Proof Of Performance, a Resilient Startup By An Untiring Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs are passionate, tireless, motivated, self-driven, persistent and lot more. But one thing that every entrepreneur has in common, is the ability to think out-of-the-box, to venture where no one has gone before and to make an opportunity out of adversity. All the superlatives mentioned here, sit pretty for Harjaap Singh Maan, MD, Proof Of Performance, an outdoor media monitoring company.
For those familiar with advertising, it is a well-known fact that the outdoor medium is one of the most difficult medium to measure. There is no way to find out what is the impact of the billboard, how many people actually saw it and most importantly how much of those impressions actually translated into sales for a brand.
Maybe we should ask dairy brand, Amul butter about the impact outdoor advertising has had on sales of their packs of butter – after all every week, since 1967 Amul and its moppet has picked up the most relevant topic in our country and presented their point-of-view through hoardings placed at important locations across the country. Despite its predominance in more ways than one, the advertising industry in India have not been able to justify spends invested in the medium. We are sure there would have been many a closed door debates to cut spends on outdoors, to be redirected to TV or print which are more measurable and can therefore give more ROI.
Enter entrepreneur Harjaap and startup Proof Of Performance, which aims to and has also made good progress in changing the way outdoor advertising is measured in India.
How they do it
Proof Of Performance(POP) measures outdoors in a number of ways. The team can either go from location to location in a particular city and look at the location of the hoarding, the traffic around it, the angle at which the hoarding is placed, the number of vehicles that pass the hoarding and using its proprietary algorithm and tools to measure the probable impression the advertisement on a hoarding, has made on the people who have passed through the location that it is situated in.Every fortnight, the POP team travels across 30 cities in India, over 11,000 kms and captures 600 hours of video. Approximately two tera-bytes of data is processed every fortnight by the startup’s proprietary software to understand the impact of a hoarding advertisement.
While this method is used for moving traffic, at certain junctions data is captured from a static point and POP’s software counts every vehicle that passes by. So be it a small car, big car or two wheeler, POP analyses the kind of audience who have passed that location based on the type of vehicle passing the junction. This data is inturn crunched to understand the demographic profile of the customers in the region and what kinds of brands can use that particular hoarding to advertise their product.
POP can provide clients with information like traffic on the road, visibility on the road, average period for which the billboard is visible to the people on the road, average period of traffic at any time on the road and so on. "Data like this was not available earlier in this sphere of business. This data cannot be denied and we now have a mechanism to put together and present this in front of the industry,” says Harjaap very proudly.
POP is a neutral third-party entity that purely collects and provides information to clients or brands through their own tools and infrastructure. Brands, advertising agencies or any interested party can subscribe to POP to get access to information about any hoarding across the country.
Think of POP as the audit agency for outdoor advertising, just like there is an IRS for print media and TAM ratings for television media. POP today has the capability to conduct outdoor media audits across 1,000 Indian cities and across 45,000 media assests.
Harjaap says POP would always like to maintain an arm’s distance from any agency or media house, for the simple reason that they want to be able to really make a difference in the outdoor advertising industry. “We are focused on being a third-party platform which the industry can trust and we want to be the universal currency the industry relies on, that has been our USP. We are not competing with any agency, we are only talking about the difference we can make in the space,” explains Harjaap.
The story so far
Started in 2010, POP today has 49 members in its team and Harjaap is eagerly awaiting their fiftieth employee. They are headquartered in Noida and will be setting up offices in Mumbai and Bangalore soon. They also have a wide network of vendors and channel partners across the country, who work very closely with them.
POP currently works with advertising agencies, independent brands and government agencies. They have a separate tool that they use to assist government agencies in traffic planning and management. Government is also a big user of the outdoor medium and POP helps them understand the efficacy of their investments in hoardings.
Competition from digital media
In this day and age of social networks and digital media, we ask Harjaap how relevant will outdoor advertising be in the coming years. He agrees the competition is real, but doesn’t think outdoors is going anywhere. “If you saw a billboard about a car, then it registers in your subconscious mind, and later you goto office and check out the car’s website. So according to the stats it is the digital medium that worked, because you can capture the clicks, but cannot measure the impact of the billboard. However, the fact remains that it was the billboard that triggered the thought in your mind,” reasons Harjaap.
He narrates an incident, where a watch company advertising on a hoarding had to pull down the outdoor campaign because the model that was advertised on the billboard went out of stock because of the demand it generated owing to that ad. “So people know the power of outdoors, but when they goto the boss and tell him we need to spend some more on the medium, the boss will ask what the data, where is the returns. And that is where we come in and help them see the value in what outdoors can do,” explains Harjaap.
The entrepreneur’s journey
While POP is today a successful venture and has a promising road ahead, Harjaap has burnt his fingers at entrepreneurship in the past. So much so that he had to give up his love for entrepreneurship and take up a job because his family insisted they had enough of his entrepreneurial spirit.
Harjaap started his entrepreneur journey as an engineering student of computer science in 1993-94. His first project was computerization of the recruitment process of Assam University, thus the University was his first client and his friends in college his first employees.
In 1995, he started his first venture in partnership with his University batch-mates to provide software solutions to the sugar manufacturers. He created Man-n-Machine for creating web based applications in 1998. However the dotcom bust in 2000 saw his clients disappear with the money they owed him and what followed was a period of struggle.
Harjaap however continued his entrepreneurial journey and partnered with Rational Software as their channel partner. Later he forged a partnership with Semiconductor Laboratory Limited (SCL) for an education venture in embedded software. However, this partnership with SCL didn’t turn out as expected and even resulted in legal litigation for Harjaap. He then took up a job with a call center owing to family pressure, but when the court ruled in his favour in 2010, Harjaap resigned from the call center and turned entrepreneur again, full-time.
Today Harjaap is happy man and wants to make sure POP can revolutionise outdoor advertising in India. “Outdoor will always continue to be prevalent -- digital, TV, print can never replace outdoor. It is currently not able to do well because of lack of metrics to measure performance. Even our proof of performance will depend on how much we are able to help the outdoor advertising industry grow,” says Harjaap.