Ravi Kiran completed his first year as Managing Director, Starcom, West and South on February 3, 2004. And the very next day came the announcement that Shaw Wallace Breweries Ltd. (SWBL) had consolidated its media business with Starcom Worldwide.
The account, pegged at Rs 12–15 crore, would continue to be serviced out of Starcom’s Bangalore office. This appointment consolidates all brands managed by the company in India, i.e. Castle, Haywards 5000, Haywards 2000, Royal Challenge and Knock Out. Knock Out, Haywards 2000, and Royal Challenge were already being handled by Starcom as part of the full service arrangement between Orchard Advertising and SWBL. Castle and Haywards 5000 are the new additions to its kitty.
Ravi Kiran is a happy man, what with the account coming soon after HDFC Mutual Fund and HDFC Bank. Says he, “As SWBL accelerates its marketing initiatives with five strong brands, it will be our privilege to be part of all the action. Having all five brands of the client with us will enable us to achieve better portfolio synergy in media investment. The special nature of the category encourages us to apply our learning in Passion Group Marketing.”
Explaining the fundamentals of Passion Group Marketing, Ravi Kiran states, “In the past, it was believed that brands have a story and consumers are the listeners. Passion Group Marketing challenges that. Consumers are not interested in listening to brand stories. They are interested in living their lives, people and happenings associated with it. Passion Group Marketing, therefore, instead of trying to tell a brand story, indulges in identifying the consumers’ passion and aligning their brand with this passion. When you identify a group of people with similar passion and market a brand to them – it is what Passion Group Marketing is all about. It is a thinking we are all set to apply to all the day-to-day planning and strategizing in India.”
It is great news for the agency to bag three accounts in a row. But how does it feel to be running the show for one year now? States Ravi Kiran, “It has been genuinely exciting and exhilarating. Though it might sound cliched, the view from the top is completely different.”
And what does he have to say about the fact that Starcom services are more expensive as compared to a few other agencies? “Yes,” states Ravi Kiran candidly, “we are on the higher end of the pricing spectrum. We make a lot of investment in development and research. We don’t tell the client sambhar comes free with idli and then not serve sambhar at all. We, maybe, charge both for idli sambhar but then we deliver both and of a far superior quality.”
As to what makes him feel that Starcom is different, he states, “I would mention three things that make us stand apart – Obsessive focus on consumers, global principle of looking beyond main stream media to consumer contact points, refusal to treat media either just as Math or Fine Arts.”
He also articulates that Starcom is an agency with long term planning and direction, “As an agency, certainly we have a path and we all are running in the same direction. In November, we chalked out a five-year plan – and we know where we would want to be by the end of 2008. We might be the first agency in India to do such long term planning. Simultaneously, we are also not losing focus on our annual and quarterly plans and objectives,” he says.
How has your first year in office been in terms of organic growth and new business acquisitions? Ravi Kiran replies, “It has been a happy year and I am quite satisfied by our performance. Businesses we lost are Essar and Morepen. Toyata also moved, but that was to another group company, Dentsu, due to global realignment. We gained Indian Oil, the single largest account shift of the year. We also bagged HDFC Bank, HDFC Mutual Fund, Varma Corp and MTV Plugged out of Mumbai. Bangalore has bagged SWBL in addition to a few other accounts.”
As for the new initiatives, he states, “We launched Relay in India. It is just three months old. We know that it is a difficult task, but we are expecting good deliveries out of it this year. We are the first digital marketing agency in the country to have bagged a Bollywood account. Talks are on with a few other Bollywood players as well. What is most important is that our clients are happy with us and you would appreciate that it can’t be without reason.”