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Vivek Suchanti

Chairman | 09 Nov 2012

Digital is no more an option today, it is a way of life. The balance of power is slowly shifting from traditional media to an engagement model. Mobile will further accentuate this. India’s large youth segment is certainly impacting a media-mix rethink. The switchover for clients is not easy. This is a very dynamic space and we have made huge investments in it, both in terms of strategy and design. You can look forward to some major announcements soon.

Vivek Suchanti began nurturing Concept Communication in 1995 under the guidance of his father, Nirmal Suchanti. He has been at the helm of the agency’s growth story since 1999. Having consolidated Concept’s position as one of India’s leading financial advertising and PR companies early in his career, Suchanti is focusing on leading the agency to become India’s largest independent communications group.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shree Lahiri, Suchanti traces Concept Communication’s growth since its inception in 1968, the growth on independent agencies, leveraging digital and social media, and more...

Q. From 1968 to 2012 – it’s been a long journey that Concept has traversed. What have been the key landmarks in this journey?

Concept was founded by Mahesh and Shobha Doctor in the late 60s. My father, Nirmal Suchanti, took over the agency in 1988 and established it as India’s No. 1 financial advertising agency (by virtue of the number of IPOs handled) in our first full year of operations. Concept at that point was also specialising in communicating for the BFSI sector, including NBFCs, stock broking houses, insurance and mutual funds. In fact, the agency has to its credit the successful launch of seven mutual funds at a time when there was little or no understanding of the same (mutual funds).

I took over the mantle of the agency in 1999, when the financial space was seeing challenging and restrictive times. While my immediate challenge was to sustain our lead position within the financial space, it was quite clearly the time to be more than a big fish in a small pond.

Q. When you took over as MD, Concept Communication was one of India’s leading independent agencies; today you are partnering a group of independents. What is your vision for tomorrow?

India was an emerging market and global network agencies were increasing and consolidating their position in the country, both organically and inorganically. I could see the big opportunity for Concept here and we started working towards becoming a communication consulting group. We decided to identify opportunities to nurture partnerships with top talent in the true sense with an ownership model. Simultaneously, to incubating start-ups in creative services, we looked at acquisitions for consolidating our PR business. Today, we have Eleven Brandworks, Scarecrow Communications, ITSA Brand Innovations, besides Concept Communication in the advertising space and Concept PR as well as Zzebra PR in the public relations space.

In the next five years, I envision Concept as the largest independent communication consulting group, covering every aspect of the business from advertising, public relations, retail, digital, rural, brand consulting, research and production.

Q. Scarecrow has been an aggressively focused player; Eleven Brandworks, on the other hand, seems more cautious. What distinguishes each of these spaces?

Each independent consulting firm was launched in line with the vision and persona of the individuals behind them. When you talk to the individuals who have set up their independent creative units across the industry, the first thing that stands out is that all of them want to be able to work in a free and self-defined environment. As an entrepreneur building businesses with creative people, our philosophy has been to empower individuals and support them in realising their vision, and not define it for them.

The trio of Raghu, Manish and Joy, on the one hand, and Prateek and team on the other, have distinctly different focus, approach and strengths. As such, all our independent partners run and manage their own spaces, while Concept supports them in areas outside of their core expertise. This has allowed them to remain focused on building relationships with clients and define an agency culture that binds their teams, both very critical for our business.

Q. Emmanuel Upputuru, Anirban Mozumdar and Daniel Upputuru came together with Concept in July this year to launch ITSA Brand Innovations. Please share the story behind its formation.

When you meet Emmanuel, Anirban and Daniel, you’ll be struck by their passion for innovation. We connected on our desire and need to innovate beyond the boundaries that the industry has defined for itself. Soon, we were taken in by the idea that brand building is not about creating a new TV commercial alone, it is about innovating a new way to communicate, each time. The name itself – ITSA – is unique, a fill in the blank really for each client/ brand and his need. ITSA idea, ITSA book, ITSA product and so on. Basically, the team thinks against convention, against normal and mediocrity. Therefore, they will always be doing unpredictable things. Whatever it might be, the watch-out is to not slide back into the comfort zone of being ‘just another overtly friendly neighbourhood agency’.

The team is already well on its way to creating an innovative prototype in the automotive sector and has completed work on the first-of-its-kind co-authored digital book. I will leave it to the team to share details of these in time.

Q. How has this new growth story impacted the erstwhile Concept Communication? Is there a vision change?

Certainly. Concept has now defined itself with new vigour. Fresh creative talent with seasoned Creative Directors like Rachanah Roy and Amit Mukherjee are charting out a new path and building the brand businesses. Ashish Dabral has taken over as CEO of the agency. While the Capital Markets Group headed by Kumar Ramachandran and Nayan Shah maintains its lead position, Manoj Malkani is consolidating the media business of the group.

Q. You acquired Zzebra PR in 2008. Concept PR has been a name to reckon with in the financial space. What are your plans with the companies?

Concept PR’s mainstay since its inception has been corporate and financial PR and investor relations. Over the last couple of years, when well rooted companies have faced unprecedented challenges to their reputations, Concept PR’s crisis management team has proved to be a reliable partner. Zzebra PR, on the other hand, focused on sports, lifestyle and entertainment. The acquisition obviously added to our strengths. For the last four years, the teams have beautifully complimented each other, and earlier this year, we agreed to integrate the two into one holistic body. Moreover, at the dawn of 2012, we also acquired a well managed Media Intelligence and Analytics team. This consolidation should certainly prove to be an asset to our clients and a winner for our PR group.

Q. With the growing tilt towards digital communication, how does Concept help brands leverage digital and social media?

Digital is no more an option today, it is a way of life. The balance of power is slowly shifting from traditional media to an engagement model. Mobile will further accentuate this. India’s large youth segment is certainly impacting a media-mix rethink. The switchover for clients is not easy. This is a very dynamic space and we have made huge investments in it, both in terms of strategy and design. You can look forward to some major announcements soon.

Q. You launched Brew in 2011. How has it contributed to Concept’s overall growth?

Brew is a ‘thought pad’. On a day-to-day basis, we all seem to be running short on time. There is never scope of meaningful discussions and exchange of ideas other than what is required by the immediate task in hand. There was a need to create a platform for a healthy exchange of intelligence, ideas and opinions. Brew has proved to be an effective vehicle for the same.

Q. What is your growth target for 2012? What was your growth for the last fiscal? Which verticals do you see contributing the most towards your growth?

If you take a macro view of the business model we have adopted and the aggressive growth charted out as a Group, you will clearly see that we shall be clearly in the investing space over the next three years. We definitely aspire to occupy the top slot as the largest Indian communications group.

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