Home >Companies >Sapient sets sights on online ad market in India

New Delhi: Mid-sized technology services firm Sapient Corp., until now mainly serving customers in North America and Europe offering consulting and interactive services, is in talks to sign on its first set of clients in India in the media, communications and retail industries, said the company’s chief executive who saw a turnaround of the vendor in recent years.

“We are in discussions with local indigenous Indian companies and should finalize things within the next six months. We are watching India closely, particularly for the online and mobile advertising space," said Alan Herrick, visiting Sapient’s India offices. He declined to name potential clients but said his firm will help clients better target advertisement dollars online.

Charting new path: Alan Herrick, president and CEO of Sapient Corp. Some 60% of the company’s workforce is based in India.

Sapient’s interactive business provides clients with brand and marketing strategy, Web design and development and emerging media expertise and its consulting arm offers business and IT strategy, process and systems design, package implementation and custom development. The company also renders outsourcing services such as testing, maintenance and support.

“Marketing and IT have always been at odds. We provide that intersection between IT, marketing and business processes. We see huge opportunity in the mobile interactive space in India and that will be fascinating," Herrick said.

Analysts said the market for digital media advertising space in India was still nascent. “The entry of big players like Sapient in India will bring maturity to the market and that will bring standard formats into advertising. The challenge they may face here is that there are no formats available for mobile advertising in India," said Balendu Shrivastava, group business director at Bird, or the business and industrial research division of market research firm IMRB International.

After the dot-com bust in 2000, Sapient almost went out of business. In 2001-02, it restructured its business by moving a large portion of its employee base to India. With revenues of around $330 million (Rs1,317 crore) in 2001, the company made losses of around $190 million. In its last fiscal year to December 2007, it grew revenues 36% at$546 million and recorded net profit of around $18 million. The firm has said it will grow at 20-25% this year and India will grow at “around the same rate. We will grow in people and in the number of locations here," Herrick said.

Sapient also sees a lot of positive impact for its interactive business as a result of the slowdown in the US economy. “Clients are diving more into online spending as there is more measurability," Herrick said. About 45% of the firm’s business comes from interactive services and the balance from consulting offerings.

Keeping with its character of providing niche services, Sapient is also considering getting into high-end back office services, also called knowledge process outsourcing, for its trading and risk business which covers commodities and utilities. “Whether it will be a separate practice or part of the existing consulting business, is yet to be decided. The employee base will be India," Herrick said.

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