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Vizury conjures sci-fi magic in its dashboard

Georgy S Thomas, July 20, 2015,. DHNS 0:06 IST

Product software firm Vizury claims to have a secret sauce to help companies make up their minds on where to spend their digital marketing dollars. DH

A UAE airline had this peculiar problem. Its London flights in the morning were always full, but the afternoon flights to the same city were going empty. Enter Vizury, a Bengaluru-based product software company which can analyse massive amounts of data to find likely customers.

Vizury quickly located Net users who were searching for flights to London, and then dropping off without buying a ticket. It then started promoting the afternoon flight to them with a 30 per cent discount. Note that this discount was not announced to anybody who wants to travel, but quietly offered to those who are sold on the destination. “And soon the seats started filling up,” said Chetan Kulkarni, co-founder and CEO of Vizury.

Tech partner to marketers

Kulkarni describes his company as a technology partner to marketers. Simply put, it helps companies make up their minds on which customers they should spend their marketing dollars from among the universe of internet users who have shown an interest in their products or services. Given the scale of internet users, how does Vizury manage to do this?

For one, Vizury has built a huge database of profiles (700 million and counting) of internet users based on client data as well as third-party bulk sellers. It is stripped of all personally identifiable information (phone numbers, email IDs, etc.) using encryption software.

Vizury then applies its algorithms — its secret sauce, developed by in-house math wizards — to find out which user is more likely to buy a product from its client. It also places the ads for the client on multiple platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google after hooking up its servers with them.

Kulkarni says Vizuri tracks 35-plus variables about each user to make sure its conversion rate is much higher than any rival advertising technology. It better be, because clients do not pay Vizury for merely showing ads to users. They pay only when the ad display leads to a transaction, like buying a flight ticket.

This is the advertising side, and the products here are called WebConvert for the desktop, and MobiConvert for the mobile. Vizury has about 600 customers, including marquee names like Tata Motors, Jet Airways, Sony, Virgin, Lenovo, Snapdeal, etc.

Kulkarni says clients who want more control and cross-channel efficiency select the full stack called Performance Management Hub (PMH), which is given away under a monthly licensing deal.

It is made up of three tools — Engage, Reach, and Convert. Engage takes care of data analysis and offline behaviour, while Reach and Convert is about online advertising. While there are only a handful of clients for all of PMH, the Engage tool has dozens of users.
What is cross-channel efficiency? It means, for instance, not sending out an SMS and an email on the same day to the same target customer. Or even better, by avoiding advertisements to a target customer on a day when a mailer was already sent out.

Annual growth of 300+ %

Kulkarni refused to share numbers, but said Vizury has revenues of less than $100 million at this point. The company, which he claims to have grown around 300-400 per cent every year as attested by the Deloitte Fast 500 Asia-Pacific ranking for three years, is just a few quarters away from profitability, claims the CEO.

The unique niche which Vizury occupies in India, and its presence in many markets, means its competitors too come from elsewhere.

Kulkarni names Adobe with its Marketing Cloud, and Oracle with its Social Marketing Cloud, as vying for the same business. And both are formidable players. Others have pointed out Nasdaq-listed Criteo (2014 revenues of €745 million). and privately held AdRoll as competitors in the same space. Regardless, the CEO has a clear picture about how Vizury can compete and do better. For one, Vizury doesn’t stop at showing “five sexy pie charts” and bar graphs on the dashboard. “That’s where 99 per cent of the vendors stop,” says Kulkarni. “But we translate the information into idea, into action. That way you become a marketing partner instead of a marketing technology vendor.”

Vizury approaches target clients by offering to set up a marketing cockpit for them. Then it encourages the company to identify a business problem it has. This problem is then tied to the Vizury platform. Campaigns are then run across channels.

“It’s a very simple, yet powerful pitch. It completely resonates with most of the chief marketing officers (CMOs),” Kulkarni says. Once clients are onboard, Vizury raises the bar by setting goals for them, and hooks them to the various data streams which they have. Then the pilot tests are rolled out one by one. The result? Vizury’s revenue retention rate (a metric which measures the amount spent by the client every year) is 100-plus per cent every year, claims Kulkarni.

If this is true, it explains the company’s global ambitions. Apart from India, its major markets are Japan, China, Korea, Brazil, Indonesia, and Dubai.

It has offices in 8-9 countries, and everywhere has appointed country managers from the same market. PMH also can generate marketing content in up to eight languages for all these markets. “You feed in content in any one language. It will churn out the marketing message in the local language,” says Kulkarni.

The innovation DNA

When challenged to name another recent innovation, Kulkarni mentions how during the last 72-hour hackathon, its engineers came up with personalised video experience. Instead of accepting video as a broadcast medium like television where everybody sees the same visuals, Vizury engineers wondered why device IDs shouldn’t be used to personalise videos.

They started with a jewellery ad and added various content on top of it so that each person saw the same ad tailored for him/her. Vizury will be rolling out the product soon, Kulkarni said.

Vizury’s three co-founders — Chetan Kulkarni, Gourav Chindlur, Vikram Nayak — ran into each other at their previous workplace Trilogy. Kulkarni is grateful for the experience. “I would say that is where I learnt a lot about entrepreneurship. Because Trilogy’s founder (Joe Liemandt) was a classic Stanford dropout, he would encourage a lot of entrepreneurship within the company. If you go to him and pitched a good idea, he would fund it and build a business unit around it.” In mid-2008, the three quit to found Vizury.

So far, $27 million has been raised from up to five venture investors, who now hold majority equity. The company, which employs 250-plus people, including around 90 non-Indians, plans to recruit another 150 this year. Other one-year goals include generating tens of millions of dollars in revenues from the seven focus markets, and bringing out more products on the Big Data and mobile side.

Kulkarni nurses a five-year goal of giving one single dashboard to every CMO. “It will be a science fiction Star Trek sort of space machine which will allow the CMO to understand everything from users, geography, and channels,” he said.

Going against the grain

Vizury’s business model stands apart. For one, it is totally absent in the US market in contrast to traditional Indian information technology (IT) companies which are US-focused. Vizury’s focus markets are China, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia, besides India.

The downside of avoiding US is getting less written about by US-based tech publications, market research firms, news aggregators, etc. Second, Vizury positions itself as a product software company. Even Indian IT firms with the knowhow to completely design a software product do not take the next step of ownership, since it brings the responsibility to market it, often against rival products from clients.

A few like MindTree, for instance, had ventured even further into product design and development (smartphone), only to abandon it because it found the risks outweighed the benefits. Third, Vizury believes it is the only Indian company in a space where its competitors are technology marquee names like Adobe with its Marketing Cloud and Oracle with its Social Marketing Cloud.


Quick Stats


$234.75 bn: Estimated
digital + mobile marketing spend in 2015*
$1.17 bn: Adobe
Marketing Cloud revenues, 2014
$1.1 bn: Oracle SaaS and PaaS revenues, 2014
€745 mn: Revenues of Criteo, 2014
Source: eMarketer.com


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