At a time when online advertising is all rage, brands are now increasingly taking to DOOH (digital out of home) advertising to find visibility.
And just like MakeMyTrip or Airbnb, Bengaluru-based UrbanIQ is a SaaS platform aggregating various digital OOH screens and spaces to get you the best search result. The ad-tech startup helps both agencies and brands find out the location, prices, availability, and ratings of DOOH screens with the click of a button.
Started by Chandramouli Reddy (43), Sairanjan Mishra (37), VV Rajan (45), and Brion Roberto (45) in August 2018, UrbanIQ offers a dashboard to its clients where they can not only measure the footfalls and demography of the visitors in the establishments, but the camera installed on the screens also gives them a realistic number of how many visitors actually saw the screens.
The startup also enables brand owners with data and analytics to optimally plan their ad campaigns for maximum returns on their investments. Today, with digital OOH screens being ubiquitous, the ad-tech startup boasts of having an inventory (screens) of around 80,000 in both India and the US.
The Himalaya drug company is one of its prominent clients. It is also in talks with few ride-sharing and BFSI companies.
How they started
According to the founders, the startup is actually a spin-off of their earlier project. The founders were planning to start an ecommerce firm, which was later shelved.
“We wanted to start a digital outdoor advertising campaign for the marketing of our previous ecommerce startup. We found it daunting just to identify the right screen location and their price,” says Chandramouli, Co-founder and CEO.
“All the processes were manual, right from contacting multiple screen owners, doing negotiation, and getting the right price within your budget. We had to book our advertising campaign months in advance. At that moment, we decided to revolutionise the DOOH advertisement space and started UrbanIQ with the intention to make buying of digital screens as smooth as booking hotels rooms through Airbnb,” he added, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus.
While Chandramouli is an expert in displays, video streaming, cloud and systems design, and has worked at Cisco, Philips, and Toshiba before starting up, Sairanjan, CTO, is a seasoned software architect with 15 years of experience.
He has worked for companies like Bosch, Cisco, Philips, and Toshiba. The duo knew each other, and has previously worked together for over 15 years.
“We realised the lack of media domain knowledge, and through friends and colleagues, we found Rajan and Brion who have rich media experience and strong industry connections. Brion is stationed in New York and is aptly positioned for our US operations, partnerships, and strategy,” says Chandramouli.
VV Rajan, CMO, is an advertising industry veteran, having experience in India and MENA region in advertising and media planning. And Brion Roberto, COO, is a US citizen, having more than 20 years of experience in marketing strategy and global operation roles in consulting and advertising agency experience.
UrbanIQ now has a team of 10 people, including the four founders.
How UrbanIQ works?
“We programmatically aggregate innovative and fast expanding DOOH screens from various media owners in spaces like airports, bus/railway stations, inside/on-top of cabs, gyms, saloons, stadiums, cinemas, etc.,” says Chandramouli.
The platform works as any digital DSP (Demand Side Platform) making it possible to target based on demography, location, and plan and monitor DOOH campaigns. Using the dashboard, the client can also select particular screens based on type, location, attributes, and plan and monitor his/her DOOH campaigns.
UrbanIQ has built a SaaS platform, and has on-boarded more than 20,000 screens across India, and 60,000 screens in the US.
It ran its first campaign with an FMCG client in Andhra Pradesh in May this year.
“We are in active conversation with few big brands and agencies to plan their upcoming ad campaigns. We also made strategic partnerships with few DOOH SSPs, players, data and analytics solution providers,” says Chandramouli.
Sairanjan also speaks about the growing market of DOOH. “With screens becoming more affordable and the network connectivity issue a thing of past, advertisers are increasingly moving towards DOOH. Also, new regulations like the GDPR regulations on privacy is making browser / mobile advertising less effective.”
Substantiating on the growing potential of DOOH, Jay John Krouth, Director - Sales and Marketing, Urban IQ, says, “It’s a largely unorganised market right now, and ventures like ours can bring in the much needed “organisation” into the business. We want to pioneer the audience measurement and analytical space and cater to the needs of the market with reach-based pricing as the cornerstone”.
What comes as an indirect shot in the arm is the growing clamour for smart cities and city beautification projects.
“DOOH installations are combining data farming abilities with their aesthetically pleasing screens to reinvent this medium, and offer cities information to improve traffic, air quality, and future urban planning,” says Brion.
Emphasising on the relevance, Rajan says, “Until now, brands and agencies have been using DOOH only as an afterthought. We want to change their mindset. We want all brands and agencies to use DOOH as a proper channel, which can take care of their brand and media objectives. With UrbanIQ, we are actually making OOH plans much smarter and intrinsic to media plans”.
Chandramouli says the current market size of DOOH in India is around Rs 200 crore. By 2023, market size of DOOH in India is expected to grow beyond Rs 500 crore, whereas the global DOOH market will reach $26 billion.
Competitors, revenue model, and future
“Our focus on blockchain-based proof of play and data attribution along with flexible business models like no-minimum-buy campaign budget makes us unique and attractive for brands/agencies and media owners,” says Chandramouli.
Some of the other players in the space include MovingWalls, Adomni, and OutMoove.
The startup charges service fees for campaign planning, analytics, reports, and attribution. It also charges 10 to 20 percent on the total transaction value.
Currently bootstrapped, UrbanIQ is actively looking for right investors to strengthen its platform tech and scale-up.
The startup also wants to become a one-stop solution for data and analytics when it comes to DOOH ad campaigns in India and the US. UrbanIQ aims to breakeven by 2022.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)