Asian e-Marketing recently interviewed Mr. Atul Satija, InMobi’s Vice President and Managing Director APAC, who joined the company just at the end of last year.

Atul is an experienced mobile advertising and digital media expert who was Head of Wireless Business for Japan & Asia-Pacific at Google, before joining InMobi. He was responsible to drive their mobile ecosystem, carrier strategy and partnerships, OEMs and publishers across the region. He also served as the Head of Business Development for Google in India where he kick-started and scaled up their search syndication, adsense, mobile, Android, distribution and enterprise businesses. Before Google, Atul managed sales, consulting and business development roles in organisations across the telecom/technology sectors including Adobe, Samsung and Infosys.

Since its Asia-Pacific launch in 2007, InMobi has grown to become the world's largest independent ad network, serving over 100 billion mobile ads to date and is, by now, the world's largest independent mobile advertising network. Atul was attracted to the enormous success of InMobi as well as its vision of building a global mobile advertising business.

The chances for success are promising with mobile advertising already delivering 4-5 times better ROI than online advertising according to an Insight Express study. Mobile campaigns are becoming a more and more powerful ad channel for marketers as well, outperforming online advertising by roughly three times across a variety of metrics, including ad awareness, message association and purchase intent.

Atul SatijaSo let me give you a picture of the new man at the helm of inMobi in Asia Pacific by reading what he has to say:

Q: What makes inMobi so successful?

Atul Satija: Last year was the year for us to understand the app and developer ecosystems and the year before we started offices in several new geos (Japan, India and the US) from which we started to scale up our business. The Asia story witnessed explosive growth and will continue to do so but last year we focused more on expanding globally, deepening our footprint, and understanding how this app ecosystem is evolving.

Unlike many other networks we realized early on that mobile is going to be even flatter as an economy than the Internet. In the Internet we never saw a small shop of 15 people having a product, whether an app or a website, being consumed globally. In InMobi you have so many examples of developers from around the world (Taiwan, Korea or the UK) making very interesting applications that people are consuming globally. So for us to scale this development, we started investing ahead of the mobile networks and we now have a presence in almost every continent which makes us the largest independent mobile network.

The second thing we realized is that the value a publisher gets in terms of site monetization comes from how well we are able to serve apps based on their audience. So we made very significant investments in product and technology to make sure they can scale as well as do so worldwide.

These are the two main things: we have a global coverage which can help us improve performance for publishers and the fact that we have invested a lot in product and technology when compared to the mobile networks.

Q: What is InMobi doing to protect users’ privacy and to gain their trust?

Atul Satija: There are two ways to look at security and privacy, once you have more information about someone you can have a better dialogue like a conversation. I’ll be able to have a better conversation with you once I am able to understand who you are as a person and that makes the conversation more meaningful. So at a very fundamental level, the more information somebody has, the better the dialogue, the more the value.

We want to understand users a lot more, so we can serve them better ads which are meaningful for them and can add value for them. The challenge is how do we make sure that we are sensitive to the privacy that the user has? We handle their information very carefully, it’s very sensitive. How we handle the information is a challenge that comes with better understanding users at an individual level. We currently don’t try to understand each uniquely identifiable user, we try to understand them in groups and aggregates, so we know that people who are using an iPhone, broadly have slightly better demographic profiles than people who are using a device which is less expensive. This information is meaningful but it is not something that really has security concerns around it.

This goes back to the DNA of our company. We started with mobile SMS search, but quickly moved on realizing that SMS was a very spammed medium, while the Internet had very little push based mechanisms of control to actually spam you. So when you go to an InMobi website or you choose to play a game that is the only time when you see the ad. In some sense, it is pull and the consumer has a choice to download an application fully knowing that he has paid for an unsubsidized application and that he won’t see any ad. Some users know that they are buying an app that is worth “X” and they are getting the app at “X minus 10”, whose cost is subsidized just like newspapers that carry ads. A third category of applications is where users consume the content entirely free, which is made possible through the free advertising included. We don’t do pop-ups, we don’t do pop-unders, and the only user engagement model we have is if you choose to touch or click something. That is how we charge advertisers. I don’t see any of the things that we are doing are in any way intrusive to the user, we have tried to stay away from any medium that we think is inappropriate for our advertisers or their users.

If somebody wants to use a technology where you don’t even need to ask for it and somebody can push you then it can be misused to spam you, so you must seek permission on that SMS. The medium that we work in is inside the browser or the application. There is no way for us to spam you because we cannot come outside your browser and take over your screen. We are in your browser and you decide whether to go to a website or play a game which comes with ads and they won’t pop-up or spam you. When you see an ad, if you are interested, you click it and then based on what you clicked, the action happens. It could either open a new page where the content is described or you go to your telephone’s dialing application to call the number that you saw.

Q: What is your vision of the future for digitized communications?

Atul Satija: While we may be the largest mobile advertising network globally, we also know that mobile as a medium is still very much in its infancy. People are constantly discovering new ways and means to use the medium and we definitely want to expand and sustain our presence in this space. We want to be able to serve ads in a very appropriate and meaningful way, so that you see value in it. We are working hard on understanding and giving value to users and the process of being a very successful mobile ad network.

I think that one thing that we have seen is that there are a lot of gaps in understanding the medium and a lot of myths floating around. One thing we enjoy sharing with people from the digital industry (whether agencies, brands, digital marketers or digital developers) are the many myths about mobile that you hear, such as mobile is an extension of digital, people feel like mobile is just like digital when in fact it is a totally, totally different medium! We have quite a bit of data, whether it is a network report or primary research that we do, on our network or on how we passively understand the users, so I think that is something of interest and value to all.

By Daniela La Marca