InMobi, India’s first unicorn, has a new AI-powered tech offering: Glance. The Android lock-screen service lets you consume high-quality content simply by glancing at your mobile phone and already has 26 million daily active users with plans to reach millions more.Thimmaya Poojary
Fleeting glances no more! That’s what InMobi, India's first unicorn, is betting on with Glance – the mobile advertising company’s new lock-screen mobile-first product offering that is revolutionising the way India consumes content.
With Glance, each time you glance at your mobile phone, the Android lock-screen service shows you high-quality, short-form content that’s sure to grab your attention.
The aim of InMobi’s mobile-first platform Glance is simple, says InMobi Founder and CEO Naveen Tewari: provide visually rich content that informs and entertains users – be it an entertainment factoid, a sporting event result, a news snippet, or a fashion recommendation. And all this, one lock-screen at a time.
So, Glance is not an app. Instead, the service comes pre-installed on mobile phones manufactured by Samsung, Xiaomi, Gionee, and Vivo, which together comprise a whopping 65 percent of all new smartphones sold in India, or over 90 million phone unit shipments in 2018 alone.
Naveen Tewari, in an exclusive conversation with YourStory, says,
“This is a new way to consume content on your phone. Glance has been built in India and for India.”
To be clear, many platforms now deliver content in various Indian languages, but most deploy technologies that have been adapted to serve local requirements. AI-backed Glance on the other hand lets users access curated, high-quality content across 19 categories – simply by swiping their mobile phone screens.
Today, in India alone, Glance has over 26 million daily active users (DAUs), far surpassing the numbers of other popular short video platforms like Tik Tok (formerly Musicaly) from China’s ByteDance. And according to InMobi’s Naveen Tewari, these users are already spending an average 22 minutes of their time on Glance.
Glance, which has been in the works ever since the idea came about in 2015, was set up in 2017 after numerous iterations on product market fit. In the last two years, InMobi was engaged with Glance on four fronts – product, content, OEM partnerships, and the team.
Glance was formally unveiled in last month, marking InMobi’s foray into the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment.
The InMobi founder strongly believes that the lock-screen ecosystem is a powerful one, and when married to high-quality content, can transform the way people look at content consumption.
Today, people are eyeing easier ways to consume content, says Naveen, a need that Glance is aiming to fulfil with its personalised, short-form, easy-to-consume, visually appealing content.
As Glance was built for the Indian consumer, it offers various nuances associated with preferences for local languages. Glance also employs algorithms to create a personalised set of glances for every user, similar to what Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram do.
With Glance, users can consume content in 'micro moments' or more accurately, glance at content on their Android lock-screens, without having to unlock their phone.
Still, while content delivery around the lock-screen ecosystem has been around for a while with various publishers adopting this route, the key challenge for many has been in keeping viewer interest locked in for a longer period of time. This for many publishers has meant pushing out different types of content in high volumes, sometimes at the cost of quality.
But this will not be the case for Glance, says Naveen Tewari, where InMobi is focused on delivering ‘only high-quality content’. So while artificial intelligence (AI) throws up customer preferences, the content presentation is done the old-fashioned way, by humans.
“All content that goes into Glance is of high quality and curated by professionals. We want to build a platform that every member of a family can use,” says Naveen.
“We will not allow anything that is racy or semi-porn. It is okay if you do not like the content, but we will never embarrass you.”
In its drive to add more high-quality content, Glance has tied up with numerous content publishers and is keen to welcome more to its platform.
“We want to keep it very open. Anybody with high-quality content can get massive traffic from us while also opening up monetisation and distribution opportunities for themselves,” Naveen says.
What’s unique about Glance is that it reaches a consumer without using platforms like Google or Facebook. In fact, Glance is expected to be complementary to the app ecosystem.
Naveen says Glance is still exploring monetisation avenues but is clear the company will never run an ad directly on the platform.
“There are ways in which we can monetise through driving traffic to certain places that our personalisation system feels you should see but if you go there, we can make some money through that.”
And yet, Glance is only experimenting with various monetisation options currently, but will likely hone in on a model in the next three-to-six months, Naveen says. He adds,
“It is about consumers spending a lot of time on this and we will see where it goes.”
Today, InMobi has three growth engines driving its business: the advertising marketing platform, the data cloud segment, and now Glance.
“All these three businesses are at different stages of scale and growth and they’re looking very solid,” he says.
Naveen credits the growth of the company to its culture. “Fundamentally, the culture and innovation has kept our revenue strong,” he says.
“We went through our tough phases and it forced us to build a better business. We have learnt how to come out of these tough times,” he says.
Still, the decade-old InMobi, which has seen its fair share of tough phases, has been known for setting ambitious targets and meeting them. With Glance too, it is targeting big numbers: a DAU base of 75-100 million in the next 12 months.
But numbers aside, it is positive customer feedback that creates a sense of achievement for the entire team at Glance, says Naveen.
He recalls, with a smile,
“I was listening in on a customer feedback call and the customer said, ‘I love Glance because it makes me happy every time I look at my phone.’ It touched me and for everyone who creates products, you want to see people being happy. That one statement has resonated across the company, with everyone, and has made us happy.”