The Trend-Setters in New-Age Marketing
About half a decade ago, when smartphones were yet to evolve into mobile Internet devices and Whatsapp was in its diapers, Indians had found a smart way of reaching out to each other for quick toll-free reassurances. It was called the missed call.
It was then that three entrepreneurs, Valerie R. Wagoner, Amiya Pathak and Sanjay Swamy, founded ZipDial. With venture capital firms such as 500 Start-ups, Mumbai Angles and Times Internet backing it, the company has made aggressive strides since 2010, taking mobile marketing to a whole new level within India and abroad. Today, the company has evolved into a marketing solutions and analytics platform, specializing in driving offline-to-online consumer engagement and providing a personalized and highly targeted user experience.
Marketers and media owners use ZipDial to acquire consumer data that was never before accessible in the offline world, and use the actionable insights on ZipDial’s analytics platform to make business decisions and increase return on investment.
Compared to Facebook, ZipDial drives two to five times more customer engagement across all verticals and at least twice as fast, say the founders.
CEO Valerie R. Wagoner, a Stanford graduate, won the Leading Women in Technology Award in 2011 for her exceptional performance in the telecom sector. She also won the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Award 2012 for inspiring women through her work in the field of technology.
ZipDial is also a Knowlarity customer. We caught up with Valerie for a brief chat on their journey. Edited excerpts:
Tell us how the ZipDial idea was conceived. What were your challenges on the way to building the company?
The idea for ZipDial was seeded 30,000 miles above sea level on a midnight flight back to Bangalore. As we brainstormed, Sanjay [Swamy, Chairman] and I came up with several use cases to address problems that retailers faced in tracking consumer loyalty and increasing brand engagement. Little did we know we were on to creating a new industry altogether.
Building the team with people with the right skill-sets and appetite to the join a growing and demanding start-up environment was definitely a challenge. Initial set of employees joined us from places where we founders had worked. When you’re a tiny start-up with no product, no customer and no investors, your first employees join you based on trust in you. We put up strong filters and multiple levels of interactions before deciding to hire someone.
My team has been extremely important in helping us reach where we are today.
You were named the leading woman in technology in India in 2011. Do you think women in India still have a long way to go in this field? What are your observations on this?
Women in India have massive potential to be technology leaders. The gender gap in engineering schools in India is much smaller than in places like the US, where less than 13% of engineering students are women.
There are proportionally many more women in India who are educated in technology. The challenge is encouraging women to stay in the workforce in technology. 50% of the country’s well-educated minds are not being fully utilized!
Could you tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you?
Back in Silicon Valley, I worked at the eBay headquarters. I was also one of the first employees at two start-ups: Ning (acquired by Glam Media) and SayNow (acquired by Google).
There was always a passion for emerging markets. Besides the time I spent at Stanford University (for my undergraduate and graduate degrees), a hotbed of entrepreneurship, I also had some inspiration at home. My grandmother had many businesses and was the first ever female stockbroker in California, way back in the 1950s. She continues to be my inspiration.
Did your entrepreneurial challenges have anything to do with you being a woman? Any tips and tricks you might want to share with young women entrepreneurs?
The hardest problems about being an entrepreneur have absolutely nothing to do with gender. Period. As long as you focus on that and not let your gender or your own insecurities distract you, you can go very far.
What is your vision for ZipDial?
ZipDial is already the leading mobile marketing and analytics company in India, and we aim to be the #1 mobile marketing and analytics company in all emerging markets.
How has your association with Knowlarity been?
ZipDial runs massive, pan-India campaigns for the world’s largest advertisers, including P&G, Unilever, Pepsi, Coca-cola, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate, and the list goes on. Consumers engage via ZipDial millions of times per day, and everything must operate to the highest of global standards. Knowlarity has been a fantastic partner in providing the robust infrastructure and flexible technology needed for ZipDial to scale our mobile marketing and analytics platform.