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Group FMG's co-founder on what's a startup doing with $100M in PE funding

It is not everyday a startup jumps the conventional cycle of bringing an angel investor on board followed with venture capital investment to raise $100 million in private equity funding. Born out of Bangalore and currently maintaining its global headquarters in New York, digital marketing firm Group FMG has gone on to do just that besides striking a cross-geography acquisition of a larger company, rechristened itself and struck another small ticket deal recently. Co-founded by Aditya Sharma (who has previously worked at companies including Xerox, McKinsey, eVentures India and JPMorgan Chase), with the backing of Neeraj Bhargava, previously the co-founder and group CEO of WNS Global Services, who now runs his own private investment firm Zodius Capital, the company has raised capital from PE firm India Value Fund Advisors and counts some 75 clients, mostly outside India. In an exclusive chat with Techcircle.in, Aditya Sharma, co-founder and chief business development officer, Group FMG, talks about his company, fund-raising and more.

What exactly is Group FMG all about?

Group FMG is a new age marketing services firm. Our product offering straddles three spokes including consulting services, content where we produce content for all channels including print, online, broadcast, film, video, photography, digital as well as mobile. The third segment is commerce where we build all types of e-commerce solutions from digital shop–fronts to self–service portals.

We had originally named the company as Whitefield Marketing based on Whitefield, which is basically a suburb in Bangalore. Later, we acquired a London-based company called FMG, which already had strong brand presence among clients and in the market. So we decided to change the name of the company to Group FMG, to better leverage the existing brand.

How much of your business is generated from India?

As of now, India accounts for less than five per cent of our total revenues, primarily because it's still an emerging market. The top countries for us in terms of revenues are the US and UK. Together, they account for more than 90 per cent of our total business.

What kind of revenue split do you see amongst your print and digital business and whom would you count as an immediate competition? Any medium term revenue targets?

While the digital arm of our business continues to grow at a fast pace, it still accounts for only 40 per cent of our revenues. The rest comes from the print arm. This is mainly because the client's digital marketing spend is still lower than the print marketing spend by a long margin.

RR Donnelly, Williams Lea Publishing and Schawk, etc are a competition for the print arm of the business while RedWorks, Deliver/Hogarth (both part of WPP) and PHD Media, among others, for the digital arm of the business.

We haven't fixed a concrete number but we definitely want to exceed $200 million in revenues in the next few years.

What kind of office infrastructure and employee base are you operating currently?

We currently have around 400 employees, out of which half are in India. We are planning to increase this number to 450 by the end of this year. As far as offices are concerned, we have four of them -- one each in New York (global headquarters), London and two in India (Chennai and Bangalore). Our geographical expansion depends solely on our clientele. If there is a lot of demand for our services from one particular region we expand there. Having said that, most probably we will open up a new office in Singapore (by early 2013), followed by China and Latin America in the next 18 months.

Besides the recent one in the US, any more acquisitions in the pipeline?

Our goal has always been to be acquisitive. We have already acquired two companies and are working on an acquisition that can be closed in the next 6 months. But I cannot share any more details on the same since it's still in the preliminarily stages.

For the full interview click here.

(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)

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