Advertising Interviews

Santosh Padhi

Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer | 17 May 2013

We need more Aggies and Paddys to take Taproot to the next level... We are very greedy when it comes to work, we treat everything like an opportunity, we have no personal or social life, we compromise that for work. Once we get the brief, we are very excited to see it in some media form. We still behave like a small kid when he sees a new toy; this whole domino effect is what gives us the edge.

Santosh Padhi is one half of the creative duo that set up Taproot India, along with Agnello Dias. He has been in the advertising industry for 17 years and had quit Leo Burnet as Executive Creative Director and National Head, Art in September 2008 to set up Taproot. Padhi had started his career with Mudra in 1996 as a trainee visualiser, and has worked on a varied client portfolio, including Godrej, Reliance, and L&T, among others.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Padhi talks about how Taproot India maintains its edge, need for a ‘suit’ in the agency, the journey so far, key focus areas and more...

Q. The agency has done well at international award forums, what are your expectations from Cannes Lions 2013?

We have done well internationally in the last four years, we have done well locally as well, but internationally there are more opportunities in a year than locally. We will do better than what we did at local awards; some of the pieces we entered at AdFest 2013 did well, though they did not do well locally. We are entering some new pieces of work that I am hopeful about.

Q. Taproot India does not have a ‘suit’ as of now, are there any plans of getting someone on board in the near future?

When we started, we initially had a servicing guy with us, who decided to pursue another offer and who is now a client. Five years ago, there was a strong culture of clients wanting to partner with creative guys. The role of servicing guys was changing, with more of them moving to the client side; we thought all these factors were in our favour, so we decided to go ahead without a suit.

Initially we managed, but after a point we can’t be doing finances and making sure of our investments. We need somebody intelligent to ensure a more cost effective model and take care of cash flow, etc. But we need someone to run it like their own agency.

Q. Where do you see Taproot five years down the line?

We should be equipped to do justice to the new kid that is growing in this country, that is digital, three years down the line, with a lot more of our time and nurturing. We are hiring now keeping in mind people who are inclined towards digital.

Q. What is the agency’s focus for 2013?

The beginning of this year has been crazy. We have been joking that we are the IPL agency as we are handling seven of the brands associated with the Indian Premier League – viz. Pepsi’s Atom, Mountain Dew, 7Up, Karbonn, Marico, Airtel, and IPL itself. We believe in doing great work and great work will follow. We will be focusing on digital and design going forward. The year has picked up very well, hopefully it will continue, we have a lot of interesting work in the pipeline.

Q. What is the current business revenue model for the agency?

We work on a project basis, retainer and commission basis. At present, our biggest chunk of business comes from work done on commission basis.

Q. How has the Dentsu partnership panned out to Taproot’s strength?

The best aspect of this partnership is that the ‘right of operation’ belongs to us. It is early to say anything concrete, as it has only been eight months since we came together and won the pitch for NourishCo. I am hoping for many more NourishCos between Dentsu and Taproot. Dentsu has a lot of arms and legs that we need from time to time, in terms of scale, research and so on. We have tied up with Dentsu Inc, so opportunities of working together are limitless. They believe very strongly in our market. From a long-term perspective, there are a lot of mutual strength and synergies that we can collaborate on.

Q. Is Taproot where you and Aggie had envisioned it to be when you started out in 2009?

Santosh PadhiAggie and I are workaholics, we were very sure if there was no one else in the agency Aggie would do everything from writing a script to direction, and I would do everything from art direction to photography. For the first six months we had a low phase, things did not happen the way we had envisioned them. Our first client was The Times of India. 2009 was a time of recession and clients were cutting down their media budgets; we were getting small businesses, but still needed that one big break. Thanks to The Times of India, we got a lot of visibility. Our other big break was the Lead India campaign.

Taproot today has reached where we wanted it to be; we never planned on being the Agency of the Year at AdFest or being No. 1 at GoaFest, bagging awards for Pepsi and Airtel. We are extremely lucky. Now, the challenge is that we need more Aggies and Paddys to take Taproot to the next level, we have a couple of guys on board. The challenge is to keep them ready by giving them charge of brands and making them the face of the brands.

Only when we empower the person today will they be ready in three to four years. Right now, we make sure one of us oversees the work that goes out of this agency, but we are on the verge of creating more Aggies and Paddys in the system.

Q. What are the other challenges that you face?

It is retaining the culture of the agency as we grow in size. To keep the passion, the love and the bonding; the moment you are a bigger family, this becomes a challenge. People work here because they feel the creative output is far better energised and we give our time to them. They are very enthusiastic about their work, so we need to continue giving them our time and encouraging them to grow.

Q. Taproot started a trend, which was followed by numerous other smaller independent agencies sprouting. How do you maintain the edge?

Everybody who has started their own agency is doing well; we are extremely happy we got everything at one go, including recognition and work.

We are very greedy when it comes to work, we treat everything like an opportunity, we have no personal or social life, we compromise that for work. Once we get the brief, we are very excited to see it in some media form. We still behave like a small kid like when he sees a new toy; this whole domino effect is what gives us the edge.

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