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Vineet Bajpai

Founder & Group CEO | 19 Jul 2013

The Indian client continues to remain price conscious, though now willing to put more dollars behind digital than before. While the Indian brand manager comfortably spends crores on TV commercials and print advertising, she remains circumspect on digital and expects immediate ROI. In international markets, customers are willing to invest in their digital assets, 'farm' them through continuous digital spends on search, social, etc., and then enjoy the returns of the digital brand presence once it crosses a certain threshold size.

Vineet Bajpai is the Founder and Group CEO of Magnon Group, which was acquired by TBWA this year in a continued effort to expand its capabilities in India. The acquisition included Magnon Solutions and Magnon International, a digital outsourcing agency that serves clients across five continents.

Prior to setting up Magnon Group in 2000, Bajpai had worked with GE Capital International Services as a Quality Associate. His stint with GE lasted for less than a year. He has also authored two management books – ‘Build from Scratch’ and ‘The Street to the Highway’.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Twishy, Bajpai ponders over India’s poor performance in digital, clients’ mindset when it comes to digital strategy, growth of Magnon post-acquisition and more...

Q. India still lags behind when it comes to digital, and this was reflected during Cannes Lions last month, where India had no shows in the Cyber and Mobile categories? What do you think is the major reason behind this?

To compete and win at Cannes would require entries that have been both creatively appreciated as well as effective business-wise. And such campaigns normally tend to be resource-intensive in terms of time, planning, development, execution and packaging. I really feel it is a question of resource availability to Indian digital campaigns at this moment. While the Indian marketer and brand leader has accepted the web as a game-changer and as an integral part of the larger strategic media mix, the depth of pockets that western clients offer specifically to digital is still not available to Indian digital agencies. However, that should not be the only reason, and that should anyway change soon.

Q. Do you think digital enables us to build a really strong story online without the inhibitions of time length?

Absolutely. And that too at a fraction of the cost! The mix available to the digital medium is not just websites anymore. We have websites, blogs, videos, virals, social, search, rich media, mobile, etc., which together offer an unprecedented, connected media of consumer conversations, whether it is brand to consumer or consumer to consumer. And sometimes, these conversations can be self-perpetuating, offering opportunities for elongated brand stories. We are trying to build a similar story for our client Datsun, where we got #DatsunRising to trend nationwide on Twitter on the very day of the official launch. And we hope to carry the Datsun brand forward towards a wonderful digital journey in India.

Q. How different is India from the other markets? What are your views on the digital creative talent in India?

Since Magnon\TBWA operates in the Indian market and our group company, Magnon E-Graphics, offers digital solutions to clients across five continents, we have had the rare benefit of being able to appreciate both domestic as well as international markets. The Indian client continues to remain price conscious, though now willing to put more dollars behind digital than before. But it is still a very small percentage as compared to the percentage that digital spends command in overseas clients’ marketing plans. And while the Indian brand manager comfortably spends crores on TV commercials and print advertising, she remains circumspect on digital and expects immediate ROI. In international markets, customers are willing to invest in their digital assets, ‘farm’ them through continuous digital spends on search, social, etc., and then enjoy the returns of the digital brand presence once it crosses a certain threshold size and becomes a virtuous cycle of self-propagation.

Q. Do you think augmented reality can be a game-changer for India?

While augmented reality is an area with boundless possibilities, it might be too early to call it a game-changer. However, it will certainly have implications for marketers and digital agencies, and both will need to keep up with the technology. As an automobile company recently displayed, augmented reality can be used to generate vast consumer attraction and interaction models.

Q. Post acquisition, how do you rate the growth of Magnon\TBWA? What are the major business wins?

Magnon has always been a very high-growth company, and we have shown a CAGR of 55 per cent consistently over the last decade. In fact, we were among the very few digital agencies to have shown a robust 30-35 per cent growth even in the recession years of 2009-10. This growth has only accelerated after the acquisition of Magnon by TBWA, and Magnon\TBWA showed a 100 per cent growth in order-booking in H1 (calendar year) of 2013 vis-à-vis H1 of 2012. And this growth has not only reflected in our numbers, but has also manifested itself in our growth in terms of people and clients. We are now over 200 people between Delhi and Mumbai, and that makes us one of the largest digital agencies in India. Some of the major wins post-acquisition have been Standard Chartered Bank and Datsun.

Q. How do you plan to expand Magnon\TBWA in India?

We have a three-pronged growth strategy in India. The first will be consolidation of our own existing business in partnership with the TBWA advertising team in India. So, while we are already working closely with top clients such as Hilton, Suzuki, Michelin, Emaar and Hyundai, we hope to add to that roster by starting work with TBWA global clients. Our second growth strategy will be to partner TBWA offices all over the world and become a global center of digital excellence for the network. We are already working with TBWA offices across New York, Los Angeles, Dubai and Singapore. Lastly, after Delhi and Mumbai, we are now actively looking at starting our Bangalore office.

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