Naveen Tewari, founder and chief executive at InMobi. (Mint)
Naveen Tewari, founder and chief executive at InMobi. (Mint)

SoftBank-backed InMobi to invest $100 million in new unit TruFactor

  • TruFactor is built on the capabilities of Sprint's Pinsight Media acquired by InMobi in 2018
  • TruFactor aims to provide security, privacy, governance, compliance services to telecom services providers

Bengaluru: SoftBank Group Corp.-backed and Bengaluru-based advertising tech startup, InMobi, plans to invest about $100 million over the next three years in TruFactor, its wholly owned business unit that has been created to provide security, privacy, governance and compliance services to telecom services providers.

InMobi made the announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday.

TruFactor has been built on the capabilities of Pinsight Media—a former wholly-owned subsidiary of telecom company Sprint that InMobi acquired in October 2018.

"We got this platform, which helped managed Sprint's enormous amount of data, and now this platform can manage data, security, governance and compliance. So we want to use it to help other telcos manage their datasets and privacy issues," said Naveen Tewari, founder and chief executive at InMobi.

The 100-people strong unit, which has offices in the US, Singapore and Bengaluru, will now be headed by Piyush Shah, co-founder and president (marketing and data cloud) at InMobi, and president of TruFactor.

“TruFactor’s data platform enables telcos to ingest, curate and analyse data to increase user privacy, improve customer experience and drive growth," said Shah.

TruFactor is also strenghtening its existing partnership with Microsoft to bring this “secure data platform" to market via Microsoft Azure, which now powers TruFactor.

According to Ravi Krishnaswamy, InMobi's chief technology cfficer, the company entered the "big league of digital advertising by getting access to telco data through Pinsight Media’s software platform".

Further, moving its advertising stack on Microsoft Azure has helped InMobi with its technology scale—"15 billion daily ad requests, bidding/auctioning happening within milliseconds, and access to more than 1.6 billion unique mobile devices", said Krishnaswamy.

Besides, InMobi is using its own "mobile-first, AI-first marketing products" along with other Microsoft enterprise platforms like the Azure Data Lake Storage, Analytics and MS Dynamics to scale and enhance its media advertising and video advertising businesses.

"Where Microsoft has media services and the Video indexer, etc., InMobi can bring in the expertise on creatives, audience intelligence and content marketplace to drive ROI (return on investment) for OTT (over-the-top) companies," said Krishnaswamy, adding that InMobi is now exploring how it can "leverage Blockchain to develop trust in digital advertising and use Microsoft's AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual reality) capabilities for mobile content and experience".

In January, 2018, InMobi acquired US-based mobile video ad start-up AerServ for $90 million—a deal aimed at boosting its capabilities in the video ads sector that is expected to become a multi-billion dollar business over the next 3-5 years.

"We are no longer just an advertising player. We are entering the sofware space too, which makes us a media and software company," said Tewari. "Our business in the US has grown to over 50%, while China is a significant growth drive. Also, we continue to look at more acquisition in this space to fill the gaps in our product portfolio."

"Considering that Pinsight was formerly a Sprint company, and has the capabilities of accessing and analysing telcos' data which can provide an exponential advantage to InMobi's applications and device usage level data, this is a significant strategic advantage to InMobi," said Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner at Convergence Catalyst, a research and advisory firm.

InMobi's acquisition of Pinsight, Aerserv and the partnership with Microsoft for Azure services, provide all the "requisite tools and platforms to take the fight to Google that much more strongly in the mobile advertising space", Kolla said. He believes that InMobi has "made all the right strategic moves to evolve as an even more stronger player in the mobile advertising ecosystem".

"Everything now boils down to the company executing this strategy well," he added.

Tewari, on his part, said: "There's no denying that Google, Facebook and Amazon are very big in marketing and advertising. However, we will continue to compete with rapid innovation and large enterprise partnerships like those with Sprint and Microsoft."

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