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Martin Sorrell’s new venture puts a feather on our punt: Sajan Raj Kurup, Creativeland Asia

01-June-2018
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Martin Sorrell’s new venture puts a feather on our punt: Sajan Raj Kurup, Creativeland Asia

Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder & Chairman of the Creativeland Asia Group, looks at 11 years of the company since its inception on June 1, 2007, and says that its investment in data, tech and content is all set to deliver the next phase of growth. So as the news of Sir Martin Sorrell’s return to the business with the Derriston deal broke, with the veteran announcing that he saw “significant opportunities for development in technology, data and content”,  for Kurup it was reason to celebrate in more ways than one.

“What Sir Martin has just announced is what we have been quietly building for almost half a decade now in our own ingenious way. It does put a feather on our punt,” Kurup says, giving himself creative liberty with the idiom.

Meanwhile, significant additions to the group’s leadership team have been the appointment of Rana Barua as CEO and Prahlad Kakkar as Creative Mentor, and notable among recent business wins include Rupa Knitwear, Havmor, Pizza Hut, Luxor and Transsion Holdings.

Here are edited excerpts from Kurup’s conversation with exchange4media:

Creativeland Asia just turned 11. What is your 11th year message to Creativelanders?

This year my message to Creativeland is that for faster and more efficient growth, we need to transform from an organization to an organism, because an organization is an inanimate thing – cold, emotionless and impersonal - while an organism is warm, filled with emotions and personal. An organization is replete with friction, power struggles, egos, hierarchy and conflicts of interest. An organism functions seamlessly, with every part of the body doing its job to the best of its ability. There are no hierarchies. There are no power plays. There are no egos here that come in the way. Every part of the organism knows what it’s doing and where it’s headed. There’s a common goal.

Sir Martin Sorrell is back in business and is investing in ‘significant opportunities for development in technology, data and content’. What is your view on it?

Sir Martin Sorrell is a very sharp investor and he does pick up trends early. What he has just announced post his exit from WPP, is what we have been quietly building for almost half a decade now in our own ingenious way. While we may not yet have access to the depth of investors like he has, it does put a feather on our punt. I am certain Creativeland’s next decade of growth will come from design-tech, venture capital and content IPs. We have been taking small yet steady significant steps by organically nurturing these diverse capabilities and acquiring the right skill sets.

What do you think of the advent of tech companies such as PwC, Accenture, etc., in the advertising domain?

It’s inevitable. I don’t look at it as a threat at all, but great learning. While they are forward integrating into a creative solutions-based environment, I’m looking at that as a lead and I’m actually backward-integrating into an understanding-the-problem environment. So fundamentally what they’re doing is something what we’re also doing. What is most pertinent here is how good the solution is or how effective the solution is, and I think we have an edge.

What is intrinsic to the journey from client brief to execution at CLA? What is unique about CLA Group’s offerings to its clients?

For the clients at Creativeland, we have transcended from the business of advertising to the business of creativity. Today we host a talent pool of writers, designers, musicians, film directors, producers, screen-writers, sound engineers, animators, analysts, investment officers, strategic thinkers, editors, techies, coders, architects, publishers, editors, social media influencers… the works. We are learning to straddle six seconds to one-season long content. We have 17 to 70-year-young minds working in a unified culture of creativity. And most of all, we are evolving from the quintessential communications brief cracker to a creative problem-solver mindset.

How has Ventureland Asia fared since its launch?

Ventureland is an investment engine that believes in the legacy of creating, launching and refreshing successful brands with the power of creativity. Our latest offering is a SEBI registered alternate investment fund (AIF) which seeks to invest in strong products backed by committed promoters and a smart team with a primary focus on consumer businesses. In layman’s terms, we’d like to be the Jerry Maguire of venture capital. We have successfully invested 40% stake in New York based kids clothing brand – MasalaBaby - and grown the investment by 8X. The new Rs 100 cr fund is backed by prominent banks, individual investors and prominent family offices. And we are currently in talks with a pipeline of nine investments.

What are your priorities going ahead both for Creativeland and Ventureland Asia?

It’s a cliché to say that we live in very distinct times today, but I see so much opportunity and I’m pretty sure 10 years from now, I’ll be doing something completely different from where I am today. The only thing I’m very clear about is if I can put a drop of creativity in everyone’s life - as many people’s lives as we can touch as Creativeland - that’s probably the long term mission. Today, creativity is very much like spirituality - it’s omnipresent. To me, it’s about whatever we get into – be it healthcare, creative programmes that can impact social communities, education – every aspect of that obviously has to be an expression of creativity and an expression in the business of creativity.

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