Gruner + Jahr Acquires Digital Ad Network Networkplay

21 Mar, 2012

Networkplay today announced that Gruner + Jahr, the publishing division of European media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, has acquired a majority stake in the company for an undisclosed sum. Networkplay is one of India's fastest growing digital ad networks with a leading presence on the Internet, mobile and DTH platforms and partnerships with advertisers and publishers.

Networkplay was incubated in 2008 by digital advertising agency WebChutney and was funded by Capital18, the venture capital arm of the Network18 group. Over the past three-and-a-half years, the company has grown to reach an execution capability of over 4 billion impressions per month across 500 publishers and 350 advertisers. Networkplay operates out of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

The company has also brought global event franchises such as ad:tech and iMedia Summits to India, in partnership with dmg::events, an international events company which manages over 80 events in over 25 countries.

Rammohan Sundaram, founder & CEO of Networkplay, said, "This is an exciting phase in our journey and we are delighted to partner with a global company that shares our ambition and vision. We believe this partnership is a testimony to our unique proposition, strong execution capabilities and the extraordinary team we have built over the past few years. This is a positive outcome for all our stakeholders, especially our customers, as we now aim to enhance our innovative and execution capabilities in line with the world class standards and experience that Gruner + Jahr brings to this partnership."

Talking to Techcircle.in, Sundaram said Gruner + Jahr has acquired 70 per cent in the deal and the venture capital investor has exited as a part of the latest transaction.

Talking about future plans, he said, "In the near future we will be adding up two new ad-serving products which will incorporate latest high-end technology. We should be launching them both in a couple of months. On the team front, yes, definitely we are looking to expand our teams. We are on a hiring spree. We are looking to rapidly grow our network and are very keen on the mobile space."

Sidharth Rao, founder & CEO of WebChutney, said, "Ram and his team have built an amazing business from an idea a few years ago. We are very proud and delighted to have believed in Networkplay's vision from the first day. A partnership with a leading global company, Gruner + Jahr, will propel Networkplay to a stronger, higher growth path."

According to Sarbvir Singh, managing director of Capital18, "This transaction is an important milestone for Capital18 as we continue our journey of working with extraordinary entrepreneurs in the media and entertainment space."

Gruner + Jahr is one of the world's leading media groups and its Electronic Media Sales (EMS) division is a leader in the digital advertising space in Europe. With over 300 magazines and 150 websites in more than 30 countries, Gruner + Jahr is a market leader in many segments. In fiscal year 2010, Gruner + Jahr generated revenues of €2.55 billion and employed around 13,300 people worldwide. As much as 74.9 per cent of Gruner + Jahr is owned by Bertelsmann AG and 25.1 per cent by the Hamburg publishing family Jahr.

G+J recently acquired the majority of MaXposure Media and this is the company's second strategic investment in India.

Torsten-Jörn Klein, executive board member and president of Gruner + Jahr International, said, "The expansion of our activities in India is clearly in line with the strategic priorities of Gruner + Jahr. After the acquisition of MaXposure in the print space, G+J is now acquiring Networkplay, one of the fastest growing digital companies in India, and follows its strategy to build a combined portfolio of print and digital media activities."

Kuldip Singh, CEO of Gruner + Jahr India, will join the board at Networkplay. Kuldip Singh will also be the CFO of Networkplay.

"Networkplay was one of the several companies we were looking at when we decided to build our digital business in India. We zeroed in on NP simply because of the brilliant team, along with the strategic vision that Ram had for the company thus far. Also, they have shown very attractive growth in revenues in such a short time of existence," said Singh.

BMR Advisors was the exclusive advisor to Capital 18 and WebChutney on this transaction.

Networkplay had earlier raised an undisclosed sum from Capital18 and Goosefish Media Ventures (a subsidiary of WebChutney). At that time, its team included around eight people located in Delhi and Mumbai. Rammohan Sundaram, former national sales manager of Yahoo!, is the founder and MD of Networkplay.

There are various other ad network companies in India, many of them backed by venture capital firms. A few key players in this space include Ozone Media, Komli and Tyroo, among others.