A team strength of 140, offices across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, and a client list of around 125 clients(including big, small and medium), is no mean feat for an agency that has just completed its first year. The agency in question is The Social Street, in this case which turned one on June 22.
“I honestly and genuinely feel I wouldn’t have got this far and really put the house in order in a span of 12 months, and sign on around 125 clients - in such a short span of time. In terms of the pillars of the agency and its foundation, it’s a financially stable company.” says Pratap Bose, Founding Partner & Chairman, The Social Street.
In a scenario wherein a new agency spouting is a daily phenomenon, be it erstwhile agency heads starting on their own or established agencies starting new ones. The success rate of these new agencies, however, remains questionable.
Starting-up seems easier than surviving, and more importantly, sustaining. In fact, the true test for any organisation is to scale up financially in the first 2-3 years.
“I know many agencies which are shouting from the rooftops to proclaim they are doing very well, but the reality is that they are facing a tough time financially. And that is the biggest challenge for a start-up, especially when you have to pay salaries at the end of the month. I think we have done a good job as far as all this is concerned,” adds Bose.
Social Street is already breaking-even in terms of month-to-month running costs. Bose attributes this to the fact that the founders went ‘all out’ to set up offices, hired people, invested in the interior bases, research, and machines, at one shot, when they were setting up as opposed to doing this in a phased manner.
It was a risk, he admits but large brands don’t want to work with small shops if you don’t have the scale and the ability to deliver.
“We are not a small boutique shop that is coming up with ideas. You have to have the scale, of course, it is a huge risk, but it makes you work that much harder to make things successful. If you want to grow exponentially and quickly then you have to put such kind of investments. When you are in the start-up stage, it is important that clients like your business and your work is seen in the market place,” shares Bose.
Looking at the buzzing activity in the office just outside his cabin, one can’t help but ask how different is the entrepreneur hat from the others he’s donned in the past.
“I feel no different, I have always created something and always taken ownership in my previous roles, being an entrepreneur is not so different,” comes his instant reply.
Edited Excerpts from a freewheeling chat with Pratap Bose on his unsavoury tag of the Pied Piper, getting Social Street beyond the shores of India, anchor clients and more………………….
From the time you started, until now, the agency has exceeded your expectations in terms of business and growth, how do you plan to keep this momentum going?
There were two phases: the first one was to get a flying start, and I guess we have ticked that box.
I think the honeymoon period is over, we celebrated our first anniversary on June 22, but I think it’s time to go back to serious business now. Now it’s up to the senior leadership to start winning the large businesses because once you have got your 7-8 large anchor clients, irrespective of what happens to the industry, that will be the bedrock of your business. I think we have got 10 fairly big clients.
What is an anchor client to you?
You need a client who is spending at least Rs 50 crore and above, I would call that client an anchor client.
What is your dream list of clients?
I am working with the best of best clients right now and I am not competing with other media or creative agencies. I don’t think I will ever have any problem winning business, so I don’t need to think of the competition and that is the space we have clearly chosen from day one.
We clearly pick spaces which competition isn’t into and at the end of the day if you want to be successful, you do want to be profitable and in my view profit is equal to success.
When you started off, there was a buzz that nearly 40 people from Mudra joined you. Finally, how many people did join you from Mudra till date?
Yes, a lot of people joined me, so I have this unsavoury tag of ‘Pied Piper’, which is true, but not something I am proud of. But yes, I ended up taking 50-60 people from Mudra, but those were the ones that moved with me from Ogilvy as well.
What are your learnings from Mudra to Social Street?
When I moved from Ogilvy to Mudra in early years, from 2008-11, we were in a similar start-up situation at Mudra, it was set-up in the basement, a rat infested place, but the team that evolved around it was able to create the first leg of what Mudra Max turned out to be.
So that is what we are today too, and the bonhomie that we created in that basement was a great learning. Now, we are focusing on doing work that is – ‘wow’ and my definition of ‘wow’ is changing society, changing lives, changing perspectives, solving problems and actually making a difference.
What are your acquisition plans?
For me, acquiring and growing are the same. We are looking to acquire brands in the digital and tech space. In the digital space, it will be pure play digital; we are also looking at retail, and the high end tech space.
What are your expansion plans out of India?
We have already started working in Indonesia as the market is similar to India: high growth, huge population and rising economy. I do see us going beyond the shores of India, which direction and why, is something which is unclear right now.