For Chirag Shah, ad tech and programmatic are the future.
Shah has spent almost fifteen years working in the world of tech, working closely with top management, top level partners and managing diverse teams that, despite their size, stay close knit and cohesive. It’s been an immersive experience. And it’s exactly that immersion, more than anything else, that he credits with his success. “What you learn on the job,” he says, “end up being the most valuable lessons.”
Now, as AAX’s Director of Partnerships, Chirag is busy spreading what he’s absorbed over the course of his career. Chirag is a constant source of knowledge and inspiration…and adorable videos and pictures of his ten-month-old daughter, Meher.
We talked to Chirag—who’s based in Mumbai—about the path that brought him to AAX, his thoughts on our tumultuous global present, and what exactly makes ad tech and programmatic the future.
AAX: You’ve mentioned that so much understanding can be gleaned on the job. What’s one example of this: where you learned something in person, in the workplace?
Chirag Shah: My mind always immediately goes back to a core team I worked with for seven, almost eight, years. I was the main go-to person but the team, as a whole, was responsible for everything it accomplished. We built things from scratch, all together. And that helps you not only become bigger as a person, but evolve as a cohesive unit.
That, I think, is an example of a fundamental learning process that can only be learned through experiencing—it’s impossible to consolidate all of the lessons of working in a team for the better part of a decade into a book or classroom setting—and has changed everyone involved in a significant way.
AAX: That sounds really applicable to working in our industry…
Chirag Shah: Exactly. The online advertising space is continuously evolving and changing and you have to be adapting. If you don’t adapt, you’ll be lost and won’t be able to survive. You need to evolve with the industry.
AAX: Speaking of adaptation—we can’t hold an interview in 2020 without mentioning COVID-19. How are you adapting to the pandemic?
Chirag Shah: It’s hard not being able to go to the office and see your team. But because I’ve always dealt with so many teams internationally, and because we’ve always operated remotely, we’ve always had a work-from-home culture. Having that culture in place already definitely makes it easier: I realized that when talking to friends and family that don’t have that in place.
I think that one of the ways COVID-19 will change things that people are going to understand that working from home is possible. People won’t have to go to the office five days a week—they can be more flexible. It’s going to create new learnings for everyone around. We’ll save on travel time and, here in India, we’ll be happy not to have to go into the office during monsoon season.
And personally, working from home means I get more time with my 10-month-old daughter. During my breaks I’ll play with her and take her up to the rooftop. Not much good has come out of the pandemic, but that’s a silver lining.
AAX: But what will happen in the industry in a post-pandemic world? Do you have any predictions for the future?
Chirag Shah: If I could predict exactly I’d be a millionaire!
The good news for our industry is that online industries are less affected than others. There was some fear, and definitely revenue loss. But things are gradually opening up—maybe not in India, but the internet has no boundaries. It’s a global scene, and countries and businesses opening up in other areas of the world is having a healing effect. Things are looking better in Q3 and we’re seeing signs of life—which is great because it means revenue isn’t going to continue going down. It’s either going to stabilize or get better.
AAX: And how will that impact AAX specifically?
Well, AAX can help.
With AAX, publishers can unlock revenue that already exists; publishers can regain lost revenue. It’s a simple integration but we believe this will help the entire ecosystem: when publishers are helped so are advertisers.
AAX has a very strong supply and demand pipeline, and we have the new presence of Scott Schwanbeck as AAX CEO. And that’s going to get stronger as people realize the ease of meeting targets with AAX—we already see AAX becoming more of a presence and a priority.