Times Internet recently released their Annual Report 2020 that underlines the growth of the fast-growing digital company with businesses across Media platforms, Cloud platforms and enablement platforms.
How has the year 2019 been for Times Internet? Some key highlights that you would want to talk about?
2019-2020 was dynamic, particularly with February / March seeing a total change in the country. For most of the year, we focused and delivered on our key goals: solid, continuous growth of our advertising business, and more rapid uptake of our subscription and transactions products.
At the product level, every product showed continuous improvement. MX Player’s successful rise in the OTT space was notable, coming from zero to leader in just two years. It really demonstrated our ability to execute well, at the intersection of media and technology, our sweet spot.
Being a private company what was the need to create and curate an Annual Report?
We have a number of stakeholders – internal and external – with whom it’s helpful to share our broader mission and purpose. We believe our competition is only ourselves, and our ability to execute against our vision, so in a way, publishing our progress and our priorities helps us reinforce and hold a real mirror to ourselves to deliver.
Monthly users grew by 23% for Times Internet, What according to you was the key to a great year as 2019? And how have your business strategies altered for the disastrous 2020?
A good year for us really relates to 3 things –
(1) did we serve users better than anyone else? We measure this by relative market share in our verticals.
(2) are we building healthy businesses? We measure this by revenue growth and improving unit economics.
(3) are we building a diverse and resilient ecosystem? We measure this by looking at user crosswalk, growth of our non-advertising business lines, and growth in subscribers, members, and direct traffic.
On all 3 fronts, we saw strong progress, aligned with our goals last year. For this fiscal year, we’ll end up breaking it into 2 halves. The first half (April to September) has been about managing the COVID environment and stability. The second half will be about reorienting around growth and chasing ambitious goals again.
Which have been some success stories from your partners/advertisers that have shown great confidence in Times Internet again and again?
Overall, we’re focusing on offering the breadth and diversity of Times Internet’s assets to advertisers, more than before. While our scale is similar to Google and Facebook, our product experiences are different, centered on providing brand safe, trusted environments for advertisers.
We also have been able to demonstrate some really impactful wins for specific clients, like Samsung, which saw a 31% lift in 30-day awareness after a campaign with us, or Smule, which grew downloads 2x, and brand awareness 2.5x after a campaign.
Tell us about Times Prime? What was the need gap to create such a subscription-based set of services? How has the service grown and what’s been the response to that? Your plans for growing it further?
We reach 550 million Indians every month, but our goal is to think about a subset of them as ‘members’. As a ‘member’, you can unlock the best that our properties can provide, as well as a whole host of benefits.
The value proposition is a no-brainer. Most users recover their membership value within the first month itself, but as TimesPrime grows, we’ll continue to bring more value to the consumer. We view it as a pivotal part of our larger D2C relationship we’re building.
Last year, we crossed 2 million subscribers, up from 100k subscribers two years ago, so healthy progress thus far.
Why are there two – short-form video platforms under Times Internet? – MX Taka Tak and Gaana Hotshots? – How do these platforms differentiate and sort of not eat into each other’s business?
Short-form video is new for us, and our approach is to really let all teams experiment and innovate as they see fit. Gaana Hotshots’ approach is more music-centric, because it fits with where users are and it’s embedded within the Gaana app. MX Takatak is a standalone app, oriented first around video.
Both have seen surprisingly fast consumer uptake, and our learning is that the market for these products is extremely wide. We plan to invest meaningfully behind the segment.
How big is video for Times Internet and what are you doing to leverage the power of video?
Video as a share of total time on our network has been continuously growing, but MX has naturally caused a massive leap. In general, all of our properties are developing ways to be more interactive and more immersive for customers… video, both short and long form, are major contributors to that.
Tell us about your new business expansion plans? What’s next for Times Internet which are some targets that you plan to achieve in the next couple of years?
We’ve been fortunate to build a platform with large-scale user engagement. Our priority today is to better serve and satisfy this audience. When we think about M&A, we’ll look at opportunities that plug in well to our ecosystem to best serve this audience, primarily on the services side.
Our long term targets are very clear: we want to reach 1 billion users by 2025, and become a $1 billion revenue company. And of course, along the way, continue to keep our focus on serving our consumers.