• Rishikesha Krishnan

    InMobi’s Miip May Be More Important to India than Pichai

    The emergence of an IP and technology-based leader from India will have a bigger long-term impact than a few Indians heading major global corporations

    Isn’t it strange that we were obsessed with happenings at Google while the really momentous news of the coming of age of a serious desi challenger got lost in the noise?

    Sundar Pichai and Google

    News of Sundar Pichai’s ascension to the Google throne hogged media headlines for almost a week.

    While I could understand the excitement instigated by the front page of Dainik Bhaskar in a young tier-2 and tier-3 city audience for whom a compensation of Rs 300+ crore would seem out of this world (however misleading that figure is since Pichai’s actual compensation in his new role is not known, and conversion from dollars to rupees doesn’t make sense anyway), the hoopla in the metro-based English language press was surely misplaced.

    After all, what’s surprising? Indians including Ajay Banga (MasterCard), Victor Menezes (Citibank), Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo) and Anshu Jain (Deutsche Bank) have been CEOs of global corporations. And it’s now more than 20 years since Rajat Gupta became the CEO of the world’s bluest blue management consulting firm—McKinsey!

    Indians are smart, ambitious and can communicate well. Once they have studied at a top US university and worked there for a while, they fit well into American corporate life, capable of discussing football and technology, and being politically correct. Most importantly, they can be quite conformist and refrain from rocking the boat. Clearly a good choice if you are a culturally diverse company like Google.

    And, mind you, this may not really be the throne anyway as Larry Page and Sergey Brin are just one degree of separation away.

    I have nothing against Pichai who appears to be a perfectly competent technical manager with the right credentials. But for me there were more interesting and promising events happening recently that didn’t get the attention they deserve.

    What We Should Have Focused On…

    For years now, we have bemoaned the absence of a Google-like company from India. Yes, we have had successful tech enterprises from India but these have been in the difficult-to-relate-to business-to-business (B2B) IT services space. The real big news of the last few weeks is that we now see some green shoots pointing to the emergence of an IP and technology-based leader from India.

    On August 5, in a virtuoso performance that had a clear Steve Jobs touch to it, the CEO of InMobi, Naveen Tewari, introduced his company’s new advertising platform, Miip, to a gathering of who’s who in the technology world at Bangalore.

    For the technological cognoscenti, InMobi is not a new company. It calls itself the “world’s largest independent mobile advertising platform”. Funded by Softbank, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and Sherpalo to the tune of $220 million, InMobi reportedly served 2.2 trillion advertisement requests in 2014. Its revenues are not in the public domain though some reports suggest that they could be as high as $500 million.

    So, What Is Miip and Why Is It Significant?

    Firstly, mobile advertising is huge and growing rapidly. With the shift of the internet to the mobile, most dramatically underlined by some Indian e-commerce giants’ decision to be “mobile-only”, the clear trend is for advertising on mobile.

    Secondly, the whole promise of internet-based advertising (and now mobile-based advertising) is better targeting and customization. But this promise has to a large extent been belied. I am repeatedly amused by the fact that after I have purchased a ticket from, say, Indore to Delhi, I see online advertisements offering me low-priced Indore-Delhi tickets. These are completely wasted on me.

    And, as InMobi keeps reminding us, many users see advertising as a distraction and an intrusion rather than something they find useful or enjoy.

    Most extant internet or mobile-based advertising is intent-driven. You search for something you want to buy by entering it in a dialog box, and the search engine helps you by displaying related advertisements in addition to the search results. Once you have done such a search, related advertisements keep popping up even though the purchase may have been completed or you no longer have the requirement.

    Such advertising makes limited use of analytics and doesn’t prompt you to check on other things you may be interested in. The range of products or services offered is also very narrow even though we know that there are hundreds if not thousands of companies that may be offering other products or services that may be of interest.

    InMobi’s Miip is a mobile-based discovery platform that not only uses advanced analytics to overcome this problem, but also features a cute mascot that enters into a dialogue with the user to make suggestions and elicit user feedback. Along the way, the user can consult her friends before making a purchase choice using social media. All of this is done with high-quality visual content that exploits the superior graphics of today’s smartphone screens. Together, these enable an enjoyable and comprehensive shopping experience.

    What’s significant in this case is that the company is already a strong player in the mobile advertising space, having entered at the right time about seven years ago. This gives it the muscle and the connections to capitalize on a big bet like Miip .

    I particularly liked the launch of Miip in San Francisco, Bangalore and Beijing in quick succession, as these could very well represent loci of technological advancement and economic growth for the next decade. Unlike the earlier generation of Indian companies that shunned collaboration, it was good to see InMobi sharing space with important partners like Paytm and Walmart at the launch event itself.

    I have only one regret about InMobi: I wish it wasn’t into push-based advertising that will promote even more consumerism.

