“It was not only eye-opening to see some of the solutions that the startups presented, but also interesting to see how the same problem could be solved differently by different startups” says Sidharth Kedia – Head - Strategy & Data Sciences, Viacom18. Sidharth was referring to the innovative solutions for a range of problem statements – from customer retention, customer acquisition effectiveness and consumer segmentation, to analytics dashboard integrating multiple data sources – that were on display at the pitch day of the second edition of the Viacom 18 Startup Engagement programme (VStEP).
Presenting the solutions were 12 startups with expertise in the areas of analytics and data science, consumer insights, marketing automation, AR/VR, language localisation, amongst others.
Launched in November 2018, VStEP 2.0 saw ~150 applications from all over the country. VStEP is a programme that gives startups the opportunity to work with Viacom18 to solve real business issues and build a strategic engagement. The first edition of the programme saw PoCs from five startups to solve business challenges, and three went on to become vendors of Viacom18.
Delivering a bigger impact
VStEP 2.0 made significant iterations to the operational structure of the programme to help startups derive most from an opportunity that’s one of a kind. For one, unlike most startup programmes, a majority of the applicants got a chance to interact with the core team of VStEP. Sidharth Kedia, says, “We wanted to give each applicant a fair chance to make it to pitch day. Thereby, the core team closely interacted with the applicants before announcing the shortlisted startups for Pitch Day.” These interactions also enabled the startups to get their queries answered and fine-tune their pitch. “During VStEP First Class, we observed that a number of startups had phenomenal ideas. They also had the required technology and expertise. But, not all of them could wow the jury in the allotted five minutes. So that’s why we were keen to make the longer interactions happen this time, even though it was time and effort-intensive.”
This thought and the initiative reflects the ingenuity of VStEP and the effort it undertakes to enable the startups benefit most from the programme. Muralidharan Krishnamoorthy, Founder and CEO, Saturam, agrees, “The initial interactions with Viacom18 team helped us understand their business objectives better, get clarity on the queries, and thereby arrive at a pitch that could resonate with Viacom18 executive leadership.”
The startups were judged on four key parameters - Solution fitment, PoC readiness, Maturity to convert to long-term solution and Wider applicability of the solution.
12 startups made it to pitch day on 25 March 2019. The event saw the startups presenting their solutions to a jury which included key Viacom 18 business leaders who are not only experts in the area of the problem statements that the startups were given but also sponsors of the programme. These included Sudhanshu Vats (Group CEO & Managing Director), Sonia Huria (Head of Corporate Marketing, Communications & Sustainability), Mukesh Mundra (Chief Financial Officer), Sidharth Kedia (Head - Strategy & Data Sciences).
Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO & Managing Director, Viacom18 says, “The pitch day was an energising and enriching event. It was exciting to see mature and baked solutions for the problem statements. We will now try the solutions through PoCs and I am confident that we will have many successful outcomes at the end of the PoC phase”
While the Pitch Day had a lot of significance for Viacom18, it also added immense value to the startups. Bhaskar Deo, CEO and Co-Founder, Trillbit Technologies, says, “Getting to see so many startups presenting under one roof was a great learning experience. Interacting with the other startups helped to broaden our perspective and understand how they see a different solution to the same problem statement we are working on. A lot of the startups work in similar segments and we are able to see how their solutions are complementary to ours.”
Meet the 12 startups which were invited for Pitch Day as part of VStEP 2.0
Founded by three IIT Kharagpur alumni, Bhaskar Deo, Mrigesh Parashar and Shashikant Burnwal, Trillbit Technologies is a three-year-old startup that is being counted among India's emerging deep-tech startups. Its proprietary technology transforms any speaker and mic into a data transfer device. It can send proximity based, real-time information and data packets from any speaker or media device to your smartphone, without any network, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Saturam is a fast-growing global deep-tech company operated by experienced leaders and experts in Big-Data Ops and Real-time ML. It enables Tier-1 brands to produce Continuous AI-Ready Data ‘As-A-Platform-Enhanced-Service’. Piperr is a suite of ML-based apps across the entire data life-cycle to enable swift and seamless AI readiness for various business use-cases, including Market and Competition Intelligence, Advanced Data Integration and Unification leading to AI-readiness of the enterprise. The startup has been founded by Muralidharan Krishnamoorthy and Jay K. Madhivadhanan.
