Media tech startup ZAPR aims to drive insights for brands and broadcasters

With its proprietary technology platform, ZAPR wishes to catalyse the shift from TV to mobile and drive insights for brands and broadcasters.

Brands need to put in a lot of effort to capture eyeballs. In a highly connected, mobile world, they need to make the most of the audiences' short attention spans and engage with them. ZAPR, a Bengaluru based media tech startup recognised the importance of seamless 360 degree marketing and saw how brands were increasingly looking to move their budgets from TV to mobile. With its proprietary technology platform, ZAPR wishes to catalyse the shift and drive insights for brands and broadcasters. ZAPR co-founder Sandipan Mondal shares the story behind the startup and reveals their plans going forward.

What is the story behind settling down with offering a media consumption repository and audience targeting platform?

We started ZAPR, in 2012, a couple of years after Deepak Baid, Sajo Mathews and I graduated from IIM Ahmedabad. As technology enthusiasts we were intrigued by the sweeping disruptions driven by the rapid adoption of tech across numerous industries. We strongly believed that technology would disrupt the media and advertising industry as well, especially because a lot of practices and methodologies were decades old. It’s been just a few years since then, and we’re seeing those changes clearly today, with disruption in content formats, distribution platforms, consumption patterns and advertising strategies.

Most importantly, we felt that the multi-billion dollar media and advertising industry had very limited access to any significantly large data-set on content viewership and preferences of millions of people. This data would also act as a bridge, connecting TV and Mobile, enabling content creators to identify, understand and engage with their audiences. Imagine if a sports brand could identify viewers of football matches, or a youth-centric brand could identify viewers of a reality show, and engage with them, in a contextual and personalised fashion on mobile. We would bridge the gap between the 40 inch screen and the 4 inch screen. Here was an industry that was forced to operate with minimal data and we knew we could change that by building a world-class, R&D driven, technology product out of India that for the very first time identifies offline audiences and re-engages with them on digital and mobile.

How big is your team? How do you sustain this business model?

We have a team of 30 people, most of whom are engineers, working out of our Bangalore and Mumbai offices. The ZAPR product portfolio, which is geared towards the media & advertising industry, includes two core offerings - ZAPR Data and ZAPR Audience.

Brands, broadcasters and research agencies, use the ZAPR Data Platform, dive into our massive media data repositories and derive rich insights. The ZAPR Audience Platform can be leveraged to identify relevant audience segments based on their media consumption habits, and to engage with them across the mobile ecosystem, thereby enabling brands and content creators to bridge their TV and mobile strategies. It is important to note that we do not share ratings data for TV channels. We are a media-centric big-data repository and work to derive rich insights and analysis for our partners.

Are there any specific areas of technology that you keenly invest in? How are you making your services easy to use for the consumer?

ZAPR is one of India’s most advanced digital signal processing and media data analytics labs. One of our primary research areas is content recognition and our team of engineers and statisticians, have built some of the most sophisticated algorithms in the field, to power our product portfolio. Our research focus is also demonstrated through our strong collaborations with academia.

We’re a B2B company, working with leading brands, media agencies, broadcasters, research agencies and others, through our suite of product offerings, across data and audience.

Could you share details about the funding raised till now? What do you foresee in terms of funding for the future?

We recently raised an undisclosed amount of funding led by Flipkart, with participation from Saavn, Micromax and Mu Sigma co-founders - Dhiraj Rajaram and Ambiga Dhiraj. This round also saw participation from existing investors - Dinesh Agarwal (Indiamart), Samir Bangara (Qyuki), Sanjay Nath (Blume Ventures) and Arihant Patni (Hive Technologies).

ZAPR was a graduate of the first batch of the GSF accelerator led by Rajesh Sawhney, and since then we have been working closely with numerous other media veterans like Samir Bangara. Samir, formerly MD Disney (Digital) and currently the co-founder and MD of Qyuki has been associated with ZAPR as an angel investor and mentor, supporting the team on strategy and fund raising. Other media and technology veterans such as Roshan Abbas, Naveen Tewari, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Anupam Mittal and Rajesh Kamat, are also investors in ZAPR.

What are your growth plans and roadmap for the near future? How do you plan to widen your reach?

While ZAPR’s current focus is on television, which is still the largest media format in India, our technology platform is format-agnostic. Our goal is really to build a comprehensive profile for all forms of media consumption. Having solved for TV consumption data, our research is now focused on non-linear formats, keeping future consumption trends in mind. We plan to expand across radio, movies in theater and most importantly, video-on-demand in the coming months.

What sets you apart from other similar offerings?

ZAPR is currently analysing media viewership trends across hundreds of TV channels from millions of users across India. Our geographical insights tool, which can deep dive into localities at a granular level, not just in urban India but also rural India, is merely one part of our robust portfolio of offerings. Broadcasters can look at millions of individuals from the ZAPR base, who are watching their content, segment them and analyse their viewing trends to derive insights on content preferences and viewing trends across geographies. Strong relationships with the media and advertising industry, and our growing client base, is a compelling validation of the value that we offer.

Along with data, the ZAPR Audience platform is another unique offering which allows the industry to identify audience segments based on their media consumption habits and re-engage with them, through mobile content. Brands can choose to re-engage on mobile with viewers of any TV channel, show or advertisements through this platform.

What are the key company milestones for the next 6-12 months that need to be achieved?

As a growing technology company, we have aggressive growth milestones, to scale our technological capabilities and our product portfolio. One of our most important focus areas right now is to expand our ZAPR Data offering from just TV to other media formats like radio, movies in theatres, and video on demand. Our intent to be a single-source repository to analyze and understand comprehensive cross-format media consumption. Over the next few months, we will also be launching innovative mobile product offerings to help brands re-engage with their audiences in a contextual and relevant fashion and extract much better RoI. This will also help our mobile app partners drive better engagement with their users and get more value for their ad inventory. Our technology is also geography agnostic, and we will soon be considering expanding to other countries.

For the near future, however, we are focused on India, expanding our product portfolio and working and collaborating with stakeholders across the industry.

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