The Trade Desk is a challenger to Google, Facebook duopoly in India: Tejinder Gill

The Trade Desk General Manager for India Tejinder Gill spoke about the trends, challenges and opportunities in the Indian digital ad market

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Jun 17, 2021 8:56 AM
Tejinder Gill

Global advertising technology company The Trade Desk has launched its operations in India. Being a Demand Side Platform (DSP), the company empowers marketers to reach their target audience at the best possible rates. The Trade Desk will be headed by former Truecaller executive Tejinder Gill. As the General Manager for India, Tejinder will spearhead the company's growth strategy besides building a team of talented digital media professionals. He spoke to exchange4media about the trends, challenges and opportunities in the Indian digital ad market.


Isn't The Trade Desk late in entering the Indian market?

We have been watching the Indian digital ad market for two years. We have been gauging how programmatic is growing in India, what are the challenges of the marketers and how we can come at the right time to solve these challenges. Digital is the fastest growing medium for advertising and as it takes a bigger share of the ad pie everyone seeks more transparency and ROI. One of our strengths is data-driven marketing. We also bring agility and flexibility to digital marketing campaigns.

Today, CFOs are asking tough questions to marketers. So, it is no longer about just delivering KPIs, but it is about delivering KPIs from which channel. Which channel is delivering what? The CFOs want to go at a granular level. Digital marketing is taking the responsibility for lower funnel matrix like sales and e-commerce. Today, digital contributes to 26% of total AdEx in India and this is expected to surpass TV in next three years. As digital grows, clients will demand more transparency, flexibility, and ROI-driven conversations will become the norm.

How are you building The Trade Desk India team?

I am the first hire, and we will start hiring as soon as the situation improves. My mandate is to build growth strategy and hire people. We are just waiting for the situation on the ground to improve, and we have interesting plans to build the India team very shortly. I will first build my leadership team, followed by hiring other teams. Right now, we are supported by the Southeast Asia team. Currently, we are building awareness and early adoption for the product.

How many clients and partners do you have on-board in India?

We have GroupM, Publicis, IPG, and Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) come on-board for our programme. Some large brands like Nestle and GSK are advertising through our channels. We have done partnerships with LiveSight which is a tech company and Zapr which gives brands incremental reach over TV.

Being a DSP, what does The Trade Desk bring to the table for marketers?

We will enable brands to target audiences across all OTT platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, SonyLIV, Voot and ZEE5 among others. Through Trade Desk, brands can advertise across platforms like OTT/CTV, Digital Audio, Video, Display, and Mobile. We have done all these integrations possible. We are building one of the best marketplaces in India.

How do you plan to crack the Indian digital ad market, which is dominated by the Google and Facebook duopoly?

The duopoly has existed in the Indian market for many years. When I spoke to marketers as to why they are not moving out of duopoly and why are they not trying a third or a fourth player. The answer I got was that there is no third scalable player in the market.

We feel that the future belongs to open internet outside these walled gardens. Today, Indian consumers are spending 8 hours on digital, which is probably more than the time we actually sleep. Of that, 70% of the time is spent on the open internet. The open internet consists of OTT/CTV, audio streaming, and online news. Digital is growing, but it is also getting fragmented, so the industry needs a player like The Trade Desk to come and consolidate all these digital assets.

We are trying to be the largest marketplace outside social and search where clients pick up what they want.

Do you think a challenger will emerge in the Indian market to take on the duopoly?

The Trade Desk is a challenger to the Google, Facebook duopoly because we believe we are in a space which is growing the fastest, which is the open internet. We are all about being open and transparent. We will work with our global clients in India because we are fully aligned with their thought process.

What are the gaps that you see in the Indian digital ad market?

The biggest gap in the market is transparency. CMOs are under pressure to deliver more data driven results. So it is no longer about who clicked my ad, but it is about who viewed my ad and was the ad viewed by the right people.

We are a demand side platform (DSP) and we want to give the best ROI to brands. We have no interest to give a better ROI to a publisher. Likewise, we are only aligned to the left-hand side of the supply chain, which is advertisers. Our job is to get the best eyeball at the best price for our clients. We do not own any inventory. We are just facilitators of technology.

Another key gap in the market is the omnichannel marketing. Often, Indian CMOs get confused between multi-channel and omnichannel. If you don't have concrete data about consumers, you should not attempt omnichannel marketing. A leaking marketing funnel is not good for the company and the industry.

What kind of solutions will you offer to clients?

We offer different ad solutions to different marketers. Our solutions are as per the need of the marketers. We understand their problem, and then we come back to them with the proposal. If you want to do something on video, non-YouTube, The Trade Desk is becoming the default option. A lot of marketers believe that YouTube is the default video campaign destination, but a lot of other marketers feel that there is a lot of scope on the open internet (Disney+ Hotstar + ZEE5 + SonyLIV). That's how the clients come to The Trade Desk and say how can I buy the entire bouquet which runs across platforms. We give them a lot of intelligence and insights around it.

Secondly, we can help clients to reach audiences in a more data driven way. Most of our solutions are standard and successful. We are launching the exactly same suite of solutions in India. Globally, 90% of our clients are repeat customers.

How do you see activism around user privacy impacting digital marketing?

As an ecosystem, digital has not done a good job of explaining the true value that is exchanged. We need to explain to the consumer as to why we need their data. One of the greatest advantages of targeted advertising is that it funds free content. There are three key value exchange that takes place. Consumers want free content. Marketers want to show relevant brand messages. Publishers want to monetise. Targeted advertising is good for both marketers and users.

We launched Unified ID Solution 2.0 which is a bigger and better version of cookies and which is encrypted which helps brands measure across devices. Cookies are only applied to desktop browsing, while India is a mobile-first country. So only 15-20% of that pie gets affected because the rest is mobile, TV, OTT, CTV and none of them is modelled on cookies. Rather than panicking about cookie, the marketers should be exited for this change.

Many digital businesses like Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm have launched their own DSPs. Will this create many more walled gardens?

They might become walled in themselves, but the marketers are not looking at that kind of thing. Marketers want flexibility and control where they can do a pick and choose and run the machinery in their own way. We are only a DSP, unlike other DSPs whose parent companies have some other core business. If you look at all these platforms, DSP is not their core business. For us, our bread and butter is giving the best deal for marketers. We are so focussed that we launch new products every week for our marketers because we don't do anything else. As a global company with 25 offices, we have the most sophisticated technology.

What are your short-term and long-term plans for the Indian market?

Our short-term focus is more on talent, and I personally believe that we have a dearth of new-age tech talent in India. We have launched this global programme called The Edge Academy, which helps people to learn more about programmatic skills and data-driven marketing. In APAC, 40% of The Edge Academy's users are from India. Building a talent ecosystem is one of my priorities.

Another key focus area is offering choice to Indian marketers. Currently, the only choice marketers have are search and social, so we want to bring the largest and biggest open internet and biggest choice in this market. Third is programmatic only strategy. We want to educate marketers on what programmatic can do. What Indian marketers have been using is not even a beginners course.

One of our long-term strategy is CTV and how India gets ready in the next two years to the whole CTV transformation. We want to be pioneers in that. We have cracked that code in the West, and we would love to bring those learnings to India.

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