    India as a Product Nation

    India’s success in services came from our ability to write high-quality software at low cost, without the need to make large irreversible upfront investments in technology or products. Companies like InMobi represent a new frontier where we are taking large bets and investing in platforms and new technologies.

    This article is not only about InMobi, but about this new generation of companies that’s changing the way we do business. If sustained, this trend could help India become a Product Nation. In the long run, that would have much more impact than a few Indians heading major global corporations.

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    • hemenparekh


      How to turn 12 million persons entering our work-force
      each year from being job-seekers to becoming job-creators ?

      At the conceptual level , this was well-answered in BJP
      poll manifesto as :

      ” Encourage and
      empower our youth for Self Employment – incubating entrepreneurship as well as
      facilitating credit ”

      How to translate this
      policy into specific actions ?

      May be the clue lies in
      the following incidence :

      After getting a
      post-graduate degree in engineering from USA , when I returned to India in 1959
      , my father took me to meet Shri Manubhai Shah , the then Minister for Industry in Union

      My father inquired if
      Manubhai could give me a job in government

      Manubhai answered :

      ” Chunibhai , I
      have no job for your son .

      Let him set up a factory and manufacture
      fractional horse power motors of which India is currently importing some 3000
      per year

      We will ,

      > Immediately
      issue to him , an Industrial License

      > Allot
      him a factory-shed in Rajkot Industrial Estate

      > Give him a loan of Rs 5 lakhs to buy
      machinery ”

      56 years later , we are
      better organized / equipped to ” Institutionalize ” this pioneering

      Here is my suggestion :

      * Role of MakeinIndia web site

      On its web site , list 5000 products that we currently import ( with

      annual import bill / sources / ave
      landed cost etc )

      Invite 1000 leading manufacturing companies of India , to make

      online selection of minimum of 5 items
      each, for preparing DPR

      ( Detailed Project Reports ) . Freely
      visible online database of who

      selected which items will avoid duplication

      * Role of Manufacturing Companies

      Prepare and submit to Ministry of Commerce, at least 5 DPR by

      Dec 2016 . More the
      merrier ! Earlier the better !

      Each report must carry , name of at least one bank which has

      accepted that as a ” Bankable Report ” , eligible for funding

      > Train at least 100 fresh engineering
      graduates in various

      manufacturing related functions under GET ( Graduate

      Training ) Scheme , each year

      * Role of Ministry of Commerce

      Publish DPRs on its web site for free downloading

      * Role of Income Tax Department

      > Give
      200 % tax deduction to existing manufacturing units for 2

      years , for employing fresh engineering
      graduates on their rolls ,

      under :

      Graduate Engineers Training Subsidy Act – 2015 ”

      ( to be enacted )

      will motivate manufacturing units to impart manufacturing

      related experience to fresh engineering
      graduates before they

      venture to set up own MSME factories

      Admit expenses incurred by manufacturing units for preparation of

      DPR ,under their CSR obligation ( 2 % of ave net profit for 5 years )

      Exempt all GET Start Ups ( registered on eBiz web site ) from

      paying Corporate Income Tax for first 10 years of working

      Exempt all GET Start Ups from GST payment , for 10 years

      * Role of Fresh Engineering Graduates

      Get GET Training Certificate from employer companies

      Download DPR from Commerce Ministry web site

      Apply for funding to banks , attaching DPR and GET Certificate

      Upon receiving Approval Intimation from bank , apply for various

      permissions on eBiz web site , quoting Bank Approval Number

      * Role of ASSOCHAM / FICCI / CII etc

      > Encourage their manufacturing
      member firms to take on the

      task of preparation of DPRs and follow up

      > Publish DPR reports on their web sites for
      free downloading

      > Constitute State-wise ” Hand-holding
      Teams ” of retired

      executives having ” Manufacturing
      ” experience , to guide the

      local GET applicants in obtaining all permissions
      from various

      State Authorities

      * Role of eBiz web site

      > To make available in public
      domain , all investment related

      applications , and progress status of

      * Role of State Governments

      > To keep track of those eBiz
      investment applications where

      the State is the proposed manufacturing

      > Pro-actively
      reach out to such applicants for expediting their


      All of the above need
      not / must not take months to materialize !

      If it takes any longer ,
      millions of India’s jobless will overthrow the governments in power !

      We don’t need an Oracle
      to tell us what future holds for us !


      hemen parekh

      16 Sept 2015


    • narikannan

      That’s a terrible, ignorant and jealous take on Sundar Pichai’s achievements! No it is not because of not rocking the boat or talking football that he is in that position. This is is the typical #desidiscount attitude – the attitude that if an Indian comes to a position of leadership and importance, it must be because of luck or talking football! Expecting better things from you! InMobi may have achieved things of great import but no need to bring down Sundar Pichai’s achievements to make that point!

    Sep, 16
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