Adnova, an eight-month-old company targeting the media community in advertising agencies, television channels and production houses, is readying to launch its first product in April this year. That is almost six months behind the original deadline. And that's not the only thing that has changed at Adnova.
The content and community team is out, so is the CEO (a new one is expected in a month or two). The office has moved from Vashi (northern Mumbai) to the hub of Mumbai's agency business - the belt of Lower Parel and Worli. The value proposition has been redefined as "technology service providers to the media, both the buyers and owners," according to K Nagaraj, co-founder. "Initially, we did have plans of setting up content on media, which we have since abandoned," he adds.
The delay in launch had caused speculation about Adnova's health. A senior agency executive recalls, "Adnova wanted to automate the whole agency operations by becoming a centralised media exchange."
K. Nagaraj, co-founder, counters, "No, we are not trying to become an exchange. But we had to tweak our business plan to enlarge the scope of our service." He adds, "Right now, we are very close to bringing our product into the market." Come April, Adnova will launch a software to smoothen the media-buying operation at the agency end.
Adnova's business premise rests on the complexity of the media-buying process and the corresponding lack of technological infrastructure at every point. "The multiplicity and complexity of most deals without any way of tracking those deals on operational details leads to a lot of bad blood between buyers and sellers," suggests Santosh Pillai, co-founder. "The supplier spends more time sitting with buyers and reconciling payments." He says this happened because "the TV industry grew faster than what agencies could cope up with, and the agencies did not invest in process or technology systems."
The company is attempting to cover the entire gamut of operations, right from a media planner's initial order to the buying agency, to inventory management at the buying agency end, to raising and managing release orders, reconciliations and finally, the receipt of money at the agency and channel end.
Nagaraj, who, along with Santosh Pillai and C.D. Deepak, started Adnova Technologies in June 2000 "to create an efficient marketplace for buyers and sellers of advertising time and space", received support soon after from Sam Balsara, CMD, Madison Communications and The View, a Boston-based venture fund. It also struck alliances with Microsoft Consulting Services (technology partner) and Mahindra Consulting (implementation partner).
"But we had set aggressive deadlines which we now realise were impossible to meet for the scale of system we had envisioned," says Pillai. According to the original plan, besides generating a lot of media-related content, Adnova had designed an ASP (application service model). That is, an application would be hosted from a centralised server. "We began by assuming that connectivity will be in place when we launch. But Net-on-the-tap is still away," says Nagaraj. "So now we have actively scaled up the system, redesigned it in a way that it would work in an absolutely distributed environment."
What the company did was go back to the drawing board. It kept the ASP model, but to avoid the pitfalls of an ASP, boosted it with more security and customised features and moved to a distributed architecture. The new product is designed to run from the client's end. An agency can install the software for a fee and have multiple thin clients accessing it from remote offices. Also, considering the redefined scale of service, "we knew we had to touch a much larger client base". Adnova is now looking at markets in the US and Asia-Pacific too.
The trio's initial work plan was based on AdWise, a workflow automation system for media-buying running in Madison. "But we realised that every agency has its peculiarities at various stages of the buying cycle. They had to be accounted for if we were to serve better," suggests Pillai.
"Parallely, we have finished the documentation of the seller's system," informs Pillai. "One more level of vetting is required." But it would take the company another three months to ascertain when it will be able to launch the first product for media sellers.
Adnova refuses to reveal either the price of the product or the expected ROI (return on investment) that an agency can expect with the product. Pillai claims they have been meeting with a lot of media planners to gauge the reaction, which he describes as being "highly welcome". All he does part with is: "It will be one of the higher investments in technology made by an agency".
© 2001 agencyfaqs!
Interview with Sam Balsara, chairman & MD, Madison Communications