the Middle East, like Souq.com, Namshi, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, MarkaVIP, Cleartip, Abdullatif Jamil, and other companies.
Kulkarni says the Middle East region is one of the fastest growing markets in advertising and e-commerce. “Over the next five years, online spending is expected to grow in the Middle East and Africa at a rate of 27%,” he says. “Furthermore, the fast rise of smartphone use makes the region favorable to nontraditional marketing strategies. That is a task at which we excel.”
Without a doubt, the Middle East region is fertile. Yet, it still faces many challenges. According to Kulkarni, the first is “the slow adoption of innovative electronic ads. However, things have changed due to [successful] electronic advertising programs that have convinced advertisers to change.”
Another challenge is localization. “Sealing a deal in certain countries is not enough. The key to success is developing a local team that works closely with our client and understands their needs”
In the Middle East, many companies provide online marketing tools, but Kulkarni doesn’t believe Vizury has any regional rivals. What competitors do exist, such as Criteo, Sociomantic, and AdRoll, are not present in the region. He declared that Vizury’s strength, which has earned them the business of the Middle East’s top players, is “creating distinct solutions for each industry.”
In addition, Kulkarni says, “we build up our services developing partnerships with both real-time bidding international networks, including Google Ad Exchange, Rubicon Project, AppNexus, and local partners networks, such as Ikoo network and AdInTop.”
"Our mobile retargeting solution MobyConvert combines a new strategy for websites and mobile applications operating on both Android and iOS devices. MobiConvert is packed with powerful features like Deep Linking and Event Logger are unique in the region," said Kulkarni.
Vizury’s ambitions are unlimited. In tackling the region, Kulkarni says the company has improved its overall mission. “Customer relationships management (CRM), the digital core of the company, has gradually developed to improve the value of life through personalization, and transform Vizury into an integrated electronic trademark!”