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Airtel, Vi and Jio eyeing Rs 74,600 cr advertising market

The three major Indian telcos—Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea (Vi)—are eyeing the Rs 74,600 crore advertising market through their ad solutions verticals.

While Airtel and Jio launched their ad solutions products in 2021, Vi said exclusively that it will soon be entering the market as well.

“Vi aims to participate as a major player in the multibillion dollar Indian advertising industry through our own AI/ML driven Adtech platform,” Avneesh Khosla, chief marketing officer at Vi.

He added that a telco has the opportunity to provide deep insights to marketers for effectively reaching out to the right target group, considering marketers today are faced with two major challenges—of authentic insights and enhanced reach.

“We believe that generating content and programmatic media buying on customised platforms will be the new normal,” he said.

According to the latest Ficci EY Media and Entertainment report, the advertising market in India currently stands at Rs 74,600 crore, of which digital accounts for nearly 33% at Rs 24,650 crore. It is expected to grow 27% to Rs 31,390 crore during the current calendar and jump 74.5% to Rs 43,020 crore by the end of 2024.

Airtel took its ad solutions product to market in February 2021, after a year of testing it internally to market the telco’s various offerings, revealed Adarsh Nair, chief executive officer, Airtel Digital. The telco offers ad solutions across various platforms and media—audio, video, DTH, and SMS to name some—and said it has 135 ‘premium’ brands, with an on-quarter retention rate of 35%.

Nair sees potential to grow the business at 200% revenue growth on-year for the next couple of years, given the small base, and the scaling up potential. He added that over the next two years, the team will be working on finessing the product so that it can be taken beyond the telco user base. “I do not see it (the digital products business) as a telco play at all,” he said.

He added that the business stood on three key pillars—“zero ad fraud, transparency, and premiumisation”. Elaborating on the first pillar, he said that since every subscriber in the Airtel ecosystem is a verified customer, the platform provides advertisers with a logged in audience, thus “enabling us to be zero fraud”. At March end, Airtel had 360 million subscribers in India.

“It is well documented that of every 100 clicks, only 36 are humans. The rest are either from click farms, or bots. With our logged in ecosystem, there is zero chance of fraud,” Nair added.

The model followed by Airtel Ads is based on the ad practices of Amazon, which started providing ad solutions some seven years back.

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