Info-tech

InMobi takes the tough road to profitability

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 09, 2016

Naveen Tewari, Founder and CEO, InMobi, addressing an event in Bengaluru (file photo)

Mobile ad firm restructures business, sacks employees, shuts down moonshot projects

SoftBank-backed, mobile advertising company InMobi, one of the first Indian companies to enter the Unicorn club, is attempting to get its business back on track and hit the road to profitability in the next six months.

According to sources inside the company, the company, which counts Facebook and Google as its competitors, faced a series of mishaps during the last few years. It reported a loss of $40 million last year, according to sources inside the company and let go 40 employees and lost a dozen key top management executives.

A former top executive at InMobi told BusinessLine, “InMobi revenues have been stagnant and under serious pressure for the last few years. This is because most mobile ad networks are struggling globally and those that went public have seen their stock drop from $60 to $2 in 12-18 months. This is partly due to the rise of programmatic ad buying that is now the new norm in the US and Europe and the growing dominance of Facebook in mobile advertising.”

A top executive at Chinese mobile advertising giant Yeahmobi, who was in the city recently, dismissed competition from InMobi, saying it has not made a dent in mobile advertising and very few have heard of the company.

Global competition

Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue represents approximately 82 per cent of advertising revenue for Q1 of CY 2016, up from 73 per cent of advertising revenue in the same period last year. The increasing adoption of programmatic advertising by mature markets — which helps automate the decision-making process of media buying by targeting specific demographics — is also creating customer churn in the market.

InMobi competes with Facebook and Google for a slice of the lucrative worldwide mobile internet ad-spending pie that is on track to nearly triple, from $68.69 billion in 2015 to $195.55 billion in 2019, with a customer base of 30,000 app developers/publishers and 5,000 brands/retailers.

Neither denying nor confirming the revenue loss incurred last year, Arun Pattabhiraman, vice-president and Global Head of Marketing at InMobi, said, “As a company, we have always been close to profitability — for a brief while in Q4 of CY 2014, we became profitable, but again started investing heavily in new products and strategic bets such as MiiP, a commerce platform that helps mobile phone users discover and buy products that are relevant to them through targeted mobile advertising, which we launched last July in India, US and China.”

A former top executive at InMobi said MiiP did not get the desired coverage in the US as no one took it seriously.

However, in India, MiiP has garnered 750 customers, and is enabling 2,500 transactions a day at an average order value of ₹1,000-2,000, and it is just a matter of time before we see transactions happening in the US and China too, where customers are using MiiP for product discovery, said Pattabhiraman.

Stating that the company’s revenue has been steadily increasing and losses declining, he said, at the current run rate, revenue in Q2 of CY 2016 over Q1 will close with a growth of 25-30 per cent. “Our immediate priority is to turn profitable in the next six months, and to do this, we have shut down five ongoing moonshot projects which are innovative products way ahead of its time and will be relevant in 5-10 years, into which 15 per cent of our total investments are pumped in.”

InMobi allocates 60 per cent of its total investments made in hiring, marketing, products into its core business; 25 per cent goes towards strategic bets such as MiiP; and 15 per cent towards moonshot projects. To be fair, InMobi started offering customers programmatic ads since June last year.

Drain

InMobi has been losing top executives over the last 12-18 months. CFO Manish Dugar quit last week to join another start-up Practo. Asked why he quit, Dugar said he was ready to take on a fresh challenge as he had accomplished what he was mandated to do — take the finance function to the next level and make it IPO-ready. “Before I came in, their finance department mostly did back-office work such as accounting, book keeping and audit. I made the finance function a part of the business which worked together on commercial structuring and pricing of proposals, for instance. In a year it was awarded the best function internally.”

Some of the other top executives who quit in the past 12-18 months are Rupert Pay, Head of Client Services – Australia; Movin Jain, Senior Manager, Marketplace; Ratnesh Sharma, Head, Product Marketing; Atul Satija, Chief Revenue Officer; Amit X Gupta, Global Head of Marketing; Ian Dowds, vice-president and GM for Brands – Europe.

According to another former InMobi executive, the company sacked many in the US, which accounts for the major part of InMobi’s revenues, and the position for global vice-president of marketing was open for almost a year as there were no takers for it, until the company resorted to promoting an internal candidate for the position.

Pattabhiraman said 40 people were asked to leave globally, including a six-member team in the US, as a result of restructuring teams to focus on core business lines to bring in efficiencies, and many who quit voluntarily did so, to start their own ventures such as, Oust, The/Nudge Foundation, Housify, galleri5, English Dost, DoSelect. “However, we added 40 employees globally in the January-March 2016 period and have made offers to 48 and are waiting for them to join.”

Asked if the company is planning to raise funds as its cash reserves stand at just $30 million, he said he couldn’t comment on the same. According to insiders, it may take a long while for InMobi to get its act together and go public with an IPO.

Published on May 09, 2016
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