This is one of those ‘once-in-a-blue-moon’ occasions, when being a digital media brand ourselves, I am writing an elaborate feature on another Indian digital Media brand. But considering how VCCircle has grown from Sahad’s personal VC blogging to a full-fledged Media brand under NewsCorp, I had to have an interaction with him and know how he built a digital media brand, from scratch, that too in India.
VC Circle was founded in the year 2005 when Indian market began to witness a significant boom in venture capital investments. However, at that very moment, India, and rather global markets as a whole, witnessed the rise of blogging as a phenomenon. Blogs like TechCrunch and others, which are now huge global platforms, were starting to rise, by casting a niche category of journalism for themselves — tracking startups and investments.
At this time, Sahad, through VCCircle, started the process of developing more of a community platform through field visits. Describing how he started VCCircle, Sahad tells me,
I initially started with writing 4-5 blogs per day. In two years, the VCCircle platform became a must read platform for investors, lawyers, start-ups etc. Then, in the year 2007, we saw our first round of funding coming in.
While doing away with pleasures of staying home and spending time with kids, Sahad ultimately managed to create VCCircle what it is today — a complete digital media platform, backed by some really research-intensive data platforms — which are now backed by Newscorp.
The road from blogging to what VCCircle is today however, was a tough one. The biggest hurdle, which Sahad and his team faced, was the seasonal nature of VCCircle’s business which needed sustainability methods in order to counter cyclical downturns.
Apart from that, scaling in any business is a challenge. VCCircle’s business, like any other, was a linear business at the start. It was very difficult to sustain with a non- linear growth, and it hence needed support of other revenue streams in order to sustain growth. Sahad however, was able to achieve all of that, with the help of a dedicated team, members of which are with him, even till today.
Scaling the business and Monetising Revenue Streams
If you look at how funding and investments happen these days, you would find them in stark contrast to earlier days, specially if you have been tracking India. VCs today don’t really pressurise startups to generate revenues right from the start. In fact, in my personal interaction with startup founders across India, they hardly had discussion regarding revenues with their investors, for a minimum of 2 years !
But that wasn’t the case in 2005. And being a digital media startup, revenues continue to be hard to come by, just through content.
Sahad took note of that in VCCircle’s early days itself, and started working towards finding revenue streams. The first, and most obvious choice for him, were conferences. Sahad tells me,
In the US, media companies like Tech Crunch, Skift used another method of revenue generation i.e. by organizing conferences, which were hugely successful. VC Circle took a leaf out of their book and initiated the process of conducting ‘paid’ conferences/events and started monetising.
VCCircle organised its first event in 2007 in Bangalore, and to Sahad’s surprise, it became an instant success — with tickets being sold out in just 6 hours.
Today, the company does 18-20 events every year across different verticals of the industry in almost all sectors of the industry that it touches upon. The company also conducts City specific forums, with an aim of differentiating itself from all other, numerous conferences/events happening across the country.
Besides, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune, VCCircle also covers cities such as Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad etc. At present, VCCircle covers all possible sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, FMCG and is also engaged in providing varied financial services.
VCC Edge and VCCircle Training
While conferences were a stable, and decent source of monetisation, Sahad and his team looked further, to bring about something more to digital media — than just news or events. Hence came to life — VCC Edge – currently VCCircle’s flagship platform, encompassing data scouted by VCCircle’s research team across almost every industry vertical. VCCEdge acts as a platform for investors, bankers and analysts to track deals across every industry vertical in India.
Further expanding the scope of its business, VCCircle started building its training division. Talking to me how he thought of VCCircle Training, Sahad tells me,
Around 2011, training looked like a nice sector to get in. There were a lot of topics, through which we could provide continuing education to professionals working in the industry like VCs, investment banking or even corporates including CFOs, Executives, managers etc.
The company’s training division kicked off in the year 2011 and now VCCircle has a strong 15-20 member training team, with plans for further expansion. The company also conducts several workshops and seminars across the country and even outside India.
Perennially, advertisements, paid subscription, conference/events are the principal revenue streams for VCCircle. Basically, the company is using a paid premium subscription based model and so far, it has been really successful.
The VCCircle Of Today
By the time ‘’startup’’ became a buzzword in India, VC Circle had already gained a lot of momentum and was one of the hottest media startups in 2009.
In March 2015, when the US media giant Newscorp acquired VC Circle, it was seen as a milestone in India’s surging digital media scene and in the words of PV Sahad, its founder and CEO, an opportunity “to accelerate our already aggressive growth plans.”
VCCircle network at present includes news sites VCCircle.com and Techcircle.in focusing analysis of the Indian investment ecosystem and booming technology startups; an online subscription-based data and research platform VCCEdge, which currently forms the mainstay of the entire VCCircle group; VCCircle Training an executive education division that conducts intensive workshops and seminars on finance, legal and regulatory topics for corporate, financial and legal professionals and VCCircle Conferences which is a premium content-led conference division that conducts several annual conferences across major Indian cities in industry verticals and around focused B2B themes.
Association with NewsCorp
News Corp, which has traditionally been considered a media giant, is now aggressively expanding into real-estate platforms and big data analytics.
As for the acquisition, Sahad tells me that there is an ‘absolute synergy ‘of products between the two companies. VCCircle platform’s initiatives gelled well with News Corp’s broad vision and expectations from the Indian Market. The talks about acquisition started in July 2014 with the contract of acquisition being signed in March 2015.
VCCircle however, continues to remain a totally independent company where the company itself is the master of its content.
For the past decade, we have built a strong franchise with proprietary data, information, content, and networking capabilities around India’s digital business world.
said P V Sahad, Founder and CEO of VCCircle Network after the acquisition.
Being a part of News Corp will now allow us to accelerate our already aggressive growth plans.
In the eyes of News Corp, VCCircle network is an asset. It is not only a news brand. It has deeper penetration with a strong build-up of a data base. Moreover, customers paid for the content which has created a large base of paid subscribers.
VCCircle network is now working to improve the design elements of its websites. The company is working towards making the platform more interactive through integrating social media platforms, which I personally suggested to Sahad, is a must.
VCCEdege will continue to remain an area of strategic importance. It primarily serves private equity and venture capital firms, investment banks, law firms, with around 200 institutional clients and the platform covers a data base of thousands of professionals.
This very platform of VCCEdge is poised to go global. VCCircle covers the landscape of India’s industries in a much better manner. Some of the few steps critical for VCCEdge are to broaden its horizon and include as many sectors as possible such as healthcare etc.
VCCircle network plans to go big on data and gather information on a lot more industry segments as it has a very strong foundation of being data driven which has huge relevance in the present times.
Today, a lot of companies are adopting a data – centric approach and they constantly need data to develop and devise plans to make their data-base as their strength and are willing to buy data which is the major target of VCCircle.
The company would include more and more industries and would try to replicate the same kind of reportage on other industries as well.