Interview with Founder & CEO, Bonzai – Rahul Pandey


“Ease of use and sophistication of technology in marketing tech has also led to a complete change in the way marketers are looking at new age digital media marketing.”

1. Tell us about your role in Bonzai?

I am the Founder & CEO of Bonzai, a leading Creative Management Platform leveraged by top Fortune 500 brands.

Please see full bio below.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?

Ten years ago, when mobile devices started to play a bigger role in our lives, I was heading India’s strongest telecom brands, where I noticed several very interesting trends emerging: the audience was shifting quickly to mobile devices, and content consumption was also changing.

At the same time, I began to see some real challenges for brands. They wanted to connect with their customers through this new and exciting technology, but they needed the right technology to help them. This was the time digital advertising on mobile devices was in its infancy, where there were so many buying platforms evolving like FaceBook, Google and TradeDesk. But while there were technologies that could offer brands the scale to ‘reach’ their customers, the biggest challenge remained: getting the message right.

Brands were still struggling to get their messaging across to their audience across multiple devices, various screen sizes and multiple operating systems. So while media ‘reach’ was being solved by the big players, the messaging, which is essential to any marketing campaign, was still very much a problem.

That’s where the idea of Bonzai was born. We realised we could help brands get their message to their target audience, by using technology to deliver personalised messaging at scale, across different devices and operating systems, while using a data analytics layer on top to enable real-time brand engagement.

The beginning of that idea started in 2010. In 2011 we started building the framework and in 2013, Bonzai was launched.

In 2013, Bonzai was born from a simple idea: what if brands could offer digital advertising messaging that was personalised to their audiences, on a creative platform that was easy to build and deliver it at scale? Six years later, we’re an Apple News’ accredited partner and the leading programmatic creative platform partner for premium publishers in Australia like NewsCorp, Fairfax, Nine and Seven.

3. How do you think technology is upgrading the marketing and Advertising Sector?

Marketers are embracing digital media – and adoption is faster than expected. Today with the availability of technology allowing marketers to adopt marketing platforms faster than ever before, large brands are now participating in the decision-making process to select the right martech to meet their specific marketing needs.

Some of the marketers are even going one step ahead and in-housing these technologies to have a better control.

Ease of use and sophistication of technology in marketing tech has also led to a complete change in the way marketers are looking at new age digital media marketing. We will see more and more marketers adopting these solutions, and take a more active part in decision-making, instead of approaching the decision in a traditional way.

4. How according to you, has the introduction of Digital Marketing helped the Advertising sector?

See above.

5. How does Bonzai help in driving great viewability and achieving audience engagement?

We have a number of case studies on our website that showcase how much viewability and engagement we achieve for brands.

For instance, TruSkin, our flexible and innovative ad format, allowed News Corp to deliver a branded sponsorship campaign for one of the world’s leading betting and gaming companies, Ladbrokes, programmatically with sophisticated targeting.

Since its launch in early 2018, the campaign has already delivered great brand awareness results for its first quarter:

  • The US sport vertical reached a CTR of 0.29 and viewability of 78.90
  • NRL vertical reached a CTR of 0.49 and viewability of 75.37
  • AFL vertical reached a CTR of 0.46 and viewability of 75.37

See more here:


6. How has Cloud enablement and Data Driven approach benefitted your Platform?

[discussing data-driven approach only]

Our innovative and integrated self-serve platform allows marketers, agencies and publishers to create, distribute and optimise data-driven digital experiences, at scale, while enabling the creation of programmatic, display, video and native creatives.

Brands can get their message to their target audience, deliver personalised messaging at scale across difference devices, while leveraging the power of data analytics to enable real-time engagement.

7. How do you differentiate your Programmatic Creative Management Platform from other such platforms in the market?

Some of the key ways we differentiate ourselves is that we decouple creative from media, we offer a transparent pricing model, and operate in a brand-safe environment.

One of the first challenges we’ve faced operating our Programmatic Creative Management Platform out of India and serving highly competitive global markets like Australia, is that the Indian tech landscape is still widely perceived as a ‘services’ industry.

We have big organisations on the IT services side, but the biggest challenge we faced was this: how would be build a product in a service-driven marketplace of India, and deliver this product into the hands of clients who live and operate in the fast moving, sharply cut global ecosystem of digital advertising?

In order to differentiate ourselves, we needed to shift positioning and perception of Bonzai as a Programmatic Creative Management Platform from a services mindset, to a product mindset. And we realised the change needed to start from our people. Everyone, across all levels of our organisation, needed to shift and think ‘product at global scale.’

8. What advice would you like to give to the technology Start Ups?

I have two key pieces of advice to share:

  • Customer funding is business nirvana

Every startup will go through the investing, funding capital is a key requirement but there can’t be anything better than customer funding. By that I mean if your customer base gives your advances for your product, you get the capital early to build the product faster. At the same time, you’ll get the confidence that you’re building something customers genuinely want to use.

