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Equus Red Cell: Change of guard does not stem the gallop to success

31-July-2007
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Equus Red Cell: Change of guard does not stem the gallop to success

Equus Red Cell has garnered plenty of media space in the past few weeks thanks to the spate of wins in Delhi and Mumbai, besides the agency’s foray into Bangalore with UB Group’s Whyte & Mackay business in its kitty, among others. exchange4media meets up with CEO Swapan Seth, who demystifies the agency’s growth spree.

Suhel Seth, who was at the helm of affairs at the agency for the past decade, passed on the baton to his brother, Swapan, without much fanfare. If looking for any controversy that prompted the change then there is disappointment. As Swapan clarifies, “We had decided at the very outset that first 10 years would belong to Suhel running the company and the next 10 would belong to me. It’s not to suggest that Suhel is not involved in Equus any more. Our styles are different and no matter how close you are, I firmly believe that two people can’t run the agency.”

Swapan sees himself as a guy who leads from behind and a person who lets his work do all the talking. Says he, “I will never be hogging column space or seen on a Page 3. I stay away from cliques and coteries and that’s probably disturbing to others. Some great corporates are run by people whose face you have never seen or never heard their voice. Even now, when I have begun opening up to the media, it’s more so because my colleagues have coaxed me to talk about Equus’ good run and I think I owe this to them.”

The agency has biggies like Kingfisher, VLCC and Max New York Life in its kitty and has added businesses across offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore from various categories. Besides UB Group’s Whyte & Mackay, the agency’s Bangalore office has also bagged the business of The Taj F&B. In Mumbai, it has won the business of Capital Foods, TimeOut, Neptune Group and home linen brand Enrica. In Delhi, it has added Forest Essentials, the All India Management Association (AIMA), Belden, and Heidelberg Cement.

So, how would the next decade be different for Equus from the previous one? Swapan replies, “I think Equus spent the first 10 years of its life trying to figure out what its strengths were, the next decade will be of an extremely agile but large Equus. The next 10 years would be expansive.”

According to him, the difference for the agency lies in the fact that it has become more knowledge driven and observant. With stable teams in place and great leadership in both Mumbai and Delhi, Swapan feels that the agency has ceased to depend on the brothers, which is a good sign.

He attributes the new wins to the fact that he got energised and wants to grow aggressively. He adds, “Once you get the reins, you decide how the horse runs and I’ve decided to run rather fast.”

Equus handles the healthcare business for VLCC, and Yogest Sethi, CEO, VLCC-HealthCare, pointed out how the agency had helped the brand. He said, “Equus has played a huge role in evolving the VLCC HealthCare brand. It has contributed immensely in VLCC’s approach to multi-media communication because of which we are seeing a steady and strong growth. In future, we are looking at getting into tier II and tier III markets and are confident that the agency would replicate the same success in smaller markets by coming out with regional communication that’s user friendly.”

Swapan on his part believes that the real Equus story is not about the brothers, but it’s about the marvelous talent in the agency. He says, “The brothers are critical, but the agency does not need the brothers to propel it in a day-to-day scenario… We have people who can actually strip down a JWT in a pitch and that’s the story of Equus.”

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