In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers, and innovators, we bring our next interview with an innovator, affiliate marketer, and boss lady Ms. Parul Bhargava, CEO, vCommission Media.
Ms. Parul is a visionary leader and one of the most experienced and recognized women entrepreneurs in the area of digital marketing today. She completed her technical engineering education from Indraprastha university with her roots in Delhi and started her professional career as a content writer.
A go-getter by nature, Parul has thus far been able to successfully extend the vCommission routes to new horizons to become India’s leading global affiliate network. Her strength lies in team-building and delivering end-to-end solutions to her customer needs, which has led her business to be a successful enterprise.
- How has the Affiliate industry evolved since you have joined this industry?
I have been in the affiliate market for close to 13 years since 2006. The industry has grown when we started with vCommission in India, we were the first Indian network born out of this country. There were very few advertisers who knew about affiliates and the working of affiliate marketing.
Now After so many years down the line, almost every brand wants to have its affiliate program. We have come a long way as a country. The European and US affiliate industry is much more mature than us and we are still at a very nascent stage. We deal with problems such as attribution, real-time tracking, multi-device tracking, etc. while the western market has moved ahead of that and are dealing with multi-attribution and other complex technologies. It is an interesting space to be in right now as the Indian affiliate market is growing at a good pace. It is satisfying to see that apart from traditional media such as banners and digital media such as Facebook, people are moving towards affiliate networks.
- What are the challenges you face as the pioneer of the industry and how you tackle that?
There are mainly two big challenges in India. The first one is tracking. Whenever we go on to onboard any advertiser, it takes a huge chunk of time to explain the importance of tracking in affiliate marketing. Indian advertisers still do the things ‘we will give you our panel’s VPN number’ and stuff like that but affiliate doesn’t work that way as we need to have a technology in place to report numbers in real-time. even in these times when the Indian affiliate market is growing, we are dealing with improper tracking, delayed/offline tracking, wrong conversions. Being the pioneer in the industry we have to explain a lot and make people aware of this.
The second problem is the payments. While the west market is talking about weekly payments cycle and making it smooth for affiliates, India is still dealing with 60-90 days term which is further delayed on grounds of signing authority traveling and other reasons.
Indian industry needs to deal with it professionally so that the affiliates can add value to their system.
- How will you explain Affiliate Marketing in the simplest terms?
I explained to my parents in the same way. When we visit Chandni Chowk, people are standing on roads and they will ask what do you need to buy. If you want to buy a saree, they will refer you to the right shop. In most layman terms I would say that is how affiliates online also work where you empower your audience with the right information and relevant content. For example, if I want to learn cooking, I will visit a blog or an affiliate site that tells me about what products I will use and where I’ll get it from. So in simplest terms the online version of the ‘Chandni Chowk Model’.
- How are you tackling malpractices in Advertising, such as Ad Fraud?
Fraud exists everywhere and no industry is free from it. Since our industry is all about advertising, Ad Fraud is a broad term. Our industry deals with a lot of mischief such as bot clicks, click baits, etc. Fraud exists in any space which is growing, where people try to find out loopholes so that things work for them. In my opinion, all kinds of frauds are not bad, it’s just that someone is smart enough to do it. It gives you a way for which the brand or the network did not think of. I do not support fraud. There are very foolish frauds such as people trying to fill the lead forms, they try to click themselves and this kind of fraud can be caught easily. I believe fraud exists in any space and industry and brands need to have a mechanism to safeguard themselves. If I see a conversion report, I can detect fraud in minutes. Since our industry is online, we have trails of data and we can use it to find fraud. I started in days when there was no ad fraud technology for affiliates and we had to figure it out manually. At vCommission, we have our algorithm and mechanism to fight this.
- How has this pandemic affected Affiliate Industry?
When this pandemic situation happened, it took the world by shock. In the initial few weeks, it impacted the global economy and our industry too. For affiliate marketing, we need brands to sell their products, so when the country went into lockdown, the brands started slashing their ad spend, we had a panic sentiment going on. There was a day when 50+ advertisers asked us to stop their ad campaigns which have never happened. But as the conventional industries were going away, we saw sectors such as OTT, Gaming, Online Education started to fill in. Now with things getting a little stable, other industries are also coming back online.
- What is your view on women entrepreneurship and their representation?
I am a pro-women entrepreneur. Growing in a middle-class family, I have seen my mom managing home economics by saving money and using it later. Women replicate the same in business also. Women entrepreneurs might have a less risk-taking appetite, but they gradually build a business. For example, you see fewer women representation in unicorns but if you can’t make unicorn sustain for 10-12 years there is no point in taking that risk. In my team, we have brilliant women reporting to me. I feel in the Digital industry we have a good representation of Women and Indian affiliate space is dominated by Female CEOs. I hear from a lot of people that what is with the Indian Affiliate Industry which is dominated by Female bosses and that makes me proud. This is a clear testament that the Digital industry believes in gender equality.
- What suggestions would you like to share with aspiring Affiliate Marketers?
My tip for an aspiring affiliate marketer is if you are looking at affiliate marketing as a part-time job, then you will never make it big. If stories such as making a few dollars with zero effort through affiliate marketing inspire you, I don’t think you’ll go beyond that. A lot of dedication and persistence goes into the world of Affiliate marketing. Many people come to me and say that Affiliate marketing is easy and that is why we want to pursue it. I would like to tell those people that whoever told you that it is easy has misguided you. Affiliate marketing is an art as you are selling products of a person who can sell this product also, it takes some skill to do that.
Team Next Big Brand extends heartiest wishes to Parul Bhargava and vCommission. Kudos to her for such an amazing and fun interview, certainly one of the coolest entrepreneurs I have come across.
You can check our other interviews here.