If you are an investor, you have two choices. Be the best possible partner so companies line up to make deals with you, or go with a “take-no-prisoners” approach, where you may have disgruntled partners but a happy bottom-line. Affle India Ltd, a publicly-listed mobile adtech platform, has seemingly chosen the latter.

Affle procures ads from advertisers and places them on publishers’ websites, apps, or app stores. It’s a booming business—advertisers are expected to spend spend Business Standard India ad spend likely to grow 23.2% in 2021, says GroupM report Read more nearly $3.7 billion in digital ads in the country this calendar year, according to media agency GroupM. With that much money in the game, both advertisers and publishers want to know how it’s being spent. (We wrote about Affle’s business model last year. Read it here here The Ken Affle rides on conversions to beat the adtech IPO curse Read more .)

Numerous adtech startups in India are building tech that meets this demand. The sector has seen nearly $8.6 billion in funding in the last five years, according to startup data tracker Tracxn.

For Affle, acquiring these startups for their tech has helped it grow into a company with a market capitalisation of $1.5 billion. Since 2018, it made seven acquisitions and two investments as a strategic investor, spending over $85 million, as per its latest earnings report and recent press releases. Over 50% of its revenue has come from the acquisitions it has made in the ad tech space, said a former employee at Affle.

Given how central acquisitions are to Affle, its public skirmish with its investee company, Indus OS, a regional language startup, came as a surprise. Indus OS’ move to sell a majority stake worth $60 million to Walmart-owned payments startup PhonePe in May this year turned into an ugly three-way legal battle battle The Ken Indus OS and the acquisition tug-of-war between PhonePe and Affle Read more .

This wasn’t the first time a startup was left holding an Affle-handed can. The Ken spoke with sources associated with four startups that entered into Faustian bargains with Affle, as well as senior employees from Affle and Indus OS. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity as they still have a working relationship with the company.

Acquisitions Acquisitions The Ken The tail of acquisitions wagging India’s funding dog Read more are the primary exit route for startups in India.

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at support@the-ken.com detailing the error or queries.