The last two years have seen several young Indian creative heads leave their multinational agencies, bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. These include the likes of Raj Kurup, Creativeland Asia; Prashant Godbole, ideas@work; Jignesh Maniar, Onads Communications; and Ramki from Cartwheel. The list does not end here. The latest to join the bandwagon are the two hotshots from the Indian advertising fraternity – Agnello Dias, JWT, and Santosh Padhi, Leo Burnett.
It looked like the right move then, since the economy was booming. However, given the current slowdown conditions, where do these entrepreneurs stand?
Whether it is the indefinite postponement of new clients or budget cuts – some of them have seen their share of setbacks already. Nonetheless, when exchange4media spoke to this generation of advertising heads to know what the economic slowdown means to them, the unanimous reply was ‘opportunity’.
New businesses opportunities
Creativeland Asia’s Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Raj Kurup, explained, “When we started off, we had already anticipated that the market would eventually see a correction. We were ready for this well in advance. I view the current situation as an opportunity, as we look at it with a positive strategy to surge forward. Clients would look for low cost businesses, and the opportunity there would be of entering into new arenas, which would work in our favour.”
Jignesh Maniar, Onads Communications, added, “The slowdown has definitely impacted businesses, but there is a positive aspect there for Indian entrepreneurs. When the clients do not prefer spending megabucks, but expect the same quality of work and credibility like any other multinational agency, they would turn to us. They would expect same work, but better costs, given the experience that we bring in.”
A new player joining the young Indian entrepreneurs’ bandwagon, Santosh Padhi, ECD, Leo Burnett, said, “Markets keep fluctuating, but we are planning our new venture in the way we had to. The situation is positive for us, given the background and experience that we bring. This would definitely attract the clients, who would prefer to get our expertise at lower costs.” Padhi, however, was candid in admitting that there would be setbacks since new product launches would be postponed, which meant paucity of new businesses, and the fact that clients were spending carefully.
Bringing a different view here, Prashant Godbole from ideas@work, said, “It is true that the first taste of a slowdown has been felt across the industry, as one need only look at the number of blank white hoardings throughout the city, or the diminishing number of pages in the Bombay Times to gauge the impact. However, the silver lining for ideas@work is that our major clients have actually used this slowdown to increase their share of voice, and have, in fact, pushed up spends this year.”
“That aside, ideas@work has never had to cold-call clients for business. We are not big on flab, and we will hopefully continue to find favour with the marketing folks who know us. Of course, if 2009 adds a slump to a setback, we would probably have to knock on a few doors,” he added.
Independence from the reporting structure
Interestingly, one aspect that many have cited as a plus point of being a creative entrepreneur is the freedom from any kind of global or regional reporting structure. Unlike the other internationally affiliated agencies, there is definitely a cost benefit that comes in play here.
Many international company heads would continue to face the pressure of taking decisions that would ensure revenues and profitability, and avoid any element of risk in the current situation. Then there are cases where even the Indian operations would need to see hire-freezes and cost reductions since the other international operations are seeing loss, and the broad company agenda is to cut down on costs from across operations.
Maniar explained here, “We have the liberty to work in our way with no interference from anyone. At times like these, that can be a huge advantage.” Speaking further on the same point, Padhi said, “Given the global meltdown, Indian agencies with international affiliation would suffer directly, even if India as a country would not be affected badly. Indian entrepreneurs don’t have to face that, and that in itself is an opportunity.”
Mission Accomplished for 2008
For most of these entrepreneurs, 2008 has been a good year overall, though there was a lot to witness and learn.
Kurup called the year 2008 ‘a fantastic year’. It was the year of consolidating their businesses. Along with consolidation, the agency brought good talent on board. They moved to a bigger office and also launched CLA Lab and its production house, called ‘Crocodile Films’. Some of the businesses that the agency bagged during the year include Nakshatra, Gilli, and BigAdda. In the meanwhile, for 2009, Creativeland Asia’s vision would be to acquire more businesses and also plan for expansion, widening its network internationally. However, Kurup did not divulge further details.
Maniar, too, said that the going had been good so far for the seven-month old agency. The agency had started off with business wins like Jagran-18 Publications and Oyo. They have grown to a staff of 20, and there are new businesses in the pipeline.
Slowdown or not, these young Indian creative entrepreneurs are excited about the coming year.