Advertising Interviews

Rahul Gupta

Director & CEO,IBD India Pvt Ltd
Jyotsna Chauhan | 20 Jan 2012

Jyotsna Chauhan:While strategy is hygiene, Creative is our cutting edge product. In a highly competitive market today, it’s the creative which differentiates and sets the image of the brand and a brand is all about its image. Therefore, our impetus has always been on cutting edge creative – not the cutting edge creative that works on blank woods, but cutting edge work that builds value for brands both in terms of market share and mindshare. You can call us a mid-size agency with big size agency appetite, hunger and lust.

Rahul Gupta is the Founder and Managing Director of IBD India Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Percept Hakuhodo. IBD, is an integrated brand development agency, which applies complete 360-degree approach for providing brand and marketing solutions to its clients. In the last few years, the agency has evolved into a potent multi-functional full service agency that offers services like Integrated Marketing Communication , Brand Development , Digital, Production, Design and Packaging across the multiple sectors of FMCG, Fashion, Retail, Lifestyle, Consumer Electronics, PSU, Realty, Hospitality and Pharma to name a few.

Jyotsna Chauhan, or Jo as she is known popularly, is a well-honed communications professional, who has worn many hats in the 24 years that she’s been in business. Starting as a cub writer she went on to become Creative Director of one of New Delhi’s hottest boutique agency. Given her penchant for acquiring more learning’s, she crossed borders in to account management, brand activation, corporate communications, and eventually became a profit center head. In between apart from earning accolades and awards for her work in communications, she also distinguished herself in training people for a social cause.

Having moved to IBD in 2008 as COO North to now as COO - National, Jo is responsible for meeting set goals for the company by growing business, maximising opportunities of profitability for the company, building relationships that are mutually rewarding with internal and external stakeholders, and above all creating the IBD Edge, as an agency that integrates razor sharp thinking and consumer insight with clutter breaking creative work.

2011 was a good year for IBD India, with the agency clocking billings worth Rs 90 crore, observing a double digit growth year-on-year. Some of the new businesses added by IBD India in 2011 include Panasonic Beauty Products, Saks, Georgio Gullini, Radius Infratel, Shilpa Cosmetics, Instinct Deodorants and Male grooming, Pure Home+Living, NexG TV, CCCL Ltd, Yuga Homes, Icon Management Consultants and Alankrita Kitchens. Most of the businesses have been won post multi-agency pitches.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Deepika Bhardwaj, Rahul Gupta and Jyotsna Chauhan speak at length about the agency’s growth path, the vision, taking on the larger networks and more…

Q. The year gone by saw significant boost in IBD’s business. How has the journey been so far?

Rahul: IBD India saw the first ray of light in 2007 with Percept and Hakuhodo as partners. It’s been a fantastic journey since then. We have been able to give many brands a fillip in their infancy and helped them grow rapidly giving them a distinct identity. We brand ourselves predominantly in the area of brand creation and pride ourselves in carving out niche for challenger brands. People today talk about 360 but we have walked 360 since very first day. We have been able to up the ante with our integrated offerings via By design, iDigital, Rabid films – everything under the same roof. Our revenues have grown by about 500 % in last three years. In days where big brands are not sticking with agencies for long term, most of our clients have been with us all these years. And this is just the beginning!

Jyotsna: We believe it’s not just about brand building; it’s about creating brand worth. We have constantly focused on our integrated offerings. Today where do you find a combination of design, digital and production under one same roof? So it’s that whole cycle of brand creation which doesn’t need anything from outside. We started off young, but we have a lot of fire. We have a strong creative management. The best part of this journey has been that our businesses have come more from word of mouth than the pitches we participate in. We have laid a lot of focus on creative. While strategy is hygiene, Creative is our cutting edge product. In a highly competitive market today, it’s the creative which differentiates and sets the image of the brand and a brand is all about its image. Therefore, our impetus has always been on cutting edge creative – not the cutting edge creative that works on blank woods, but cutting edge work that builds value for brands both in terms of market share and mindshare. You can call us a mid-size agency with big size agency appetite, hunger and lust. That’s where we want to go.

