Chennai-based creative shop Rubecon Communications has recently completed 15 years. The agency has come a long way since the time it had started off with one client (Taj Group) 15 years ago, with 15-plus large and small clients in its kitty today.
Speaking about the early days of Rubecon, its Director, Alexander Zachariah, reminisced that when they were doing some hoarding work for Taj Group, someone from ColorPlus had noticed the work and had called them up do some tags for the brand. “We started by doing some specific job for ColorPlus and they moved everything to us. That is how ColorPlus came to us,” he added. Since then, there has been no looking back for Rubecon, which is today 38-people strong.
During its 15 years, Rubecon has done some path breaking works for brands like ColorPlus. According to Zachariah, a lot of the agency’s success could be attributed to the clients, who had supported Rubecon’s structure. Several of its clients have been associated with the agency for a long time. For instance, the agency has been handling ColorPlus since its inception and has created almost all the merchandise for the product and has contributed in every step of the brand’s growth.
The agency’s association with Chennai-based FMCG company CavinKare is also a long-running one. “A lot of my clients came to Rubecon because we were doing different kinds of work. I also felt that being a home-grown kind of entity, there are a lot of things that we bring to the table that might be a little different from the manner other agencies work. That is what that has kept us going in the last 15 years,” Zachariah added.
Being so closely associated with design, the agency has also done a lot of work associated with product designing. Said Zachariah, “We do Mahindra World City, which is a constantly evolving space where you get the opportunity to work with international designers and architects. It is a great space to be in for an agency like us.”
Being a first independent, serious, home-grown agency in Chennai in the early nineties, Rubecon was one of the first few agencies to outsource media buying completely. It was also one of the few agencies to go in for retainer fee structure early.
The agency has an interesting mix of client portfolio – CavinKare Foods, Indica hair dye, Citi Bank, Mahindra World City, Prince Jewellery, and iSteel, to name a few. The agency recently added Arun Ice Cream to its kitty and is on the verge of signing few more clients, which Zachariah refused to name.
Despite being a successful adman, Zachariah is happy with a one office set-up and does not want to set up shops in other cities. He said, “We don’t want to expand. My talent is here. I constantly get young talents coming in, energising us. That is the fun part of life. Rubecon handles Citi Bank NRI business across the world right here from Chennai. The problem with an agency having a multiple branch set-up is that to get a work done from other branches is a nightmare. So, I am not in favour of this network kind of set-up. Of course, there are certain accounts that definitely need it, but there are a lot of accounts for which you can be serviced from one branch.”
Zachariah also revealed that he had a lot of buyout offers from biggies. “There were a lot of big agencies who wanted to part of Rubecon or buy out Rubecon by being stakeholders or a majority stakeholder and run it as a separate entity. They also would bring in a lot of other things. But I felt that if I network with a good planner or a good media house, I get the same result and refused all the offers,” he added.
Zachariah had started off with HTA (now JWT) as an internee after completing Visual Communication from Loyola College, Chennai, and then worked with RK Swamy in 1986-88. He then joined Goldwire (a breakaway from Lintas) and worked there for nearly a year.
He has also had a stint with FCB Ulka (now DraftFCB+ULKA). He was heading creative at Grey Chennai when he quit to start Rubecon.
“I still have a passion for what I am doing. At the age of 47, I still have lot of fun doing my work. The day that goes out of the window, there is no point in being in this business,” Zachariah signs off.