Vikas Sharma and Deepti Awasthi Sharma’s gohoardings.com is an on demand platform for advertising and a comprehensive database for alternative, traditional and digital out-of-home media.
Founders: Vikas Sharma and Deepti Awasthi Sharma
Funding: Self-funded (not disclosed)
What do they solve: Brings price transparency and analytics in OOH advertising, aggregates OOH inventory.
Three years ago, Vikas Sharma, was contemplating venturing out on his own after four years of work. Deepti Sharma, a former E&Y employee and a CA dropout, was curious about new business ideas, and was yearning to become an entrepreneur. Both were at a juncture where they were bored with their respective jobs.
Married in 2015, the two realised their inclination for entrepreneurship, and the premise to start up came soon after.
Recalling an incident when travelling across India on holiday, Vikas and Deepti noticed several hoardings and out-of-home media were empty. Research showed very few provided any analytics to an advertiser, and that there was no on-demand platform for brands to find the right hoardings.
“We were fascinated to see big OOH media at highways, tolls, airports, malls, and metros across the country, and we saw this industry did not have any structured platform to be part of,” says Deepti Awasthi Sharma, co-founder of gohoardings.com.
Gohoardings was formed in April 2016, and became operational from August 2016. The hypothesis was to create price transparency and stop the manipulation of middlemen in the ecosystem. The startup claims to have completed a deep study of the OOH segment in metropolitan cities and registered approximately 800-plus media owners on its portal.
“We have ensured the best prices to be offered to the clients without any speculations. Clients can book, buy, plan an OOH campaign online through the platform efficiently and effectively,” says Vikas.
According to GroupM, outdoor advertising is a Rs 2,900-crore industry in India. Advertising in India is dominated by print and TV advertising, which together account for Rs 45,636 crore.
“Marketing is the topmost priority of all the multinational companies, irrespective of the market conditions, and they are thus willing to work with people who could provide legitimate pricing,” says Deepti.
All that a consumer has to do is create a media buyer account, find the listing that they like, and then make an offer for a particular hoarding. The Gohoardings outdoor marketing team contacts the advertiser directly. The final order and payment are done through the website.
The duo is open to talk about the challenges because of the disorganised nature of the business.
Vikas and Deepti say they struggled due to multiple brokers claiming ownership of an OOH site, which creates huge speculation in pricing, as also who would be the correct person to contact to rent a site. The duo claims to have simplified media buying, planning, campaign execution and reporting.
Gohoardings has aggregated one lakh OOH sites. “We have overcome the challenges by physical verification, and then get the registered media owners on the website with the best-selling prices of the hoardings rental,” says Deepti. She adds that they are now focusing on technology to enhance experiences and scale up signing up with many more clients.
The company is also in the process of integrating the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality segments. When the client blocks a hoarding, they can use the gohoarding app to experience the hoarding and its surroundings. In two years, the company’s platform has achieved a turnover of Rs 11 crore (in billings) and currently has close to 50 clients. It could be making around 20 percent of the turnover as revenue. The company is also listing, in 12 months, OOH media in Dubai, the US, Thailand, and Hong Kong. “Our dream is to make it a global platform for OOH booking efficiently and effectively,” says Vikas.
He adds that the buying process is still dominated by email, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, and hence ad-buyers rarely get a clear sense of what their options are, or whether their campaigns are actually paying off. “Buyers will get comfortable when technology offers assistance in media planning, buying and in closing the booking process,” he says.
On the ad-buying side, Gohoardings aggregates inventory from a variety of different companies. The goal is to give buyers a comprehensive view of their options in a given geography, allow them to use a single interface to buy ads from multiple vendors, and even to target their campaigns based on factors like demographics.
On the analytics side, the company employs a range of approaches to measure an ad’s effectiveness, which includes creating campaign-specific shortcodes, integration with Google Analytics and Google AdWords. The company ensures geo-targeted surveys and uses image recognition on social media to detect when people are share images of the ad.
The company competes with bookmyooh and Hoardingsonline. The company says they are different because of the analytics offered and the VR campaigns that are planned.
“To be a leader in the OOH space, one must go digital and focus on understanding customers that use mobile and how they interact with their vicinity,” says Shriranga Sudhakara, founder of Vyoma Media, a Rs 50-crore OOH company that has properties at 351 railway stations across 14 states.
Indian advertising is a Rs 61,000 crore industry at present, according to GroupM. With startups like Gohoardings, there is every chance that the pie will only increase because of price transparency.
Vikas and Deepti are self-funded, and are now looking to achieve big things by going global.