Successful partnerships are about working together towards a common goal and enriching the ecosystem: Puneet Singhvi

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Puneet Singhvi

In conversation with Outbrain’s Digitalks, Puneet Singhvi, President - Digital & Corporate Strategy, Network 18 talks about the shifts in digital publishing in recent years.

In recent years, India has witnessed tremendous growth in the Digital Industry. With several groups making a foray into the Indian Digital market, it has launched a gamut of digital initiatives that aim at transforming the landscape. To facilitate collaborative and participative digital transformation, Network 18 launched its Digital Arm which is currently the biggest multi-platform destination with an ultra-premium network. Outbrain’s Digitalks speaks to Network 18’s Puneet Singhvi about the need to develop creative strategies and innovations that sustainably strengthen the publishers in the ecosystem.

As Network 18’s heads of Digital Business and President of Digital & Corporate Strategy, Puneet has a dual role which makes him responsible for the overall growth of the Digital Business and also evaluating and forging Alliances, Partnerships and Investments. His current position and long-standing career in the industry makes him especially well placed to predict what next for the industry, how things will shape up for publishers in 2020 and beyond. 

Having had a front-row seat in the digital transformations of recent years, the shift from Desktop to Mobile is certainly one worth noting. The number of mobile phone users in India alone is expected to reach 450 Million in 2020, and becoming the primary way of accessing the Internet. More people than ever in India will be connected to the internet, and that number is set to keep growing.  

Puneet believes that while the advent of mobile technologies has led to some great opportunities for the industry, namely reach and scale, it has also brought along with it some noticeable changes in consumer behaviours. For one, “a whole generation of users have skipped the desktop and started off on mobile. While mobile has allowed for a much larger distribution of connectivity, doing away with the limitation of being tied to your desktop, it has also impacted engagement, and how users interact with content”. A whole generation of mobile users is more clued into mobile-friendly applications such as gaming, which has also led to a drop in attention span compared to desktop. Another challenge for the industry is the mobile format which has limited publisher advertising opportunities. 

The other big transformation according to Puneet is the growth of regional internet users consuming content in local language vs English. English language internet has hit a wall and the growth is not as big as a few years ago, whereas regional media is growing more than expected with more local language consumption especially around entertainment and news.

The drop in Internet bandwidth cost and hardware cost led to positive growth in terms of accessibility and thus more audience across all of India. 

The regional growth has been an important trend for Network 18 and today they are the largest publisher in terms of languages, which is very beneficial from both audience and advertising point of view.  Puneet explains that It opened up a lot of new advertisers to them that would otherwise have never been part of your traditional advertising sales team’s outreach. “This has been important in allowing us to increase the number of advertisers we are and can speak to.” 

When talking about the monumental industry shift, one cannot exclude Jio. Data used to be a premium offering, and this is something JIO changed by making it affordable for everyone. Talking about Network 18’s relationship with Reliance Jio, Puneet goes on to explain the contribution the telecom giant laid on the industry. “One of the largest growth engines for internet in India has been because Jiio came into the market and disrupted it," said Puneet Singhvi.

Its affordable data plans caused major disruption leading to a consolidation in the telecom sector of India and managed to capture the customer base of more than 100 million. “They brought a Paradigm Shift in the consumption of internet and telecom in India,” says Puneet. High-speed data connectivity became a reality in India and with that transformation of  India’s digital media. The publishers saw a huge spike of 40-50% in page views along with the video consumption soaring high. 

So where does this leave publishers in 2020 and beyond? Puneet takes a very strategic approach and claims that the technological transformation and boundless changes have evolved the way content is delivered and integrated into the stream.

“Publishers continue to witness shifts in their businesses as the industry moves forward," he says. It’s constantly evolving and adapting as new technologies and regulations step into the spotlight which creates new and better ad formats, enabling the publishers to experiment. 

In tandem with the constant evolution of the advertising and marketing ecosystem, it is important for publishers like Network 18 to deliver and create a quality environment for both users and advertising partners. According to Puneet, the partnership between Outbrain and Network 18 is based on similar grounds, working towards a common objective and enriching the entire ecosystem. 

In an industry that is more and more about strategic partnerships, especially on the technology side, what exactly makes a good partner? While money is usually the leading factor, Puneet emphasises that “when you are considering a long term partnership it has to be about more than the money”. Instead, he talks about synergies and common goals. “How quick can you connect and establish that relationship with the partner” and then “working together towards a common goal, how you are enriching the ecosystem together.” 

Publishers have plenty of challenges ahead of them, however, Puneet brings a reassuring and optimist view to the industries future. He believed that in order to overcome the challenges and remain innovative It is essential to develop creative strategies and innovations that sustainably strengthen the publisher ecosystem. Publishers who adopt that approach can expect to become the growth drivers of the industry.

Watch the full interview with Puneet Singhvi here.

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