Formcept’s flagship product, MECBOT, is an end-to-end Augmented Data Analytics Platform. Currently, MECBOT is trusted by Fortune 2000 customers in the US, the UK and India. Formcept has filed about 10 patents in India and the US, and has already been awarded four patents in the US. The AI company has been founded by Suresh Srinivasan and Anuj Kumar, alumni of IIT and NIT respectively, who come with deep expertise in enterprise software development.
Techforce.ai is the world's first "Digital workforce-as-a-service" platform that helps enterprises automate over 400 repetitive and manual processes through its unique and integrated process automation cloud software. The startup has been founded by Sriram Papani, Prasad Kandimalla, Vijay Navaluri and Siva Moduga, industry leaders with experience in setting and managing enterprise business, and working with Fortune 100 customers on digital technologies
Founded by Apaksh Gupta and Jivesh Gupta in 2015, One Impression helps brands maximise the potential of content creator-led campaigns using their influencer marketing and celebrity endorsement platform.
6.Reverie Language Technologies
Founded by Arvind Pani, Vivekananda Pani, and SK Mohanty in 2010, Reverie started its journey by building technological solutions for Indian languages. In less than 10 years, Reverie’s Indic language solutions have helped tens of millions of Indians across the country and brought them closer to the internet. The startup was recently acquired by Reliance.
Scapic is a cloud-based platform with a suite of simple tools that enable creatives, brands and businesses to build Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 3D content without game engines or coding expertise. The startup was founded in 2017 by Sai Krishna V K, a serial entrepreneur, and Ajay PV
MoEngage is an Intelligent marketing automation platform for consumer brands to understand customer behaviour across digital touch points through inbuilt analytics, and orchestrate personalised campaigns across multiple channels including mobile, email, SMS and website. It is the only marketing automation platform in the APAC region to be recognised by Gartner in the Magic Quadrant for Mobile Marketing Platforms. The startup has been founded by IIT Kharagpur alumni, Raviteja Dodda and Yashwanth Kumar.
The startup’s SaaS platform enables insights on consumers’ real-world behaviour using multi-dimensional data to derive purchase intent and buying propensity without infringing on the consumer’s privacy. They help mobile app publishers monetise consumer data, do offline attribution and create segmented audiences, thus demanding higher premium on their ad inventory. The startup was founded in 2016 by Anil Kumar, Girish Vishwanath and Ranganath Srinivasan, each with over two decades of experience.
Fluid AI offers a way to get AI to change how digital transactions take place in a natural, engaging way. The solution offers voice, text and touch interactions which make the environment more comfortable for the customer. The founders, Raghav Aggarwal and Abhinav Aggarwal, two self-learnt coders, were featured in the 2017 Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 Most Influential Entrepreneurs in Tech list and were also featured on the Forbes magazine cover in July 2018. The startup has been named by Forrester and Gartner as the Top Deep Learning Vendor and Cool Vendor for Artificial Intelligence, respectively.
Founded by Deepinder Singh and Prasoon Rana, Prudle labs provides an all-in-one platform, Prudle Studio, which is a globalization suite. It covers the entire gamut of products from internationalization to translation, and translation management to localization QA. By using Machine learning and Machine translation solutions they help organizations save cost and go global, quickly.
A fast-growing media-tech startup, Zapr is India's largest media consumption repository and audience targeting platform. Their audio-fingerprinting algorithm has been rated best-in-class globally. In fact, its ACR technology is integrated on a massive user smart-phone base and can detect all kinds of media content and profile users. The startup was founded in 2012 by IIM-A alumni, Sandipan Mondal, Deepak Baid and Sajo Mathews.
A joint PoC: what it means for startups and Viacom18
These startups will now work with the internal business units at Viacom18 to carve out PoC opportunities across various business units and functions. The VStEP team will help startups implement their solution in close tandem with the existing teams on ground. The startups believe that the joint pilot will shape their solution into a more mature and robust offering and thereby into a sustainable and dependable business model for the industry.
Trillbit Technology’s Bhaskar says, “This is a year of growth for us and we think if we are able to work with Viacom 18, it will strengthen our use case.”
“We are looking forward to engaging with Viacom18 across verticals. – from the VOOT app, to their merchandise division, and especially see how we can supercharge their content from 2D photos and videos towards AR, VR, 360 degree and 3D,” adds Scapic’s Ajay.
Sidharth believes VStEP’s drive to leverage the strengths of the startups and simultaneously contribute to its growth story, is enabling the programme to make a strong impact. “VStEP is growing from strength to strength. We will continue to make this program bigger and better as we believe that to create a future-ready Viacom18, we need to tap into the startup ecosystem, drawing from their nimbleness and drive. Only when we learn with humility, can we create a successful tomorrow.”