Pitch Off Season IV

Network18 Digital is the mobile and internet arm of Network18 Group, India’s leading media and entertainment group with over 225 million television viewers and 40 million unique digital visitors per month. 

Manish Maheshwari leads Network18 Digital that comprises of key group properties namely moneycontrol.com, Firstpost.com, BookMyShow, HomeShop18, Burrp, CNBC-TV18, CNN-IBN, ETV, Colors, MTV India, Comedy Central, Nick, Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Forbes India. 

Outside of work, he mentors consumer- and SME-focused tech start-ups as India lead of Ivy League Alumni Angel Network (ILAANET) and is part of India’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Formerly, he headed Flipkart’s Seller Business and Ecosystem and grew its marketplace by 10x to create a significant lead as India’ digital commerce player. Prior to Flipkart, he had co-founded txtWeb and made it the world’s largest marketplace for text-based apps. We caught up with Manish for an exclusive interview-

You are heading the e-commerce and web assets of Network 18. What kind of challenges have you come across while focusing on the business and growth of content-generating platforms? 

Monetization continues to be a challenge. We are experiencing tremendous growth in user base and audience, particularly on mobile devices, for videos and in vernacular/regional. However, existing ad-driven business models have very poor monetization. Subscription and transaction-driven models are yet to be proven to be profitable in India at scale. 

Flipkart’s business grew ten-fold under your leadership within a year. Lately, it seems to be surrounded with controversies and has faced several markdowns in the past few months. What do you have to say about this?

Things go through phases with periods of high growth and innovation followed by reflection and consolidation. Flipkart is in that phase. They have some great assets particularly with the logistics infrastructure and with leadership in mobiles and fashion category through Myntra. I am sure they will figure things out and remain a formidable e-com player in India along with Amazon.

Which, according to you, is the fastest growing domain in the startup ecosystem? 

Fintech. Will get further push because of several policy initiatives from the government in the area of Digital. Demonetisation and cashless economy will lend very well for all money, finances, and investments to be done online and via mobile. One of our digital property moneycontrol which is in the money and finance category is experiencing exponential growth, particularly on mobile devices. It’s Android app alone generates 1.3 billion page views each month with double-digit growth month-on-month growth rate. The app is rated 4.4 out of 5 on Google Play Store and is the top app in finance category after PayTM. We are also working with Jio to ensure that this app is pre-installed on all phones along with Jio connection. We are seeing renewed interest from all the top clients in the banking and financial services domain to work with moneycontrol, be it for transaction, lead generation or for advertisement.

You have been very selective about your startup investments. What kind of startups are you open to investing in future?

Start-ups that solve a real customer pain convincingly and have a reasonable business model. In addition, the founding team must be grounded and must be in it for the long haul. From a domain perspective, my expertise lies in consumer- and SME-tech. In addition, I have begun to understand content- and ad-tech after being in the media industry over the last year. 

What are you expecting from Pitch Off Season IV in Jaipur?

I am hoping to learn about some great innovative ideas and meet passionate team driving it. In addition, since Jaipur is my hometown, it would be great to see it emerge as a hub for these kinds of interactions.

Listen to Manish Maheshwari’s insights on how technology has revolutionized media and how startups can leverage media for their benefit at Pitch Off Season IV, happening in Jaipur, on February 18, 2017, at Birla Auditorium! We will continue to bring more sneak peeks into the event, stay tuned at pitchoff.thetechportal.com

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