Dotcom bust: How an Indian Internet startup turned the doom to a boom

Hyderabad: In 1999, they start up and right one year down the line, in 2000 with the dotcom bust they are on the edge of a sinking industry. For the startup, USAgreetings.com the once-upon-a bright industry was all but a ruined heap with fleeing advertisers and all that was expected was a complete shutdown. The team stood to be among the last men on the row still clinging on to the domain scouting for the one opportunity to click big. Name changed, headquarters shifted, portfolio differed with new tactics for growth and two days back, the company, Ybrant Digital has announced its fourth round of venture capital funding.

“I remember attending AdTech, a gathering in San Francisco and ‘Last Man Standing’ dinner recurrently, as we were one of those who were still pinning the hopes on the industry despite the drastic crash,” says Suresh Reddy, CEO of Ybrant Digital. The founders Reddy and Vijay Kancharla saw the trend. Right before the crash, firms were quite bullish on online branding, wherein the pay was as per clicks. But soon the ad networks, who ensures varied digital marketing, shifted from pay per clicks mode to pay per leads, as the clients demanded performance driven digital branding. In return the ad networks demanded technology to monitor the various processes to understand the clicking-trend for any particular ad to ensure targeted advertisement reaches out to the right group. For instance, the ads that appear on the right in Google related to the word that you have just searched. Reddy and Kancharla took the technology demand, harnessed their engineering skills, thanks to the computer science background and developed the first e-marketing product, changing gears from a greeting card firm to an e-branding technology provider.

This wasn’t enough to grow and the acquisitions began to be a complete digital marketing player. In fact the initial acquisitions were their own clients. “We studied the market demand and worked accordingly. We knew the strengths of each of our clients and so they were the best bets to begin with,” says Reddy. Their acquisition strategy continued with each round of funding. Today, they are handy at playing in different fields whether it’s the pop up ads – the ads you can see Firefox conveniently blocking everytime you click on a website, the ads in social network or the email ads and the ads on your mobile.

The team of 450 people, with 200 in India, Ybrant is on a rapid expansion phase. The recent funding will come to an aid on all its growth plans – both organic and inorganic. “We are expanding throughout BRIC. India is already strong in terms of others, offices are set and now we have to begin operations from China, Brazil and Russia,” says Reddy. Acquisitions will always be on radar and currently, the company is currently on a spree to strengthen within the gaming sector through ingame advertising. For instance, the welcoming ads as soon as you start playing any game within Zapak or Indiagames. Or the names that flash within any game property like Pizza Hut in a pizza game or the brand names you would see on the virtual ground as you score some runs playing cricket. However, the company has still not prioritized any of the actions so as to segregate the funding for each of the plans. “There’s no fixed segregation. We have a lot of plan, whichever strategy works fast, we will fund it more,” says the CEO.

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