Neta, a mobile application which lets users rate and review their political representatives, has struck an ad-for-equity deal worth $10 million (around Rs 71 crore) with a clutch of Indian media groups.
Ad-for-equity deals typically involve a media house taking an equity stake in companies in exchange for giving them advertising space.
Entities associated with The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Republic TV, Network 18 and NewsX are backing Neta, a person familiar with the development told TechCircle.
To be specific, the entities that are said to have entered into an agreement with Neta are Brand Capital, the ad-for-equity investment arm of media firm Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL); HT Media Ltd; ARG Outlier Asianet News Pvt Ltd; Network18’s private investment arm Capital18 Fincap; and ITV Group respectively.
However, Network18 has denied that there was any transaction. TechCircle has also reached out to the other media firms for comment.
The deal, which has been struck in the build-up to the country’s general elections, is a strategic investment aimed at gaining data and insights on voter sentiments while fuelling Neta’s expansion plans, the person cited above added.
The ad-for-equity partnership will run for three years.
Neta, which was launched by serial entrepreneur and Wharton School graduate Pratham Mittal, is modelled on the approval ratings system in the US.
Neta aims to gather data on evolving political inclinations from across demographics, including the rural heartlands, via its app, interactive voice response (IVR) calls, SMS and even offline initiatives with the help of anganwadi workers.
The app enables users to vote for their favourite leaders and then change their rating on the app as and when their preferences change.
The app uses a combination of artificial intelligence, one-time passwords and Aadhaar details to ensure that the users providing ratings are genuine.
Shanti Informatics Pvt. Ltd, the company behind the mobile application, ran a pilot of the app early last year before it was officially launched in August by former President of India Pranab Mukherjee. It is currently available for both Android and iOS users while Neta's website supports 16 regional languages.
Neta’s founder Mittal previously launched polling technology firm Outgrow and Venturepact, an online marketplace that connects businesses with pre-screened software development firms.
BCCL, which publishes The Times of India newspaper and operates television channels as well as a host of websites, actively strikes ad-for-equity deals. Its recent deals include interior design solutions marketplace HomeLane, natural products marketplace Qtrove, online lending firm FinReq, and e-commerce firm ShopClues.
Despite being arch-rivals in the media business, BCCL and HT Media Ltd have come together in the past to back dairy company Kwality Ltd and fashion e-commerce firm Koovs Plc.