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Amit Gupta, Co Founder & President at InMobi

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Amit is one of the Co-Founders of InMobi and is currently based in the San Francisco office. After running the Revenue and Operations function for many years globally, he has taken up the responsibility to grow InMobi’s dominance and market share in North America region. Amit is also leading an ambitious initiative for InMobi which has potential to change the world of advertising and can also create multi-billion dollar business for InMobi.

Post his graduation, Amit chose to stray away from the conventional low risk approach of working with large companies and decided to opt for a career with startups to fulfill his desire to learn a few tricks on running a business. The passion of entrepreneurship really took over him within a few years and he founded a product company called Analyticsworks that created a business intelligence platform focused on media, retail and commerce. Post this, Amit was fascinated by the exponential growth of mobile phones and believed strongly that this device would bring fundamental changes to the world and thus embarked on the journey to start InMobi.

Outside of InMobi, Amit has been playing an active part in building a vibrant startup ecosystem. He is an angel investor and also advises young entrepreneurs on the various aspects of running a startup.

Amit has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Amit got prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award for his exceptional contributions to Entrepreneurship.

 

In your own words what is Inmobi?

InMobi is synonymous to innovation and disruption in the mobile advertising space. Among others, InMobi has been recognized by MIT Technology Review as one of the 50 Most Disruptive Companies. It has revolutionized the industry by reimagining advertising to make consumers fall in love with ads. Miip, is our reimagined discovery platform that opens up a world of possibilities for mobile consumers. It enables discovery of highly relevant and curated products by reimagining advertising for a destination-less world. Miip delivers interactive and visually rich experiences to rivet consumer attention across a multitude of apps.

Based out of India, InMobi is a global company with 27 offices across 16 countries and a reach of 1.4 billion unique users across 200 countries and territories. Our USP is our people and our culture that we lovingly call YaWiO. Infact our culture, YaWiO has gone open sourced for other start-ups.

 

How did you come up with the idea of Inmobi?

The passion to build a global mobile-first business, based out of India got all four of us (Naveen, Abhay, Mohit and I) together. The industry was clear to us but with no precedence in India, we were treading the path not taken. We started with the idea of a sms based mobile search engine business called mKhoj. The idea was great but it was not what people were looking for. One year into the business with no funds left, we realized we had to change our offering and very soon. That’s when we came up with the idea of InMobi our mobile advertising business.

 

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Inmobi?

People say that we were very clear from the beginning on what exactly we wanted to do, but it wasn’t the case at all. We knew that mobile is going to be BIG and will be a global phenomenon. We explored various opportunities their associated pain points and found that advertising will be a crucial aspect for mobile as a medium to get high penetration. And we jumped on it. From day one of the company, the consistent theme has been global mobile advertising. We moved from doing advertising on SMS as mKhoj to mobile web and now on apps as InMobi. It was just an evolution with the changing ecosystem around us.

 

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?

While early bird catches the worm, it has no precedence to follow but its own instincts. Likewise, we were the first in the industry and hence faced our own set of teething problems. When we went hiring we realized that there were no trained people in the skill-set that we were looking for. We decided to hire people based on their attitude and ambition. That by the way was the stepping stone of our culture – YaWiO. Another instance that I can share is of deciding to enter China. Yet again, we were the first to do so in our industry. While we saw people taking the easier route of getting into a JV or so, we took the risk of entering China independently. It not only saved us time, but also ensured that we had sound infrastructure aligned to their requirements which in the long run is always beneficial. In fact in China we work as a Chinese company. We have a local team that understands the local nuances and we trust them with their decisions. Today, we are leading in the China market.

 

How have you been developing Inmobi since startup ?

Since the beginning we believed in the power of teamwork as you can’t build a successful business without it. We believe in finding passionate people who can take ownership with accountability and work towards the organization goal hand in hand. Our “GloCal” approach has helped us in building many regional teams where we hired from the respective countries and trusted them. This has helped us not only in bringing the trust with the local customers but also for us to understand their culture and opportunity better.

 

What kind of feedback did you get for Inmobi so far?

When you enjoy your work and put your heart and soul into it, the results show. InMobi has not only been recognized as 50 Most Disruptive Companies by MIT Technology Review, it has also received, Outstanding Startup of the year award by Forbes India Leadership Award, 2014. It was identified as the ‘Mobile Top 50’ in The Drum, 2013. And most recently InMobi received the 2015 Global Smarties™ Awards from Mobile Marketing Association, got recognized as 25 most promising BIG DATA solution providers by the APAC CIO Outlook Magazine 2015 and received The Sparks Award for Media Excellence in 2015.

 

 

 

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry? What is your strategy against your competition?

Our competition is with Facebook and Google and our strategy is very simple – never stop, just keep innovating and disrupting. With our recent innovation of Miip we already are ahead by leaps and bounds in innovation from them and we will continue to be so.