Now you might see this typically in a service scenario, but in a product industry, if you’re able to do it you’re not diluting your equity, but still getting your capital to fund your product development.

This is one of the most successful aspects of Bonzai. In the advertising space, everything generally happens as a ‘pay as you go’ kind of a model, we build Bonzai as media independent software.  It’s a pure software licensing model that’s not PAYG, so it’s a far more predictable revenue model.

  • When you fall of the horse, get back up and ride faster

Even if you fail in certain things, or make mistakes, it’s important to be level-headed and proactive. Go back to the customer and say ‘this isn’t meant to be what we had wanted to deliver, it’s been a challenge and we’ll rebuild this for you.’ Customers will give you that chance, if you’re dedicated to meet their specific needs. In fact, that brings greater confidence in your customer that you care, and will go the extra mile to solve their problems. Quite frankly, at Bonzai we had situations like this but our customer did give us a chance and we re-build it better. We learned and improved ourselves to deliver better next time.

Don’t get panicky or depressed by failure. I haven’t seen a single startup sail through without any failures or roadblocks. Get back up, prove what you can do, and your customer relationships will be even stronger than before.

9. How do you prepare for a Technology-Centric world?

Be ready on the dance floor!

If you want to prepare your business to succeed in a tech-centric world, be ready for when the market needs you the most.

Around the same time we launched Bonzai, Google announced it wouldn’t support Flash on their Chrome browser. Our platform was built on forward technology framework with html5 output, it had the responsive framework, cross screen offering, data integration and individual messaging capabilities the market was hungry for.

That’s when things took off and the adoption by large media owners of our platform across the market started to happen. The opportunity came and we were lucky to be there on the dance floor, ready to go, just at that moment when industry players were ready.

10. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time?

We have our sights set on expansion into the wider APAC and South-East region, and in time, the US.

One of the common mistakes I see many Indian startups make is they either build their product for the local market, or they build for the US market. But for us, our first launching ground was Australia/New Zealand. These markets have added phenomenal value to our platform.

Now that we know we’re getting it right in this region and taking the industry lead, we’re so much more confident, stronger and capable to take on the wider APAC region and the US. So it’s this step-by-step thinking that has proven to be working for us, rather than trying to shoot straight into the US market.

11. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?

As a founder, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring every person within the organisation is aligned with your vision. It takes a lot of effort in communicating your vision to every individual within your company not once, but repetitively.

But if done right, that’s where you start seeing your team aligning their vision with yours to create real, global thinking and it delivers an incredible outcome. It also drives a deeper a culture of innovation around your product. I am lucky to have a team of fabulous people who are building an incredible tech to solve global challenges.

12. Which is the Movie that inspires you the most?

Forrest Gump.

Here are three takeaways from this movie –

  1. Life is like a box of chocolates, You never know what you’re gonna get.
  2. You’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
  3. You have to do the best with what God gave you.


13. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?

We believe in the power of ‘the empty space’ to dream, unwind, refresh and recharge. Whether it’s Highlanders our trekking group or morning breakfasts where the team groups or our yoga sessions where we stretch a muscle or two; you will always find something that gives meaning to work other than work itself. Pics of our Highlanders trekking group are attached below:

You can also see our annual Bonzai Propel Business Conference here where we bring our team, as well as our partners together to discuss how the industry is growing, the ecosystem is evolving and how Bonzai can play a key role.

You can find out more about our people and culture here:

14. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?

FaceTime, Calculator, LinkedIn, Onefootball, Uber, Winderlist, Instagram, Zoom, Medium, WhatsApp, GoogleMaps, Paytm, TED, Skype, Runkeeper, Copa America.

As an entrepreneur with extensive executive experience in digital media, mobile and brand management, Rahul is passionate about building innovative technology solutions that empower marketers to drive a more personalised and engaging brand experience.

A 20 year-career driving leadership and business direction for AT&T, IDEA Cellular, CNBC and CNN, amongst others, has strengthened Rahul’s vision for driving future-thinking marketing strategy, brand management, and intelligent digital advertising solutions.

As the Founder of Bonzai, Rahul works with an amazing and inspiring team to deliver a fresh, engaging creative platform management solution with a transparent pricing model to empower the future of digital marketing and advertising.

Rahul is a national level Table Tennis Player and an avid football fan.

Bonzai is a leading Programmatic Creative Management Platform leveraged by top Fortune 500 brands. Founded in 2011, their innovative and integrated self-serve platform allows marketers, agencies and publishers to create, distribute and optimise data-driven digital experiences, at scale, while enabling the creation of programmatic, display, video and native creatives.

With significant APAC reach, they are integrated with large SDK players like InMobi and Amobee, partners with over 100 publishers globally, and with all major publishers in Australia including News, Yahoo, Carsales, Domain, REA and Nine.

Bonzai is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Sydney and Pune, India.

For more information please contact:
Bonzai PR & Communications:
Azadeh Williams
M: 0452 411 770

For more information please visit our Website.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *