As 2016 draws to an end, Manish Porwal, Managing Director, Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions speaks to exchange4media.com about how the year was for his company, challenges faced because of demonetisation, clients acquired, the leadership change and the plans of the company in the coming year.
Commenting on how the year was for Alchemist, he said, “I must say that it was a 2.0 year for us and when a company genuinely reinvents itself and finds the fruits of reinvention, that was what 2016 was for us. It was a year where all the work we started in 2015 finally started yielding results. The end of the year was not as good as one had anticipated because of all the things that are happening in the political and the economic scenario. Otherwise, it has been a beautiful ride, Alchemist has always grown and this time, we grew by very healthy double digits.” Excerpts:
How much of an impact did demonetisation have on your business?
Had it not happened, we would have grown triple digits, but we couldn’t manage that. The last two months put a serious dent in the real estate business as well, because we have a division called Clay and unfortunately, it had to go a little tighter than what we had imagined. The next three months, I expect to be even more challenging. But I would like to point out that, in spite of the tough market situation, we have still won clients in the last few months.
Talking about client acquisition, how was this year for Alchemist?
We roughly acquired around 7-odd clients. To name a few, DLF, First Handle, New Life, Mody University, United Spirits Limited and Seychelles. We also lost some clients on the way, not too many but largely because of the market situation.
How would you typically define your business model?
It is a very unique business model and is not the typical agency type which is advertising and beyond. Our model is very different; it is actually of being a common man’s McKinsey in marketing communications. So while we do have large MNC clients, the belly of our business lies in helping in marketing and communication for mid-level clients, who are growth hungry, have a fantastic business structure, but don’t know where to get their marketing inputs from.
Also at Alchemist, we don’t pitch for clients, the only pitch we do is our credentials, and secondly, show the client examples of our work, which is similar to what they are looking for and give them five names and numbers of clients for whom we have already worked. I won’t say, we won’t ever pitch, because it depends on the market condition. But if we do, we take a pitch fee.
In terms of the leadership change in 2016, tell us about the talent you acquired.
We have got Mrugesh Gaglani as the Managing Consultant and the Head of Alchemist Mumbai. He has years of brand building experiences with Kodak, Tata Motors, Philips and so on. Secondly, our digital team is almost new and we got in Saurabh Choudhary as the Digital Marketing strategist. In addition to this, we hired a lot of people at the base level as well.
With Clay completing almost two years, how many clients have you acquired till now?
In the last two years, real estate as a sector has understood that marketing is not sales plus, it is a function which needs to be nurtured on its own. When we created this proposition, the awakening was just about coming in and when we went to clients with this, everyone wanted us. We got a lot of traction from affordable housings, second homes, luxury, and we figured that people who want to create a demand needed us the most. Because we are a specialist, our product is not cheap, and therefore, there were few who couldn’t afford us. In the last two years, we have acquired around 12 odd clients.
What will be some of the focus areas of the company in 2017?
Delhi has been growing leaps and bounds and when I say Delhi, I mean, the whole of North, our big clients like DLF, Mody University are from there, and so one agenda we want to set is probably that Delhi would be as big as Mumbai.
The second thing which we are looking at is nurturing our younger talent by hiring a lot of management trainees. We believe in the concept that people outside Mumbai and Delhi are a lot hungrier and they would like to achieve their goals faster, so we are trying to hunt for these people.
We are also trying to focus on going out and getting only digital clients. This is something, which we want to do, but our hands are too full at the moment.
Finally, creating good content at affordable cost, through our division called Crew, which was started this year. It is always a task for clients to get on to TV because of the cost, but we are trying to break this barrier. The objective is to create AVs which may not be of utmost superior quality, but good enough to be run on TV or on digital. We are purposely going slowly and are doing it only for our clients at the moment.
In a time when celebrity endorsement is taking a new turn, with consumers demanding strict action against endorsers who fail to deliver, what is your advice to brands?
Like any other business in the social context, small thing gets accentuated. Same is happening with celebrities and their endorsements. It is silly, however, having said that because people listen to them, they need to be responsible. But, they cannot be held accountable for the final product or the quality, then what will happen is, we will inculcate a culture where the celebrity will become part of the board, which will take his cost up and that will not be a feasible option.
I believe he/she is playing a role; so let’s restrict their penalties and kudos to the role. Their job is to tell the truth, now have they researched well, it is their duty, but you cannot hold them responsible if say a chocolate in some part of the world has a worm in it. I think the same is happening on the real estate side as well, because the delivery takes time it doesn’t mean the celebrity can be blamed. So what we do from our side is encourage clarity on how far is the celebrity responsible or how far is she indemnified, so both sides have to be taken care of. We stand somewhere in the middle of them, otherwise most celebrity management agencies typically stand for the celebrity, but for us, it’s our brand. So somewhere, we are on the side of the client, we decide what is right for them when it comes to going to the celebrity. Even though we don’t handle celebrities but brands like us to manage things for them because we try and give a neutral view.