Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan Expects Magzter To Reach 50M Users With 2M Books & 6000 Magazines By End Of 2014

Interview with Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan Co-Founder of Magzter, digital magazine store and newsstand.

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The future of publication industry is digital. While there are multiple players around the globe who have jumped upon this business opportunity, there has been no player solving real time problems of small and large publishers with good and cost effective solutions. This led to the formation of Magzter, a cross-platform, global digital magazine store and newsstand in 2010.

“We used our mobile app development and publishing experience to create Magzter which today is a great boon to the global publishing industry,” shares Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan who founded the company along with Girish Ramdas.

Today Magzter is headquartered in New York with sales offices and teams in the UK, France, Germany, South Africa, Singapore and a back-office in India. The firm recently announced that it has raised a US$10M round of Series B funding. The new round of funding was led by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) and its existing investor Kalaari Capital (Kalaari).

I got in touch with Vijayakumar via an email to understand how the firm is growing, the competition being provided by global players like Google and Apple, monetization model among other things. Listed below are his slightly edited responses:

Prasant Naidu (PN): How has the response been for Magzter from both global and the Indian market?

Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan (VR): The response is tremendous. We have now more than 3250 magazines and 17 million users in less than 2.5 years. We have magazines from more than 30 countries and customers from more than 100 countries. We are really excited about the growth.

Vijay Radhakrishnan MagzterPN: Magzter recently raised $10 million from publisher Singapore Press Holdings and Kalaari Capital. How do you plan to use the funds?

VR: Series B funding will be used to further expand our business by offering new services, content types like digital books and enter new geographies.

PN. How do you see the competition from Google and Apple’s own apps for magazine distribution?

VR: Magzter has a very unique business model. We co-opt with Google and Apple’s Newsstand as Magzter positions itself as End-to-End digital solution partner for publishers. We want our publishers to be on key platforms including Apple, Google, Kindle and we have built a technology engine on cloud which can make publishing seamless on all major platforms.

PN: How are you taking the heat from news consumption Apps like Flipboard, Pulse and Zite. Do you plan to launch a news aggregation app anytime soon?

VR: We do not have plans to make a competing version of Flipboard or news aggregator apps. We believe we want to transform ourselves into reading destination and as part of the plan we have just launched Books section with 3000 books to start with and we are adding 1 million books in the next 6 months. We are creating a new avatar where discoverability and availability of information is focused and news aggregation may form a part of it.

PN: What is the monetization model of Magzter? Sales of offline magazines are declining globally, is that going to impact Magzter?

VR: Digital is young. From when we started our business publishers have seen drastic increase in digital subscription sales. Digital age is catching up for reading especially for magazines and we are launching innovative tools which can help publishers to refresh content and monetize through digital advertisements.

PN: Challenges still in the market and road ahead at Magzter?

VR: There are many challenges in any business. Magzter believes challenges are building blocks for innovation and we constantly solve challenges. Therefore I do not want to list out challenges in the market instead we focus on go-green revolution and encourage readers to indulge through their electronic devices including tablets and smartphones.

Magzter is looking to reach the 50 million user mark with 2 million books and 6000 magazines by end of this year.

Interesting journey Magzter has had till date from a time when the market was not upbeat about the product. Today it is one of the top apps on the iOS store and boasts of over 6 million user base across platforms. According to YourStory, about 15% of their user base is paying customers. Over 90% of the paying customers are on iOS, and many of them are based overseas. It would be interesting to witness how the company grows from here with the fresh round of funding, that is already being debated.