Upal Pradhan, an engineer by early education, who further studied Management, began his career at an interesting time when the merging of technology and marketing had just begun. His first interaction with digital media was in the beginning of 2007, as manager for Digital marketing and new media for RPG Enterprises and Saregama.
A marketer at heart, by 2010 when he joined Techzone as Head of Marketing and Operations, he was a veteran of digital and mobile marketing. Techzone was the perfect choice for the merger of his experience and passion. During his tenure there, Upal, along with Naveen spotted an opportunity, wherein, customers were getting more fascinated towards technology and getting more accustomed it.
It gave them glimpse of a market that was still virgin and was awaiting for right people to tap onto it. And then came into existence Kratos and an entrepreneur, who had worked in the trenches and was passionate about pushing the envelope of Ad Tech.
Kratos is an Ad tech company, which has three products - a) demand side platform equipped with RTB and ROI optimisation algorithms b) A rewarded SDK which is called KuberPlay that helps app developer to monetise their apps by providing premium services free to their customers who are paid for by advertisers and c) An affiliate management platform with tracking solutions.
Entrepreneur India Interacted with Upal Pradhan, Founder & CEO of Kartos to know more about his entrepreneurial journey.
Entrepreneurship! How did it happen to you?
Fortunately, for me, it happened in a staged manner, which made it smoother than what it usually is. I started my career in Saregama, taking care of digital marketing for south India, which gave me exposure of the mobile and media industry and monetisation avenues on various digital platforms. Then came Techzone, where the journey kicked-off to the next level. Techzone at this point was at an inflection point, going through a hyper growth curve. I along with Naveen was responsible for all the non technical verticals - Marketing, Sales, Product, Finance and HR. Naveen is a serial entrepreneur and was already 10 plus years in the mobile and digital space at this point.
This was the phase that I got exposed to certain key ingredients of entrepreneurship, like building team and culture, achieving hyper growth rates with limited finances and most importantly, handling the strains caused by frequent highs and lows, many a times simultaneously. Techzone at this point was spending good amount of money on mobile advertisement. Mobile is an ecosystem that we had in-depth experience in. Moreover, mobile advertisement was in its initial stages, where there was lot of scope for improvement and changes. Hence this is how we started the journey of Kratos.
Was entrepreneurship always your vision?
I always wanted to build teams and organisations from scratch. But there was never a concrete plan. So it would not be completely right to say that I always planned it. It’s more like I had strong inclinations towards entrepreneurship and utilized the opportunities that came my way.
When did you decide that mobile advertising will serve your business objective?
We as a team had in-depth knowledge of mobile ecosystem having worked on almost all mobile platforms for over 12 years at the time we started Kratos. Also, mobile advertisement at that point was going through the early phases of rapid changes,thereby, provided a lot of opportunities, which to a large extent is true even today. Further, it involves a lot of data and algorithm related technology, something that has always been of personal interest to me and therefore mobile advertisement was perfectly at the intersection of our experience, market opportunity and interest.
Share with us the story behind the name of your venture. How did you come up with this name?
Well, that took us quite some time. Naveen and I were unable to arrive at a name that we both agree on for almost two months. We, for weeks debated on names that had mobi or ads or media in them, they were either similar to names of companies that already exist or were too cheesy or one of us didn’t like it. So while searching through web on names ranging from having some semblance with the industry to absolute random we bumped across Kratos. And both of us agreed upon it after more than two months of discussion. So we filed for the name before one of us decided to change our mind.
In today’s time technology plays the crucial role. So how have you used this technology in your business?
Technology isthe core of our business. We have been dealing with huge amount of data even during the initial phases. Mobile advertisement is all about algorithms that process humongous amount of data in mili-seconds to decide the best possible advertisements and creatives for the end-consumers. We use self-learning algorithms to increase the ROI for advertisers, to increase revenues for publishers and to arrive at the right bids for ad requests.
Tell us about the key players of your team and their contribution in your business?
As it happens with startups and small teams, everybody contributes immensely to drive growth. Hence it’s very difficult to point a few names out. Venki who is also co-founder of Kratos is at the core of our strength in tech. He has successfully built and mentored a very efficient team of dedicated people over the last two years.
Sanketh and Avinash have been working along with venki from the early days of Kratos and have immense contribution behind our robust platforms. Amit Gandhi who heads the sales team is another person who has always taken up new challenges, and pushed the envelop. And Pranav is someone who has helped us streamline our operation team, which is of immense important for client support and smooth functioning on a daily basis.
What is your USP or I can say what differentiate you with others dealing in same sector?
We are completely focused on increasing the ROI of advertisers. All our systems are built for achieving this objective. We try to replace any manual process that is followed for optimisation, targeting etc with self learning algorithms so that the systems become real time (instead of iteration time of weeks), efficient and error free.
How is the feedback from the customers? Do they like your product or they need some improvisation in it?
So far the customer response has been amazing. We are working with almost all the large media agencies in India and many large consumer tech companies directly. We have faced negligible customer attrition over last two years.
How do you see future shaping up for Kratos?
On a product side we are focused on on-boarding as many app developers as possible on KuberPlay and to expand the base of our white labelling solution over the next six months. On geographic expansion side, we want to increase our presence in South East Asia by this year end.
Any experience which brought a drastic change in your business?
There have been many of those, which I think is inevitable for anyone in the startup space. One worth mentioning would be the realisation of the strength of having a well-planned, scalable and well-documented product. Although anyone with experience or with a degree in management would know that as a point from marketing 101, but the difference between knowledge and an experience that gives you the realisation, which makes you change your priorities has drastic implications.
Since in our previous endeavours, there was a definite skew towards sales when it comes to prioritisation, we realised while evaluating at a later stage that there were many products that we have worked on and some even completed that could have become standalone companies in themselves. So while we started Kratos we were very sure that the focus is going to be to roll out a completely scalable, well-planned and well-documented product. If we can achieve that we would automatically be able to serve our clients.
What keep you motivated and relaxed?
I like to travel, read books and watch movies. Travelling is something that helps immensely in taking the stress off from time to time.