Q. It’s been four years of power play in this industry. How has IBD evolved?

We have definitely evolved with changing times, but have stuck to our basic core and values. The creative strategies used to help a brand have evolved. Clients are now using digital more than ever before so the mix has changed. Narrowcasting options have become very important. Advertising is playing less and less important role in the entire marketing communication mix vis-a-vis other options like direct, online and experiential. All these disciplines are very important and we are putting more and more focus on them. We are proud of our team which is good at finding out new things, trend spotting and keeping a check on world trends. We produce cutting edge work to build our brands faster and better.

Q. You are a growing agency. What have been your priorities in terms of business addition?

Rahul: IBD India today has very interesting mix of clients. We have got the crème de la crème; we have got mid-sized brands with whom we partner and grow together; and we have also got many virgin clients whom we have supported whether it’s creating brand identity or an image for that matter. The larger ones are always a boon but it’s the smaller brands which are more challenging as they have to make their mark. We have our hands across categories across range of businesses. The most satisfying fact is that in a market like Delhi where business is growing leaps and bounds, there are clients reaching out to us themselves re-jigging their budgets and re-choosing us for their creative duties.

Q. What is your unique offering for brands that are just sprouting or settling in India?

Rahul: Most of the brands which are in launch phase have huge tasks in the beginning. They are not very big spenders but have to effectively reach out to the consumers within six kilometres of radius. Traditional advertising does not make sense for them. They need immense push in terms of branding, packaging, positioning, environmental graphics, outdoor, promotions, activations in order to give the initial thrust and that’s where IBD India has its strength. We have all these capabilities in-house to nurture these nascent brands. We have garnered experience in this space and offered value to our clients. Brand identity solutions are very critical and we have built strong expertise in that. That is the differentiating factor for us.

Q. You are under the big names of Percept. What is vision of IBD as a standalone agency?

Rahul: Percept/H is not competing with IBD. There has never been a conflict. We have our own position in the market and the kinds of businesses we target are radically different from each other’s. It is a symbiotic relationship rather than competitive. We do not want to be living in the shadow of Percept. We would like to become a large contributor to the whole group rather than be known as offshoot of a certain agency. We have done so much work across categories that it does not require any heavy weight images.

Q. As a budding agency, you have the option of building new age expertise in Digital. What is your focus in that area?

Jyotsna: Digital is very important for any agency today. Lot of spends are being skewed towards that and I think creative agencies can do wonders in this field. Digital is the point of innovation today and we are putting our best foot forward to be stronger, deeper and more effective in this area. Our attempt however, would always be to base digital strategies on creative. We believe there is a lot of merit in By Design faculty side of us as well. Today every brand is on the verge of revitalizing itself and we can add immense value there. FMCG packaging trends are changing - we are putting lot of thrust in building our packaging solution capacities as well. Today advertising is not equal to a full page ad; it’s much more than that. And we are focusing on all these areas.

Q. We have seen a lot of fanfare from independent and small agencies last year. But biggies see it as a short-term phenomenon. Do you think you are ready to take on the larger networks if you are sitting across tables with them? What differentiation do you bring to the table?

Rahul: A lot of our clients should have ideally been with much larger agencies. Even today they are highly desired by big agencies. No agency will leave a client like Panasonic with budget of Rs 100 crore annually - it’s significant revenue. We also have many mid size brands which larger agencies would run after. We are proud to say that we have all these brands with us since the beginning despite invitations from big ones. This is predominantly because of our creative product which has been consistent. Skewed budgets usually impact quality but we have never let that happen. We have hardly lost any business in the last three years except one or two. Agencies have brought down their entire might to snatch businesses from us but to no gain. We try hard, we work hard and it really matters to us to do good work. Our main ethical prime is to move our clients up and above the value chain.

Q. What is the vision IBD India has set out for itself for the coming years?

Our vision is to grow and become a bigger player in the market, be one of the preferred agencies and handle big brands going forward. We enjoy the challenge of creating campaigns for biggest and smallest clients alike. We may not be handling brands with the biggest wallet yet, but we are handling brands across categories. We are doing the entire communication mix rather than just bits and pieces. So we are the preferred partners and that gives us a lot of confidence as an agency. Our clients trust us and have faith in us that we would give them holistic brand solutions. Our long term goal is definitely to be one of India’s most creative agencies. We want to reach a state where the whole industry recognizes our creative prowess.

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