Sunil Punjabi, Founder, NetworkPlay

By Team YS|30th Jun 2009
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– India's No.1 Vertical Multi Genre Brand Ad-Network .......


The scope and the potential in the internet have always been staggering. Sunil Punjabi recognized the latent promise that the internet held and came up with an idea to capitalize on this opportunity. Yourstory interviewed the Young Entrepreneur and he told us the story behind his company saying “NetworkPlay is India’s No.1 Verical Multi-Genre Brand Ad Network. In comparison to what is available in the market, NetworkPlay offers a completely different proposition of providing audiences rather than just blind inventory. And this audience is the right audience with effective targeting and high reach. We command Over 500 Million Exclusive PVs and 12 Million Unique Users across networks through our federation. The above combined with the inherent advantages of online business creates an unassailable value proposition in building sales and saliency for advertisers. We also exclusively represent LinkedIn for their advertising Sales in India.”


Sunil also spoke on the potential that he personally sees in the internet and the future roles his company will play through it saying “Internet Gurus state that the Internet Industry will grow to 1000 crores in a couple of years. If that is the number that one goes by, taking it from 350 crores (which it is at today) to 1000 crores will not come out of performance advertising alone. This means that Internet will have to find its rightful place as a Medium of Advertising. That currently is an evangelizing game because the advertiser does not still look at the Internet with the same filter as he looks at the other media. The scope of NetworkPlay is to restore the usage of Internet as a Branding Medium delivering the same metrics of branding such as Brand Impact, TOM, Engagement, etc. as other media and go beyond the click.”


“We have had over 50 advertisers on the network and this scale of advertising would have benefited at least 6 million of the 12 million unique users that we have on the network.”


He also explained how he turns audiences and the internet into a business opportunity. He gave us the gist of his formula saying “The biggest differentiator of our business is that we provide audiences and not just an inventory. As advertisers become more and more discerning, they look at reaching out to their target audience in a more focused approach rather than aiming at a large base in the hope of reaching out to a few relevant people. We provide the exact audiences to advertisers through our well-curated and selective network of sites that are bucketed in a few specific niches such as Travel, Women, Middle East, Business and News and of course on LinkedIn.”


He is keen to expand his influence and laid out a portion of his plans for the future of NetworkPlay saying “Immediate plans are to invest in an ad-serving technology, boost the network of sites and grow revenues four-fold. Apart from this, we would like to refrain from commenting on what our plans are.”


Sunil was always going to be an entrepreneur; all that was missing was the right idea to bank on. He told us about it saying “The thought of going entrepreneurial always existed in a nascent form in my mind. That, with the emergence of an idea that hadn’t been tried out in the Indian market before (that of creating a Brand Ad Network as opposed to a Performance dependant Ad Network) and the confidence of being able to put together a team that would take it to its logical conclusion were the clinchers.”


It was no easy going though as he had to change the way people saw the internet. Opening people’s eyes to the potential of the internet was not effortless. Sunil elaborated saying “The entire business model of getting advertisers to spend money on the Internet as a Branding Expense rather than for Performance is a big challenge in itself. NetworkPlay does not offer any Cost per Click or Cost per Lead deals. We only offer Cost per Mille (Impressions) deals, which were fast fading from the market as more and more performance networks and agencies specializing in performance based deals are entering the market. To go against the tide has been a challenge and to be able to crack some of the advertisers to not just listen to our point of view but also put money on it has been an achievement.”


Their Seed Funding was procured from Capital 18. They are also are a venture of Goosefish Media Ventures and Capital 18. With the hassle of expanses and funding out of the way the company has grown steadily, he stated his gains saying “Not wanting to sound boastful, our growth trajectory has been parallel to none. Having set up at a time when the markets is at its worst and also having adopted a business model that goes upstream there were the challenges but with the acute foresightedness of our founder Rammohan Sundaram and under his guidance, we rocked the first quarter of our existence and beat it in the second.”


“We started off as a fledgling unit of 5 people but we are spread across Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore with18 people now.”


Sunil is keen to recognize the key role his publishers have played and gave them their due saying “Our biggest achievement is the faith that the publishers we represent on our network have in us, which has prompted quite a few of them to have us exclusively represent them, something, which was unheard of till we came into the picture.” 


“Bagging the LinkedIn contract while competing against stalwarts in the industry who have been here longer and in far bigger measures has been by far the largest recognition of our work.”


Sunil is also realistic about the ups and downs of entrepreneurship; he spoke of the rationale behind his motivation and said “That the ride is a rollercoaster ride is the motivation. I know the joy of cracking the smallest deal and the sorrow of losing one. Also the fact that our business model is now being adopted by a few other companies as well reinforcing the faith we have in our idea and it’s potential.”


He has no qualms about where he envisions his company by 2011 and stated “By 2010, as mentioned we will have grown four fold in revenues, by an equal number on the publisher representation side and would have at least the first cut of our own ad server rolled out. And, if all goes well, we would probably have at least one branch outside India as well.”


The winner of ‘Make an Ad’ competition in college has come a long way since peddling the fictitious merits ‘Hot Ice Cream’ that is good for the throat. He encourages those who would follow in his entrepreneurial example saying “As I always say, believe in yourself and your idea, have the courage to give it shape and the resilience to see it through right to the end. And most importantly, have fun while at it all.”


We at Yourstory appreciate Sunil’s vision of entrepreneurship and hope he continues his fine work and inspires others with his ideas.

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