From a project engineer at AMG General Corporation (makers of Hummer) to designing Dodge RAM for Chrysler to starting an e-cards business and then turning it into an over Rs 300-crore digital marketing company in a decade, 47-year-old Suresh Reddy, chairman and chief executive of Hyderabad-based Ybrant Digital, has come a long way.
It was in 1999 that Reddy wanted to do something big but didn’t know what to do. Greeting cards was a $1-billion business then. Reddy floated USAgreetings.com along with his childhood friend and classmate, at St Patrick’s High School, Vijay Kancharla (now president-platforms of Ybrant) and two other friends.
Reddy says, “Each of us infused $10,000 into the portal. We put all the designs together and the business witnessed a lot of traction and traffic. So, we quit our jobs. We even developed a voice card, which contained messages in our voice, for Mediaring.com. All that is great, but where is the revenue and how do we sustain?”
The foursome then looked at other avenues and zeroed in on media communications as their next venture and started building products to facilitate colourful communications in mid-2000. They also changed the name of the company to Ybrant Technologies.
“We went into the marketplace with our products. Developed a bulk emailing software called Zentyl. But there were no takers. By then, two guys quit,” says Reddy.
This taught a big lesson to the founders.
What proved to be a turning point in his career, at a social gathering in late 2000, Reddy heard leaders from the internet domain — Yahoo and Google — talking about ad networks. He jumped on it. But this time around he took the inroganic route. It seemed to be working for them.
Since 2006, Ybrant had acquired six companies to strengthen its position in the $40-billion global digital marketing space. In 2006 itself, Ybrant acquired two companies — Serbia-based Seenietix’s flagship email marketing platform VoloMP and US-based MediosOne — for undisclosed amounts. In 2007, it acquired US-based online ad-network company AdDynamix for $10 million (about Rs 50 crore) and Israeli firm Oridian for $13 million (Rs 65 crore). In 2009, Argentine ad-network company Dream Ad and Australian firm Max Interactive joined Ybrant in all-cash deals.
“Today, we are into banner, keyword search, email and mobile marketing, and about 3,000 advertisers are on our network. Now we want to acquire our own bit of the media and create Ybrant as a one-stop-shop for publishing,” says Reddy.
In 2007, Ybrant filed a draft red herring prospectus to go public. “We are constantly looking for money from private equity companies and venture capitalists to fund our regular business and acquire new businesses. We are waiting for the markets to be right to show an exit route to our existing investors,” he adds.
Talking about new trends and Ybrant’s vision, Reddy says: “We are not defining trends, but are following them. While we don’t have any road map, we certainly have some milestones to achieve. We will remain nimble. Digital marketing is still being consolidated. Four to five years down the line, like in the auto industry, only few players will remain in the fray with each of their revenues being at least $1 billion. Our goal is to be one of them.”
After taking Ybrant to the height where it is today, Reddy is not boastful. Rather, he is candid enough to say: “It is not by choice, it just happened.”