More than anything else, the past decade has been characterised by a surge in mobile apps and how they have become an integral part of our daily lives. From ordering a cab to playing random games, it has spread into every sphere of our existence. Like every booming industry, it has attracted swathes of developers and publishers trying to write their ‘rags to riches’ story.
But in Pakistan, those were far and few between as money didn’t come easy. And that grabbed the attention of a local startup who found it as a problem worth solving.
ConsoliAds is a Lahore-based adtech startup that offers mobile ad mediation and promotion. Basically, it connects publishers with advertisement networks on a single online platform, promising the former better in-app ad revenues and the latter more impressions.
If you are still not clear as to what problem exactly are they solving, think it this way. Publishers put their app(s) on Apple or Google’s store and open it up for advertisements, which make them money on each click. But in this part of the world, monetisation is extremely difficult (as effective cost per mile — eCPM, the most important metric, is quite low) with most companies running multiple applications at the same time resulting in a fragmented audience.
On the other hand, ad networks — such as InMobi or Unity — want to expand their reach and get to the right audience.
Publishers can just sign up, add their application(s), choose the ad networks, and integrate with ConsoliAds’ software development kit — a process that shouldn’t take more than an hour for a layman. After testing, you are good to go. The portal allows you to choose where exactly to place the ads in the app (either manually or automatically), select the sequence by geography or network, check the relevant statistics like revenue in a given region or from a particular application, and a dashboard to consolidate everything.
Ad networks have slightly different features that include creating a campaign, setting budget and choosing format. There are also tools to help you better target the right audience, such as app category, age range, region etc.
ConsoliAds began as an in-house platform for Founder Asad Mahmood’s then gaming company Appricot Studios to help maximise its in-app revenues. “As a publisher, especially in Pakistan, it’s a challenge to properly monetise and manage all the applications you run, and that’s what we wanted to automate and optimise,” he recalls. Mahmood proposed the idea to Raheel Iqbal, who was running Game Storm Studios, and the two joined forces and were also joined by Usman Sheikh, another tech entrepreneur, as the third co-founder.
Among mediation platforms, it’s a relatively tight space with Google’s Admob unsurprisingly holding the biggest share, followed by (only relatively) smaller ones such as IronSource, Twitter-owned mopub, Tapjoy and Max. Basically all of them are backed by big players. So how does Mahmood plan to make a name for his product in such a market?
“Most of these platforms are quite difficult to use and require a technical person for the integrations, which is something we have tried to avoid. Plus, unlike them, ours goes beyond maximising monetisation. It’s more of a one-stop shop that brings all aspects — revenues, analytics and expenses — under a single platform,” explains the CEO Asad Mahmood.
The startup makes most of its money via mediation, where it keeps a certain margin of ad revenue earned by publishers. But now, ConsoliAds is scaling up its own advertisement network, where the commissions are much higher. Plus, they are also trying out a subscription package — that goes up to $2,500 a month for a maximum of 200 million ad impressions — for cross promotion (pushing app on publishers’ existing user base).
Since launching the product in November 2016, the startup has raised two rounds — friends and family one worth $150,000 in May 2017 and $1 million of Series A money from 47 Ventures in November 2018. And now ConsoliAds is looking for more external capital again, around $3m, to help accelerate growth by primarily spending on expanding its global footprint and product enhancement.
Currently most of their customers are Pakistani (game) publishers but this is a rather small market since the local app scene is pretty much non-existent with extremely low eCPMs. This is why Mahmood and co want to expand their wings abroad, with eyes on Asia Pacific and Middle East & North Africa, where not only is there a wider audience but relatively better rates too. In fact, their estimates put the whole region’s 2019 in-app revenues alone at over $16 billion.
Looking to get a piece of that pie, ConsoliAds already has a legal presence in both Singapore and Dubai. Time will tell how much game they have.
The writer is member of staff:
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2020
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