How This Pune Mobile Startup Is Making Print Ads Interactive And Driving Customer Engagement

Review of Voconow mobile app with thoughts from founder Anand Kulkarni who is bringing interactivity and engagement to print ads with Voconow


In 2013, the media sector was estimated to have grown 7-8 percent. Earlier this year, FICCI-KPMG report stated that Indian Media & Entertainment (M&E) industry is expected to register a CAGR of 14.2 percent to touch Rs 1,785.8 billion by 2018 wherein digital advertising is expected to have the highest CAGR of 27.7 percent while all other sub-sectors are expected to grow at a CAGR in the range of 9-18 percent..

While the flavor is digital in the country, TV and print mediums still account for sizable investments from marketers. The size of the television industry in India was estimated at Rs. 417 billion in 2013 and the print industry grew by 8.5 percent from Rs. 224 billion in 2012 to Rs. 243 billion.

Clearly print is at the top of the minds along with TV when it comes for media buying. However it has always been a one-sided communication channel like most traditional mediums. A consumer is left with half baked information through whatever is present in the rectangle ad feature; if he wants more then he needs to dig in for more information which also leads to drops in the business funnel.

What if there is a layer over the print ad that will provide the much required content leading to customer engagement and finally driving business. For example if you’re seeing a half page ad of a luxury car then wouldn’t it be great if you’re shown car interiors via small videos or let’s say the next time when Chetan Bhagat puts a print ad for his upcoming book on TOI, readers get the first chapter for free on their mobile as they scan the ad.

Voconow - mobile app to make print interactive

Possibilities are endless said Anand Kulkarni who is living his dream with year old startup Voconow that makes print ads interactive and drives business results. After working for more than a decade in the business and sales operation, Anand finally made the entrepreneurial jump late last year. “I always had the entrepreneurial bug not to be my own boss but to prove to myself that I can build a company and make it successful over time. This drive was there in me for the last six-seven years,” Anand shared while having coffee with me on a late Saturday afternoon.

Advertisement was always an area of interest for the MBA graduate who would spend time understanding the message behind ads whether it was on print or on TV. “I wanted to do something in the advertisement space but I was very well aware that I am not qualified to start an agency. I have been a techie throughout my career so I wanted to marry the advertisement business with technology.”

Anand started with a web based platform to feature few hand picked offline stores. While being an employee, he had carried out some surveys which gave him the insight that a lot of people shop in offline stores and they use internet to find out offers before visiting a store. This insight gave him the confidence for building a portal which gets good traction during festive season as users are looking for offers in offline stores.

The platform is still active but in the first three or four months, Anand realized that larger merchants rely on print advertisement so it was clear to him that he cannot be a substitute for print advertisement. This is when he started focusing on how to provide more value beyond the rectangular print ads so that it engages with readers, becomes interactive and drives business results.

Voconow - mobile app is the product that is making print advertisement interactive today. “The Android app shows more than what you see in a print ad. The primary objective of Voconow is to get undivided attention from customer and voluntary engagement,” added Anand.

The app that is available on Android (download app) is working with a limited number of brands in Pune and is also getting good response from Mumbai. The below screen grab gives you a quick idea of the engagement layer that could be built over a print ad during the festive season.



The core job of the app is to scan the print ad and once it does this, it will pull the required interactivity associated with the ad. In this case a user who looks at the print ad will be informed about the benefit of downloading Voconow app to get extra information and goodies. As you see in the above screen grab, a user can check out variety of products with details and price associated to it. Anand informed that online buy can be made available if the offline store has an e-commerce portal too.

In another exciting use case, Voconow is being tried out by a real estate company. The interactivity brought in by the app on the print ad can be seen in the below screen grab. Voconow enables you to have a walk-through of the flat, view the complete brochure, 3-d view of the entire flat, along with the ability to book an appointment for viewing. “Lead generation is one of the important aspects for business and our app is helping them by providing more potential buyers.”



Challenges and road ahead for Voconow

Possibilities of engaging with creative content over these print ads are endless but that is also the challenge for Voconow. While the brands, creative team and Voconow work together to build the interactivity layer, educating clients will be a challenge. Besides the app will need to push clients to provide targeted incentives and appealing content for the user after she has made the effort to download the app and scan the ad.

The other challenge would be informing the user that these are the certain set of ads that have an interactive layer provided by Voconow. India is the smartphone hub in Asia but people are hardly aware of such features and won’t have the patience to scout for such ads in a newspaper that is already a store house of ads in different colors and sizes.

Anand is well aware of the challenges, to start with he is working with a set of 4-5 clients who have shown interest in the product. The startup is also working with creative agencies and their clients to build an interesting engagement over the ads.“The chances are more for business when the customer is engaged rather than who is not,” added Anand.

For retailers the app also provides detailed analytics about the campaign such as how many people saw the products listed, views on the video, slides visited, among all other detailed analytics. However retailers and their creative team right now need to work with Voconow to get the engagement going. “Right now there isn’t a plug and play environment so the current model will be a challenge when we scale. We will have a dashboard model in future as our customer base grows.”  

Going further Voconow hopes to be the missing link between print and the digital world. The idea works but the journey isn’t easy as brands rarely want to try something new and prefer to go with the tried and tested way even if cost is less and returns are more shared the entrepreneur.

As the conversation winded up, Anand shared his wish for Voconow was to have the app for all mobile operating systems so that it becomes the de facto app for print engagement. I don’t see why that can’t be achieved. A good leap of faith beyond the QR Codes that failed to gain major attention in India.