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Star India picks up minority stake in media tech co Zapr

MUMBAI: Star India has picked up a minority stake in Bengaluru-based media tech company Zapr Media Labs as part of a strategic partnership to drive the next wave of mobile audience analytics in India.

Zapr, which boasts of a proprietary technology that profiles the offline media consumption behaviour of millions of people, was looking to raise between $8 million and $10 million. It is not known how much Star India paid to acquire the stake.

With Star India betting big on its video-on-demand (VoD) service Hotstar, there is immense strategic value to the deal. The two companies will work together to create a deep understanding of mobile audiences that can be leveraged by brands to create personalised communication and offers.

While access to the internet has been exploding in India for the last few years, especially on the mobile screen, mobile marketing has been constrained to date by the lack of availability of platforms that marry deep user engagement and audience segmentation. While many brands have deployed significant amounts of money in mobile in the last few years, especially through banner and in-stream display ads, marketers have been frustrated by the lack of brand building vehicles online that allow them to leverage deep audience analytics. In what is clearly a trailblazing move for digital marketing, the partnership could herald the emergence of more robust audience analytics and better accountability for results in the mobile marketing world.

Mr. Ajit Mohan, CEO - HotstarHotstar CEO Ajit Mohan said, “In the transition from the broadcast world to the digital world, advertisers got a data bonanza but in the process had to give up the ability to engage consumers who are actually paying attention to what they are saying. Hotstar has the opportunity to build the world’s first platform on digital where consumers are engaged and immersed while at the same time delivering deep audience understanding that allows brands to talk to individuals rather than segments. We believe that we have a shot at creating the world’s premier truly personalised advertising service that benefits both brands and consumers.”

Zapr Media Labs co-founder and CEO Sandipan Mondal said, “We are excited to partner Hotstar and Star on our journey to build a world-class media tech company out of India. Over the past few years, Zapr has grown into one of the world’s largest media consumption repositories and audience cross-targeting platforms, and this partnership further reinforces the incredible response we have received from our partners across brands, agencies and broadcasters. We look forward to accelerating the pace of our research & development, growing our product portfolio and building a deeper and long-lasting relationship with the larger media and advertising industry.”

Zapr’s proprietary technology platform analyses television viewership across 600+ channels in India, providing targeted digital analytics and insight into offline consumption behaviour. Zapr has built an analytics platform that combines this proprietary understanding with enriched data that allows advertisers to use it for sharper audience targeting and analysis. Zapr enjoys a strong foothold in the analytics space, and as part of the next stage of growth, plans to invest further in R&D and grow the team across cross-platform data sciences, analytics and product management.

For Hotstar, the partnership signals a clear intent to evolve from a media start-up to a full-fledged technology and analytics company that shapes the next wave of mobile usage and advertising in India. With more than 60 million users in the month of January and a sharp uptick in user growth in the last few months, the platform already boasts some of the highest daily engagement among its followers. The announcement is a big step in the direction of becoming the world’s premier personalised advertising service.

Zapr Media Labs was co-founded in 2012 by IIM Ahmedabad batchmates Deepak Baid, Sajo Mathews and Sandipan Mondal. In January 2016, Zapr raised a round of funding from Flipkart, Saavn, Micromax and Ambiga Dhiraj, co-founder of Mu Sigma.