Two IITians aim to disrupt advertising space with unique video ad platform

10th Mar 2018
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UdnKhatola is an advertising platform to display video ads in Varanasi’s autorickshaws through an Android tablet.

At a glance

Startup: UdnKhatola

Founders: Divyanshu Kashyap, Shivam Gupta, and Kishan Kumar

Year it was founded: 2017

Where is it based: Varanasi

The problem it solves: Offers effective, economical mode of advertisement

Sector: Advertising

Funding raised: Bootstrapped

India has five million autorickshaws plying its roads. Despite the aggressive infusion of cabs in recent times, autorickshaws continue to play an important role in commuting, serving three billion rides daily.

IITians Divyanshu Kashyap and Kishan Kumar took note of these statistics and unearthed a business opportunity. They came to realise that most autorickshaws spend about 90 percent of the time around city centres, making them a spotlight for advertisements.

So they decided to leverage this untapped space, and set up UdnKhatola, a Varanasi-based startup that aims to disrupt the advertising space. The platform aspires to provide exposure to big brands struggling to maintain demand, and help small brands become big through brand promotion and development.

UdnKhatola is backed by a team of seven IIT-Varanasi students

UdnKhatola is looking to resolve ineffective, overrated and costly modes of advertisement, including all conventional methods like TV, radio, print, and hoardings. While these traditional advertising mediums have been aiding brands put out their products to the masses for a long time, they may not be well-suited for every company.

Say, for instance, a startup or local service/goods provider that is looking for an inexpensive way to get its brand across to a specific target group. This is where UdnKhatola wishes to cause disruption.

UdnKhatola uses autorickshaws as advertising platforms, by equipping them with an Android tablet fixed in a wooden case right above the driver’s seat. This enables businesses to advertise their products through video ads running in autorickshaws in Varanasi.

The platform provides proximity-based advertising system, which includes a personal dedicated wireless electronic device (android tablet in case of UdnKhatola). A wireless transceiver interacting with a web application over the internet starts displaying ads when the location of an auto fitted with UdnKhatola is within the range of the wireless transceiver unit's signal.

“As the autorickshaws have all-city permit, with the proximity feature our clients can fix the radius in which they want to advertise. For example, if our client wants to advertise in a 2-3 km radius, then whenever the auto enters that particular radius the ad will be played,” adds Divyanshu.

The platform has a simple brand strategy: it ties up with autorickshaw drivers and advertising agencies based in Varanasi for providing ad content. Initially, the platform provides free services to clients for trust building and later charges a nominal fee for advertising via UdnKhatola.

The story behind UdnKhatola

After finishing their semester exams at IIT Varanasi, the two co-founders, Divyanshu (21) and Kishan Kumar (20), were wondering what’s next, when they stumbled upon the idea of UdnKhatola. The duo was planning to build an autorickshaw aggregator app, but changed their minds when they noticed an Ola auto displaying an ad at the rear of the vehicle. This sparked the idea to explore autorickshaw advertising and innovate the existing solution of monotonous print ads on autorickshaws with the power of technology. Thus, UdnKhatola came to be.

The startup has a core team of seven members who are pursuing their engineering degree from IIT Varanasi and are in the second and third year of their course.

Once Divyanshu and Kishan were sure about their idea, they roped in Shivam Gupta (20) as the third co-founder. The young entrepreneurs who are still in college used their savings (including pocket money and cash prizes won at college fests and events) and also raised money from friends, family to start the venture.

They trio later onboarded Adarsh Kumar (21), Pulkit Raj (21), and Swapnil Kulkarni (20). The startup found its seventh member, Dev Mittal (20), while they were in the pilot phase and were planning to create in-house video and content.

How UdnKhatola intends to penetrate the market

The platform, which was set up in 2017, is trying to create a niche in the vast advertising industry, worth over Rs 60,000 crore, and would be competing with traditional modes of advertisement.

However, the platform has entered the market a couple of months ago and is operating only in Varanasi city, and the founders feel they are at a very nascent stage to worry about competition.

Divyanshu feels that the platform in itself is the USP, as the advertising in autorickshaws really grabs the attention of the commuters as they watch the ads unlike, the other traditional advertisement modes, which are static and become monotonous after a time.

The platform provides clients with their individual unique portals, wherein the clients can manage their own ad campaigns and can also track statistics of displayed ads. The platform also has a creative team for catering to clients needs, in case they don’t have a video ad.

“Our creative and innovative ad making team works in-house for our clients in order to provide them with industry-standard and cost-effective videos,” adds Divyanshu.

Plans for future

Going ahead, the startup is looking to expand the business to other cities like Lucknow, Guwahati, Ranchi and Pune by 2019.

It is also planning to install the system in other modes of public transport system, like taxis and buses. Currently, the platform is bootstrapped and is looking to raise funds soon.

Though the startup was launched in October 2017, the co-founders did two months of R&D to understand the market and finally launched the product in the market in December, 2017. So far, the platform has tied up with ten auto rickshaws and is catering to six clients in Varanasi.

The platform is generating revenue through subscription fee ranging between Rs 999 and Rs 2,999, and also by providing the ad content service (graphic designing/video making and shooting/animation).

“We want to develop our product so that we can enter the aggregator app market, which will make our service more relevant and profitable at the same time,” adds Divyanshu.

A short video showing how UdnKhatola works:


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