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InMobi: India’s Mobile Advertising Powerhouse

InMobi, an Indian company, specializes in mobile advertising services, catering to a range of marketing needs. Their offerings encompass brand awareness, user acquisition, remarketing, and monetization for publishers. Additionally, InMobi provides marketing cloud products, including a customer data platform (CDP), market research platform, and customer experience platform. These tools aid in organizing data, uncovering market and customer insights, and measuring and enhancing customer satisfaction.

InMobi’s core innovation lies in its advertisement serving algorithm, which optimizes the placement of ads on mobile devices. The company’s journey began with SMS-based services and subsequently rebranded as InMobi, quickly ascending to the status of India’s first unicorn startup.

The inception

In 2007, InMobi, initially known as mKhoj (mobile khoj), had its humble beginnings as a provider of SMS-based search engine services. Founded by Naveen Tiwari, Mohit Saxena, Amit Gupta, and Abhay Singhal, the company took root in a residential flat in Bangalore, India. In its early years, mKhoj focused on mobile search services.

As the company evolved and shifted its primary focus towards mobile advertising, a rebranding was deemed necessary. Thus, mKhoj transformed into InMobi. This transition was marked by the company’s expansion into global markets, including the United States, in 2009, while already having a significant presence in emerging markets like Asia and Africa. The decision to rebrand was also influenced by the belief that ‘InMobi’ was easier to pronounce in English compared to ‘mKhoj,’ which derives from the Hindi word for ‘search.’

InMobi’s global ambitions gained momentum in 2010 when it secured $8 million in funding from investors Sherpalo Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. This financial boost allowed InMobi to begin its global marketing efforts, extending its reach to the U.S., Australia, and various European countries. A substantial injection of $200 million in funding from SoftBank the following year accelerated the company’s expansion in these markets.

One noteworthy success was its entry into the Chinese market in 2011. InMobi rapidly grew to become one of China’s largest mobile ad networks, serving 30,000 applications and witnessing 400 million daily impressions. Globally, InMobi now reaches 700 million smartphone owners.

Between 2011 and 2013, InMobi further fortified its growth through strategic acquisitions, including firms like Metaflow Solutions and Overlay Media. These acquisitions contributed to InMobi’s emergence as a major player in the mobile advertising industry, solidifying its position as a leader in the digital advertising landscape.

Challenges faced

InMobi faced significant challenges, notably when pivoting away from a struggling chat application. Their strategy of hiring local leaders for international expansion had mixed results, emphasizing the importance of leadership choices. In 2016, financial difficulties led to a 10% workforce reduction and attrition among senior management. In response, InMobi added 184 employees and maintained below-average attrition rates. 

Plans ahead

InMobi, despite its challenges, has garnered a global following, approaching 700 million smartphone users worldwide. Recently, it was recognized as one of MIT Technology Review’s 50 most disruptive companies in the world.

As the company evolves from a startup to a multinational corporation, it faces typical challenges of rapid growth. CEO Naveen Tiwari emphasizes the difficulty of running a global operation with 25 offices while maintaining a single culture, system, and clear communication.

InMobi has overcome the perception barrier and is now seen as a global player in the industry. Besides its strong presence in India, the company operates in various countries, including Australia, Taiwan, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Russia, Germany, and China, where it has become one of the largest mobile ad networks. In the future, InMobi continues to focus on innovation and expanding its global footprint.

Snigdha Basu
Snigdha Basu
A multifaceted writer, Snigdha Basu is a freelancer and a columnist at Entrepreneurs Today. She also spearheads Chic Life Edition - her own Digital Magazine with sustainable fashion, beauty, and culture at its core. Reach out to Snigdha at [email protected] for inquiries.
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