INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Creating the Outernet – A conversation with Srikanth, Founder of Moving Walls
Srikanth Ramachandran, Founder and Group CEO at Moving Walls tells us about Industry-Verified and Data-Driven OOH Software.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Srikanth Ramachandran: These times are hard for just about anyone, but as we continue to brave through Covid-19 and keep a ‘glass half full’ outlook, we need to keep a positive belief that we would be able to get through anything. If it’s one thing that Covid-19 brought, it’s that we can spend a little more quality time with our families. In these times, family support is most important to keep going.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Moving Walls.
Srikanth Ramachandran: I’ve been involved in technology consulting and international sales and marketing for over three decades. I’ve had the opportunity to live in India, Oman, Singapore, and Tokyo and worked with global brands like IBM, Satyam, Ingres, and Wipro. I’ve served as Director on multiple boards, including Phimetrics, a global telecom audit firm, and also been an Advisor to many companies, including Sriveda Emsys, an embedded software development company headquartered in India.
I love books! I have a mini library at home, and whenever I have the time, you will see me reading about the latest news, trends, and any new good books. I like keeping up to date with current affairs, news, happenings, and tech.
As you can probably tell, I come from an analytics background. However, Moving Walls is a business that operates in the advertising and marketing industry. Like every other start-up idea, this business was also formed to address a problem that I faced myself.
Before Moving Walls, I ran a digital billboard company and quickly realized that the industry suffered from a lack of automation and transparency. Yes, the assets were becoming digital. But the buying and selling processes were still very traditional.
Inspired by the LED-building wrap and personalized holographic advertising scenes shown in sci-fi hits like Blade Runner and Minority Report, I started Moving Walls with a vision to bring accountability and automation to all forms of outdoor or location-based media.
How does Moving Walls innovate?
Srikanth Ramachandran: The core technology is a US patented multi-signal AI predictive model. We have leveraged the core technology to provide first-of-their-kind solutions that are driven by data and emerging technologies.
We are trying to change existing behaviors, and this requires innovation not only in the solutions we provide but also in the marketing efforts. Over the years, we have launched many award-winning campaigns. For example, when we introduced our billboard measurement solution, we developed a marketing campaign called “Three Billboards” inspired by the award-winning Netflix film.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Srikanth Ramachandran: The pandemic has negatively impacted the advertising and marketing industry in general. Outdoor advertising, being in the public environment, bore the brunt of budget cuts simply as a result of the lockdowns when entire populations had to stay at home.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Srikanth Ramachandran: One of the hardest choices I had to make is to continue banking on certain people despite it not being profitable on paper. There were times when the business was not doing well, and the first instinct was to thin the herd, but I am glad that we found other ways of working around it without losing talent.
In order to sustain the business through this pandemic, each and every one of us needs to play our part. The management team and I took a pay cut of 30%, and non-management took a 20% pay cut. We need to take urgent cost-cutting initiatives to avoid more serious actions like staff retrenchments.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Srikanth Ramachandran: I believe that Software as a Service has made it easy for smaller companies to perhaps adopt superior solutions that even large enterprises have not adopted. So yes – we use a range of tools like Profit.co, Hubspot, Google Apps, Jira, NetSuite and many others. But then CRM is about a lot more than the tools. right? I am happy to say that through this pandemic, we have been successful in keeping our customer relationships intact across countries and establishing many new ones too!
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Srikanth Ramachandran: Like all SMEs, we have benefited from government support, specifically in areas like salary subsidies. It has definitely helped us keep the team intact while waiting for vaccines and other solutions to be implemented. We have also been supported by the existing investors.
Your final thoughts?
Srikanth Ramachandran: Haha! Firstly, no thoughts are “final!” But, speaking about the impact of the pandemic, I believe it’s been so deep that what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. Everything from business to social behavior and international relations has been impacted, and I am sure this will be studied for decades to come. For starters, ‘Work from home is here to stay, and that by itself has a huge impact on traffic, fuel consumption, women-friendly workplaces and environment, just to mention a few!
On the positive side, too, there have been immense learnings…Managing cash in a downturn, handling people issues by balancing corporate survival concerns with employee relationships and core values, if we don’t take care of Nature, it will do so by itself – in ways we may not be able to cope with! These are just a few off the top of my head!
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