7 ways Amagi re-imagined television and disrupted advertising [UnPluggd6 Speaker #1]

Baskar Amagi

The sixth edition of UnPluggd, India’s largest startup event is on. Our first speaker Baskar Amagi shares his journey. Here’s a snapshot. Baskar is the cofounder of Amagi Media Labs, a technology company that has disrupted the TV advertising business in India. Before starting Amagi, Baskar was CTO at Impulsesoft, which happens to be among the first successful IP exits from India.

1. Fate encounter: Started the company on a chance encounter with a fortune teller, in a park.

2. A lot can happen over coffee: Sat down from 10 am to 6 am at a coffee shop inside the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore to figure out what we will be doing. Think up of an industry which we can disrupt. Go after a large market. One doesn’t always need to start with an idea. “We started very clinically,” says Amagi.

3. “When we visited a media agency, he said please don’t start this. He said you are going to democratize the industry and eat into our business. We figured we are on the right track. In any disruptive business, you are going for non consumers. Start with less sophistication initially. We were all outsiders but the fresh pair of eyes gave us the advantage of having a fresh approach. We did make some mistakes.”

4. What Amagi does: Enable advertisers to buy advertisement spots split into various regions. Customers can focus in specific geographies. Small businesses can run focused advertisements based on a region. Sell the same ad slot to multiple regional advertisers at lower costs. But since there are more advertisers now for the same slot, sum of parts becomes greater than the whole. Television channels make more money from the same slot.

5. Bridging trust deficit: Had to convince that there are new advertisers out there and the market will expand. Networks were afraid Amagi would cannibalize their business. Operators thought Amagi would cannibalize their business. Cable operators were afraid too. It took time to convince the ecosystem. It took us 4 years to build trust and convince the marketplace. We said we are going to grow a new market and not feed on the existing market.

6. How do you scale: There are 700 channels and 20,000 cable heads. Capital expenditure needs to be dramatically low. It frees you to do more things. Needed to reach 150 million viewers and be on 24/7. Marrying low cost and high scale was an interesting challenge. Had to schedule 500 channels at the same time. All this happened by rethinking the processes and re-imagining the technology which was in use.

7. Love it or hate it, you cant ignore it: Power, Internet and Flights are a big challenge in India. On culture front, ethics, professionalism and experimentation needs to improve.

Quotable Quote

“Domain terminology can be learned in a few weeks. Domain technology can be learned in a few months. But logic and common sense is timeless.” — Baskar Amagi

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