Emerging Entrepreneurs

Where the Chinese connection strikes a chord with Indian start-up

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on April 30, 2018 Published on April 30, 2018

Ashish Bahukhandi

Apps Discover-Baidu partnership helps advertisers promote products on the search engine

Ashish Bahukhandi has never held a job in his life. The 31-year-old can still recall his father’s words: ‘Get yourself a job. Get a nice ₹3 lakh package with a firm, and your life will be set. You can stand on your own feet.’

Ashish decided to do exactly that — stand strong in his convictions. And it paid off. Heading a firm that has clocked a turnover of ₹25 crore within four years of its initiation, Ashish is now on to the next big thing.

Today, the Founder and CEO of Apps Discover Technologies, a digital ad network marketing company, is proud of the fact that he did not join the rate race and instead decided to etch out his own future.

“After my degree in Computer Engineering from CITM Faridabad in 2009, I prepared for CAT. I never participated in campus placement. I tried to appear for civil service exams, but it didn’t work. I decided to start my own business, an unheard of thing in my house,” says Ashish, speaking of his retired government officer father who threw a fit when he heard of his son’s plans to strike out on his own.

Intense market research showed that mobile “is going to be the future, especially in India which provides many options. I decided I wanted to start a business in the mobile gaming industry. One good thing is, you don’t need much money to start in this sector. One laptop and a good internet connection and you are good to go,” says Ashish.

With ₹30,000 of his pocket money savings and some help from friends, “who believed in me and wanted to work with me,” Ashish set forth on his entrepreneurial journey. “We made mobile games and applications and promoted our applications online. We inserted inbuilt advertisement on our apps, and went to companies to promote their ads on our games. This was in 2011, and in 1-2 months we had roped in some big clients. Actually, every client is big for a start-up,” he recollects.

Dailyhunt (earlier Newshunt), a mobile app that publishes news and aggregates news in 17 languages, was among the early clients. “We promoted their app through our company. Then followed UC Browser, a web browser developed by Chinese mobile internet company UCWeb, and owned by Alibaba Group of China.

That is where the Chinese connection touched a chord. “A few years ago UC Browser launched in India. We promoted them and helped establish their network here. We used to be their top adword. As is the case with any Chinese company, every competitor wants to know who is promoting them outside the country. And that is how Baidu came into our fold,” Ashish points out.

Baidu operates as an internet search provider and is termed China’s Google. As Google maintains its stronghold in the global internet search arena, Baidu has the upper hand in China with 82 per cent of the nation’s online search queries.

Engagement with Baidu

The urge to discover something new burns bright with Ashish. “Every single day you need to discover something new. That gives you the real firepower to continue to do what you like.”

Speaking about the engagement with Baidu, Ashish says that when the company launched its activities in India a year ago, “we helped launch them here as a big brand. We supported them in the initial stages. We built trust with Baidu. Now, we are their exclusive partner in India. If any Indian advertiser wants to promote their products in China, Baidu gives us the liberty to promote their ads on its network.”

The partnership enables Indian advertisers to promote their products on the world’s second largest search engine. Before Baidu, he says, the average growth year-on-year in terms of value for Apps Discover was 20-25 per cent. After Baidu, growth will be around 40 per cent.

Apps Discover is now working with Baidu on a different project. “The biggest search engine in China now has much bigger plans for India. Baidu wants to sell search traffic here. Like a consumer searches on Google, Baidu has a search cafe, and would like to have Indian consumers search on its website,” says Ashish.

And in the bargain, Apps Discover can utilise the medium to sell ads. As of now, Ashish is not looking for any funding for growth. “We are self-sustaining now. From two people in Gurugram and one computer and one internet connection, we have a team of 50-plus in Gurugram.. We also have a company in Indonesia and Singapore, since both these countries are big markets for ad networks”

“I want to bring money into the country. All our money is going out. Every product that we buy is Chinese, be it a mobile phone, a shoe, or a toy. There are no Indian products sold in China. When we partnered with Baidu, I saw the opportunity that Chinese money could come to India,” says Ashish.

Citing an example, he points out: “When a tourist in China wants to visit India, he is engaging with a third party for his trip and the Indian host stands to gain nothing or gets a very small margin. By teaming up with Baidu, we can now directly showcase Indian travel or booking sites to the Chinese tourist, and the money comes in directly to the Indian advertiser. This builds a win-win case.”

Published on April 30, 2018
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