Business Today

What kind of start-up would refuse to sell for $1.7 billion? Just Blipp it

Founder and CEO of Blippar, Ambarish Mitra, says it will take another five years to index 20 per cent of the world. And when that happens, it could revolutionise the way people consume information, or how brands advertise.

twitter-logo Goutam Das        Last Updated: May 28, 2015  | 15:31 IST
Founder and CEO of Blippar, Ambarish Mitra
Founder and CEO of Blippar, Ambarish Mitra

The world is just coming to terms with the Internet Of Things, where machines interact with one another over a network, with little human intervention. Now think of this: Internet On Things. That would be a world where you could just point a phone at an object and it would return everything you want to know - say, if it is an apple, the fruit's nutrition information, the variants, where it is grown, what could be cooked with it, the nearest place you could buy it.

Yes, companies have started indexing 'things' and it is probably the next big thing in Search. While Google indexed the web, start-ups such as the London-based Blippar have taken strides in visual search. The company's visual search platform today has indexed around two-three million objects-it recognises things such as leading brands, fruits, movie posters and dogs among other objects. So if you download the Blippar app and point the phone's lens at a dog, it would recognise its breed.

Founder and CEO of Blippar, Ambarish Mitra, says it will take another five years to index 20 per cent of the world. And when that happens, it could revolutionise the way people consume information, or how brands advertise. Mitra was visiting the company's offices in Gurgaon and chatted up with Business Today. He 'blipped' a red apple and the information around the fruit popped up on the mobile screen in circles. It is possible, going ahead, that a fruit retailer near you may want to place a hyper-local ad.

The visual search platform runs on an artificial intelligence engine and employs 'deep learning' or machine learning systems. The ability of the app to recognise objects accurately enhances as more people blipp it. "The minimum Internet speed required is 3G, but we are building a 2G-supportive version for India," says Mitra.

A school dropout from India, Blippar is Mitra's fifth start-up. All the previous four - a company that provided free Internet to poor women in India, a travel, an auction, and a social network firm -failed to take off. He finally struck gold with Blippar that started in 2011 in London as a mobile augmented reality advertising platform for brands. Customers such as Coca Cola, Pepsico, Nestle, Unilever, P&G use the platform to enable interactive experiences with consumers. The visual search platform is just kicking off, but Mitra thinks this will be bigger than anything the company has done thus far. Clearly, the company would compete more and more with Google. But it could also collaborate-what if there is the Blippar engine on Google Glass?

Mitra leaves us with two numbers. In March, the company announced a $45 million funding round from Qualcomm Ventures, Landsowne Partners, and an undisclosed private billionaire. And recently, he turned down an offer to sell the company. The price: $1.7 billion (Rs 10,800 crore).

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