It was in 2010 when Sahil Chopra and Jacob M Goerge conceptualised the idea of iCubes. Sahil was then working with Hong Kong Tourism Board in the digital marketing division. But India was not a preferred destination for digital marketing business during that period as the entire Internet business was at its nascent stage.
“Hardly anyone understood digital marketing and when we spoke about email marketing we always got a blank stare. We had already seen a vision of the future and understood the potential so the substantial gap and therefore the need that existed was also fairly clear to us,” says Sahil.
iCubes is a digital marketing solutions provider that helps brands acquire and retain customers through web, mobile, email, videos, rich media and so on. It is a performance-based online marketing expert that helps companies optimise their sales and provides personalised and behavioural re-targeting with split testing and real-time analysis.
It offers fully outsourced email marketing services, including campaign consulting, concept, design and implementation, as well as self-service solution, enabling clients to self-manage their email broadcast campaigns.
The operation is broadly divided into two parts: iCubes – Email Marketing (customer retention) and iCubeswire – Affilaite Ad: Network (customer acquisition). They launched 'Email Vidya' in 2011 to train the industry on email marketing. And in 2012, they set up their own affiliate ad network to cater to a huge demand of digital inventory, from web, mobiles, video and rich media.
“Technology is the backbone for both iCubes and iCubeswire. We work on SaaS platforms and there is huge quantum of big data that helps us predict and re-target the customers with the right kind of offers and propositions,” says Sahil, 32, who met Jacob (40), during a stint in Hong Kong. Jacob was the marketing manager of HCITEK Software Pvt. Ltd, with which Hong Kong Tourism Board has tied up with for major promotions. Sahil says their interactions over the years helped them better understand some critical missing links in the digital marketing space, which led them to launch iCubes.
Given that digital marketing was a new concept, convincing brands of iCubes' value-add was a huge challenge. In 2010, both Myntra and Snapdeal were taking baby steps to set up their operations and team. Sahil and Jacob knew Ashutosh Lawani (Myntra) and Rohit Bansal (Snapdeal) very well and therefore managed to explain to them the concept of iCubes.
They were convinced that this will definitely add lot of value to their marketing initiatives and agreed to sign up iCubes for their email and marketing and lead generation partner.”
Currently, iCubes works with 5,000 customers globally , including Taj Hotels, Lalit Hotels, Radisson Blue, Titan Watches, American Swan, MTS, Uninor, IndiaMart, FabIndia, Snapdeal, FREECULTR, Myntra, Shopclues, Foodpanda, Koovs and more.
“India is the largest revenue-generating market for us and we plan to keep on investing our efforts in the India marketing for at least the next two years, before we look at the global markets,” states Sahil.
With a headcount of 100 employees, iCubes has offices in Gurgaon, Bangalore and Cochin. So far, the startup has done more than 35 email workshops including a major email marketing summit in Dubai. Its email education portal, emailvidya.com, comprises educational series, workshops and certifications in email marketing, accredited by Internet and Mobile Association of India.
Co-branding and participation fees are the revenue sources for the workshops. The lucrative part of EmailVidya is that majority of these events turn out to be deeply engaging sessions where the industry speaks about their experiences as well their expectations on email as a marketing tool.
The startup charges $500 to $20,000 per month and its revenue has grown at a rate of 40 to 60 percent year-on-year.
In a bid to meet market expectation, iCubes will launch iCubesPro, a cross-channel marketing communications management platform with powerful remarketing capabilities. Remarketing is one of the key tools of digital marketing that enables marketers to publish targeted ads for the defined audience who search for particular products, services or visit a website for a particular purpose.
Impact of digital marketing
Digital marketing is usually defined by the usage of multiple digital channels to promote or market products and services to both consumers and businesses. With the influence of digital marketing in India, customer retention saw an 80 percent increase since 2011. The impact of integrated campaigns increased by 84 percent, from 31 percent in 2011 to 57 per cent in 2015, revealed Octane Research. For 72 percent India marketers, 'websites' was the primary e-marketing activity in 2014.
A number of retail marketers think that behavioural targeting has brought significant changes to their campaigns. Thirty-three percent of Indian marketers think that over 50 percent of emails are viewed on mobile devices, witnessing a YoY growth of 25 percent.
Going forward, iCubes will emphasise more on going mobile and working towards making effective mobile strategies, and invest significantly on technology especially on big data. In the upcoming fiscal year, the startup aims to target $10 million.
“We have been bootstrapped for the last six years and have a consistent growth trajectory for all these years. While so far we never thought of infusing any external capital, our financial roadmap could be re-visited in the coming years as we are looking for multi-fold investments into technology,” says Sahil.