A comprehensive look at iMedia and its rapid expansion
By Vasuki Rao
As Covid-19 shows no signs of significantly slowing down, the economy and all its patrons are stuck between a rock and hard place. A gruelling lockdown saves lives but the tradeoff of doing so is pinching at the increasingly thinning pockets of many.
As such, businesses, especially SMEs, need to hinge on creative approaches to endeavour through this period. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them have channeled into digital means of affording their products and services.
In the crowded digital landscape, one Malaysian company is not just bracing for hardship but rather is steering brands back on track.
iMedia is an integrated digital media company started by Catcha Group in January 2020. The digital media company was officially launched in July and hired in four start-up mavericks with seasoned experience in the digital publishing industry. They are Voon Tze Khay as CEO, Jacky Tee as CFO, Loh Ken Wei as CCO and Brian Alexis (Brian) as Sales Director.
MARKETING Magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tze Khay, to pick his brain on what exactly iMedia has up its sleeves.
The ethos of the company is simple: Bringing People and Brands Together to go from Good to Great. The management team mixed high potential brands, hungry and smart individuals together with their own secret sauce of operation synergy to form a highly efficient and ruthless outfit.
… The ethos of the company is simple: Bringing People and Brands Together to go from Good to Great…
In the age where tech titans such as Google or Facebook are able to shrug off smaller players in digital market with ease, iMedia has taken the lead in welcoming collaboration, strategic partnerships, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as a means to be able to consolidate user base and leverage on its comprehensive 360 degree solution suite for brands.
“We have seen a big shift of traditional ad dollars moving online and this provides a vast opportunity for companies and individuals to take on,” Tze Khay said. “With South East Asia sitting over 600m in population, we strongly believe that our position as an integrated digital media, agency and social marketing company is well positioned to capitalize on this immense opportunity to engage with a large online user base.”
What is more remarkable is the speed of their growth over the past year. In the span of 6 months, iMedia has managed to add 5 new key brands into their portfolio via M&A.
“One of the key strategies behind these M&A’s is consolidation and providing brands and advertisers a fully integrated digital advertising solution and experience that cuts across digital strategy planning, content, social influencers, premium video advertising and much more,” Tze Khay explained. “There are hundreds of independent digital media and advertising businesses in Malaysia that would be better under one unified roof where they can share technology, data, content, sales teams and clients and we aim to be that single digital home for Malaysian digital media properties and beyond.”
Stopping short of being termed as iMiracle, the core team reveals that the successes thus far are rooted in having a young and agile team comprising industry thought leaders, an extensive network of resources to leverage on, shrewd strategy experience but also prudent financial management.
As any business owner knows, COVID-19 was possibly one of the hardest times to grow a new business and Tze Khay agrees. While he acknowledges that with every economic downturn, there are also opportunities that arise, he hopes to see these opportunities outweighing the current slowdown of business in the long term.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic started to hit Malaysia at the tail end of Q1 in 2020, we had to re-strategize our business plans and look at the possibilities of pivoting.”
“When we left our previous jobs in 2019 to start our companies, iCre8 Asia (exclusive advertising sales reseller for iflix Malaysia) and iCreative Asia (digital and creative agency), we never had the thought of embarking on an integrated digital media business in such a short time frame,” he said. “When the Covid-19 pandemic started to hit Malaysia at the tail end of Q1 in 2020, we had to re-strategize our business plans and look at the possibilities of pivoting.”
It was this quick-thinking mentality that has made the team nimble enough to shift gears to social media advertising specifically through influencer marketing when physical distancing became a norm.
“All these happened very fast in a few months; and we had to balance between growing and investing in the business and making sure we manage cost efficiently so that we do not overburn our monthly cash projections; as revenues were very unstable (even until now) during the start of the pandemic,” Tze Khay said. “Our quick decision making, calculated risk taking, prudent spending, resilience and strength as a team have definitely helped us pull through right up till this very moment; where we’re still very much in the thick of the pandemic.”
Being in the industry of helping other businesses, the decisions iMedia make also affects its subsidiaries and brands. One of the key strengths iMedia provided them from the beginning was their commercial value.
“The company is built upon a team of highly capable and experienced management, sales and strategy people; who have deep connections with the top agencies as well as top spending advertisers in the country,” Tze Khay said. “iMedia takes centerstage for all campaigns and pitches for its brands and we provide a comprehensive integrated solution; from idea conceptualization, creative content development, sourcing of talents, execution of campaigns and right to optimization and recommendation to agencies and clients to tackle their pain points and overall campaign objectives.”
As flawless as that sounds, the issue of digital saturation and fatigue lingers around the corners, especially after the recent pandemic-induced acceleration. However, iMedia’s management sees digital adoption not as an option but rather the centre of every industry and economy moving forward.
Tze Khay says that the better question to ask is how fast and efficiently can companies cope with these digital transformations.
… local publishers and the like will have to unite, whether through strategic partnerships, collaboration and/ or merger and acquisition…
“For instance, the digital media industry in Malaysia is saturated in a sense where everyone can become a content creator,” he said. “However, as the market for adex is dominated by the likes of Google and Facebook, local publishers and the like will have to unite, whether through strategic partnerships, collaboration and/or merger and acquisition.”
Most recently, iMedia struck a strategic sales partnership with The Walt Disney Company, to represent leading international brands such as Disney, Fox Sports, ESPN, Stadium Astro and National Geographic, enabling iMedia to expand its video and display advertising solutions network and sponsorship opportunities with advertisers.
Moving forward, Tze Khay says M&As will continue to remain as one of the key strategies in iMedia’s growth plans. One of the company’s priorities is to look for businesses that can complement their current solutions.
“For example, agency driven businesses that provide performance marketing solutions and data analytics to advertisers; as well as companies that have deep creative content production and tech development capabilities,” Tze Khay explained. “Having said that, focusing on organic growth and maintaining profitability of our current portfolio of brands is equally important for iMedia.”