Everyone knows the big news. Gruner + Jahr (G+J), the publishing division of European media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, has acquired a majority stake in digital ad network, Networkplay, that has presence in internet, mobile and DTH platforms. This is G+J’s second strategic investment in India, having recently acquired the majority of MaXposure Media.In an exclusive conversation with YourStory.in, Rammohan Sundaram tells us more about the acquisition and what the future holds for NetworkPlay.
Ram, you entered the digital ad network space way after some of the other major players, but managed to be the first exit in India in this space; so what are the keys to success in digital media space in India according to you?
Success to any business happens when you focus on your customers and drive towards building a long term sustainable model for all their business objectives, which is what we did and fortunately for us we have 70% of our customers working with us as repeats, which in itself is a testimony of the solutions we offer in the market. Put this as the first strategy and work with your teams to deliver world class service levels with tremendous amount of passion that gets viral across the organisation where each individual owns up to their tasks and treats the company as their own, which is why we have more than 30 entrepreneurs in our organisation simply because none of these are employees, they are owners of the brand NetworkPlay.
I’ve always said that building a successful team is more important than raising money, though raising money has more values in terms of speed to deploy, building technology and driving solutions based on those, however our strategy from day one was going into the market with solutions that need not have technology unless it was rocket science - proved right for us because we believed that unless technology is differentiated it would mean nothing for the digital eco-system, and therefore we focused on the human angle more and built a sustainable business, which I thought was more important than raising money during the downturn when the global markets collapsed in September 2008. We launched in October 2008 and so the time was tough then and we kept going, knowing very well that we had a clear blue ocean strategy in place that was different in many ways.
So we grew faster and became attractive for a buyout, which is what happened eventually.
How will the merger with Gruner + Jahr take place in the coming few months?
It is not a merger and nor is it a 100% buyout, its a majority stake, which will eventually become a 100% buyout and this for G+J Bertelsmann is in-synch with their strategy of having a multimedia presence in the media landscape that they would dominate in the times to come. We are their big bet in the digital space and we are committed in working together with this massive group to bring in innovative solutions both in technology and processes that will add tremendous value to our existing clients both publisher partners and advertisers.
Respecting that you wouldn’t like to discuss specifics of your revenue in public, could you roughly tell the readers of YourStory what has Networkplay’s revenue been in the FY 2011?
Well, you can put that in the range of 4 - 5 Million USD in turnover, and since we are yet to close the year it won’t be fair for me to comment. Valuations are again something that is of internal consumption at the board level and we refrain from speaking about the same in openly.
How do you see Capital18 and Webchutney’s strategic contribution to the acquisition?
We have had a great run with Sidharth ( Webchutney ) and Sarbvir ( Capital18 ). It was a magic team of investors, they have been tremendous contributors in every aspect of our growth and so I would like to go on record that without their support we wouldn't have reached here and in terms of the acquisition bit - of course Capital18 has a wonderful set of people who worked diligently with us through the whole process over the last several months.
Finally, what next for you? How does it feel post-acquisition?
An entrepreneur is never made but comes naturally to people and I have been very lucky that I have 30 of them in my company. So, for all of us, it is business as usual while we continue to strive for the betterment of the digital eco-system in India.
It feels wonderful to be part of G+J & Bertelsmann Group and we look forward to a solid journey going forward.