A smart play for the small screen
By Saheli S.R. Datta, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- India's mobile content market is booming, but lacks an advertising network to help monetize all of those pageviews.

Investment level: $100K - $500K


Risk Level: Medium

Ashu Mathura's three-person startup in Amsterdam is just a few months old, but it already has some big customers. His business: software that allocates space on cell-phone screens on which companies can advertise.

Look up a stock quote on a cell phone in Belgium, for instance, and an ad for Postkrediet, a Dutch financial company, pops up. Postkrediet pays a fee, and Mathura gets a slice.

The early returns have been so promising that Mathura wants to roll out the service next in India, where a booming but nascent mobile market lacks the means to monetizing content - and has room for dozens of ventures like Mathura's that could operate in different regions.

Mathura launched his company, called Mads, with a little over $100,000. His two developers wrote software that collects ads and serves them on mobile webpages.

Mads buys ad space from content publishers - ringtone catalog sites, mobile game companies, other mobile Internet sites - and sells that space to advertisers.

The same model, Mathura says, holds even more potential in India, where the number of cellular customers is expected to jump 71 percent this year to 130 million.

Hundreds of content creators are popping up, but the market is highly fragmented and separated by regional dialects, making it unattractive to a major digital-media player like Razorfish.

"These are mom-and-pop developers creating content for a huge number of local markets," says Taha Rangwala, an analyst with Pyramid Research. These shops don't have the money or time to hawk ad space, Mathura says, and they're eager for the revenue.  Top of page

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