 

What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

The industry is very easy to enter but to sustain and spearhead the same you have to follow the mantra of creating IP, creating your own platform and just keep on innovating and disrupting.

 

What is the future of the industry and how do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?

Sky is the limit for this industry which is already 600 billion USD worth. We only see it growing leaps and bounds.

 

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

Yes, most of them were related to hiring decisions. In the beginning we didn’t know the trade off between passion and someone having business contacts. A couple of senior hiring were made on the assumption that our business will take off because of someone’s Rolodex. Without product knowledge and genuine excitement about our space led to no tangible results. Now we have mastered the art of spotting the right talent.

 

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia? Is it harder or easier, why?

No matter where you are entrepreneurship is not easy. But it does make you a better person. You learn to fail, you learn to succeed, you learn to trust, and you learn to be grounded. It is very simple – as an entrepreneur you just need to pick a problem and solve them one at a time till you succeed.

 

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Nothing different fundamentally except for the difference in “infrastructure” for doing business. Countries like US has ecosystem of VCs, suitable policies, social setup and certainly a high concentration of people who are willing to work for startups. Asian countries in contrast have a lot of unsolved problems which are opportunities for entrepreneurs.

 

What is your definition of success?

If we can make the world and our society better with our work, then I call it success.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship is a spirit, it’s about someone enjoying solving tough problems in an environment which is changing and challenging both. Most of my professional journey was working with startups, so for me it was just taking bit more risk, start on my own.

 

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

Never give up! Failure is inevitable but if you keep going, so is success.

 

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Just believe in your dream. If you are passionate about it and are willing to work hard and go that extra mile when you want to give up the most, your dream will get materialized. Remember that Rome was not built in a day. Do not fear from failure as it will help you learn more. So never give up and just keep doing what you love.

Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Renne Ballard, Owner of Renée Ballard Communications

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Renne Ballard runs a social media agency working with business women, helping them find their business’s voice.

What’s your story?
I began my career in PR/communications ten years ago in Australia, after arriving home from two years in Dubai. In Dubai I was working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant and flying around the world non-stop for two years. This really sparked my interest for how people communicate. I started out as a community manager for an online advertising company, then moved into the corporate world of outdoor advertising, managing internal and external PR and communications. After having a baby four years ago, I decided to leave the safety net of corporate, and stride out on my own. I now run a social media agency and I specialise in working with business women, helping to find their business’ voice so they can use social media to achieve their business goals.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love the open accessibility online provides. It’s free for businesses to get online and connect with their target audience. Twenty years ago, advertising and PR was insanely expensive and quite elitist, but through incredible platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any business can connect with who is looking for their product/solution. Social media is particularly effective for small businesses because they have the edge when it comes to authenticity and a clear voice.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in Hong Kong because I’m a trailing spouse. I know it’s such a daggy term, but I love it, it makes me sound so dedicated to my husband! Alas, we came to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. He’s the Design Director of Asia for an international retail design agency. We’ve been here for almost two years and it’s been a huge learning curve in terms of business and culture. We love the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong and the fact that everything is open late – it suits me perfectly because I’m nocturnal.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
That’s easy, Hong Kong. It’s the perfect blend of start-ups and mothership-sized institutions. I love the small business side, watching the collaborations between workshare spaces with galleries, networking groups and foodies; it’s a hothouse of creative partnerships here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re are feeling scared about your next step, lean in and feel the difference. Is it fear mixed with excitement? Or fear mixed with dread? Always go with the former and cut loose the latter.

Who inspires you?
I love Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo founder). She has created multiple empires and she never stops trying new business models and pushing her limits. It helps that I love shoes too.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just turned 40 years old. At best, I’m probably halfway through my life. It makes me constantly question, “Am I where I want to be?”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more questions to the people I looked up to, and listened less to the people telling me I won’t achieve my goals.

How do you unwind?
In this day and age, it’s scandalous to say, but I love sunbaking. At any chance, you’ll find me poolside, laying in the sun in a trance-like state.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Northern Danang in Vietnam. We were there at Christmas, at the foot of the mountains and it was beautiful. Heaps of wildlife and jungles and enough five star resorts that I was never parched once.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. It’s an oldie but a goodie because it succinctly outlines how to transition from a one person operation to a global business like McDonalds. Once you see how important systems and processes are, you can recognise shambolic companies a mile off.

Shameless plug for your business:
Renée Ballard Communications is a social media agency that works with business women who are ready to make social media work for them. We create effective, powerful social media strategies that are tailored to the people who will be breathing life into them. We hand on heart promise to never use annoying, marketing buzzwords and that we value laughter above everything else.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or www.reneeballard.com or +85296670115

Twitter handle?
@ballard_comms

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

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