When InMobi, a provider of cloud-based mobile platforms for enterprise marketers, was developing its content service Glance, the one thing it wanted to do was stand out from the crowd. “Given the glut of apps out there in the world, we felt that if there was a way for us to summarise and personalise all the content from inside all the apps and bring them onto the screen... then that’s a great service we are doing,” says Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO of InMobi.
After three years of mulling, InMobi, the country’s first unicorn, zeroed in on lock screens of smartphones to display content. It also decided Glance, which provides news snippets and videos, would not run ads—a strange decision for a mobile advertising firm. “If you run ads on this [lock screen], business is dead before arrival,” says Tewari.
It has proved a smart move. Since its launch six months ago, Glance has 26 million daily active users. It is glanced 81 billion times a month; users spend an average of 22 minutes a day on it. Users can turn off Glance, but 85% don’t. Glance runs on Android and is exclusive and pre-installed in the latest smartphones of Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Gionee.
InMobi says these four handset brands make up nearly 85% of the new smartphones sold in India. In a country where content consumption through smartphones is rising by the day, Glance opens up ways for InMobi, which had been a business-to-business product maker, to grab a share of the action.
“If Glance works out, it’s a great w in,” says Mayank Singhal, managing partner at Millennial Capital, an investment firm. Singhal was earlier part of RNT Capital, which is an investor in InMobi. The $250-million venture fund backed by Ratan Tata invests in disruptive, technology-oriented businesses across the world. “It [Glance] allows OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] to be in a deeper relation with InMobi. It is a good way to catch a phone owner at the moment of downtime; hence, conversions for brands can happen,” says Singhal.
Glance’s offerings are spread across 19 categories. Video is preferred over text, making up 30% of content consumed on Glance. Users don’t have to unlock their phones to read stories or watch videos. The content, which comes with attractive visuals in high definition, is curated by an editorial team set up by InMobi to ensure high quality, clean, and neutral content sourced from an array of media partners such as Times Now and The Hindu. It is personalised for individual preferences through algorithms akin to ones used by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
While InMobi is not monetising Glance, it is working on several strategies that could lead to revenue generation. One way for that could be leading users to a brand’s page if they like something in the content they are watching or reading—let’s say, shoes or shirts—where they may buy it. Tewari says InMobi’s unified marketing cloud business is doing well and can support the new business units that have been launched over the past few months. While Tewari refused to share the financials, reports say it closed FY19 with $500 million in revenue and could cross the $1 billion mark in the next 18 months.
Besides Glance, InMobi launched TruFactor, a data platform for telcos, in February. TruFactor enables telcos to ingest, curate, and analyse data to increase user privacy, improve customer experience, and drive growth. TruFactor draws more than 90% of its business from the core business of InMobi.
The business expansion will keep InMobi in good stead in the long run. With marketers preferring mobile advertisements to traditional ones, with time a company like InMobi can stand out and be “a valuable play for everyone”, says Singhal. “InMobi is a two-sided marketplace—it has partnerships with app developers and enough advertisers. It’s a pretty defensible play,” he says. “It has panned out well.”
This story was originally published in the June, 2019 issue of the magazine.