Sajan RaJ Kurup, Founder & Creative Chairman, Creativeland Asia

Last year was an eventful year for Sajan Raj Kurup Founder & Creative Chairman Creativeland Asia, a visibly exhausted but spirited Kurup gets candid about why industry do’s are ‘unexciting’ for him, why staying away from Goafest has added to the agency’s culture and focus, expanding operations beyond India, Why charging a pitch fee still works for CLA, his thought process behind work for Micromax, and life after Parle Agro.

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 20, 2016 12:00 AM  | 7 min read

Last year was an eventful year for Sajan Raj Kurup Founder & Creative Chairman Creativeland Asia, a visibly exhausted but spirited Kurup gets candid about why industry do’s are ‘unexciting’ for him, why staying away from Goafest has added to the agency’s culture and focus, expanding operations beyond India, Why charging a pitch fee still works for CLA, his thought process behind work for Micromax, and life after Parle Agro.


Q. What is the insight behind the new logo and tagline—‘Nuts: Guts: Glory’ for Micromax? Nothing symbolizes a cultural revolution in an organization as much as a change in identity. This exercise wasn’t about redesigning a logo and writing a tagline. It was about capturing the Micromax culture. For this we studied the Micromax story of four guys taking a brave decision to risk it all and enter the devices market. We traced their journey that started evolving from the back-alleys of the mobile phone revolution in India and all the way up to the global scene. We sat and understood the personalities of the founders, their ambitions and plans. What stuck out for us was a sincere amount of audacity. So, for Micromax, we created a line that establishes the innate desire for audacious and unconventional victories. And decided to scribe it as ‘Nuts: Guts: Glory’ in an unconventional slogan of sorts.

Q. The new campaign is completely different in tonality and positioning, and definitely more aggressive, was this the brief given to the agency? The most defining characteristic of this generation is the admiration for (and a desire to emulate) the crazy and the brave. To not just win, but to win big. To make irrational decisions, and to win madly. This cultural fuel becomes meaningful for us when it connects with the Brand Ethos.

In many ways, Micromax embodies this spirit we see coursing through the veins of the nation.

Anyone who has followed Micromax closely would know that the brand has an audacious story of how it was born in the back alleys of the mobile revolution in this country and has propelled itself on to the global stage in less than a decade.

Micromax is clearly an unconventional winner brand. It is a brand that’s taken chances, fought off much larger, more reputable competitors and still managed to come out in the driver’s seat. It has a sheer bloody-minded will to succeed.

It’s brash, bold and defiant .Which is why it goes for it. It’s why it doesn’t do things in half-measures.

Q. What does the campaign aim to achieve? A large part of the campaign objective is also to break a de facto price ceiling when it comes to how the brand is perceived and to align the cultural fuel and brand ethos with the new brand philosophy of ‘Nuts: Guts: Glory’ for its next phase of growth.

Micromax’s ability to premiumize itself lies in creating more meaning around what the brand stands for, its philosophy, how it sees its story, how it sees its users and how it delivers across the entire user brand experience.

Q. Do you have any plans of expanding operations beyond India? Yes, we have already incorporated an entity in Singapore. We have been studying various strategic overseas markets for the last three years now. We have already started engaging with brands in some of these markets. Slowly but surely you will hear more about our expansions beyond India.

Q. You are now a rarity at industry do’s as well, is this a result of the over hyped loss around the Parle account or is this a conscious effort on your part to stay away from the advertising industry? The Parle Agro- CLA split affected the industry gossip mongers more than it affected Parle Agro or Creativeland. We have moved on to business as usual. People who know me have learned to ignore the over-hype or gossip. It has nothing to do with being a rarity at industry dos.

Look, I am terrible at befriending, small talk etc. And, I don’t even drink alcohol any more. So, I don’t know what to do there once I get there. Also, instinctively, I can be quite politically incorrect and blunt. So, it would be kind of dangerous and not so exciting for me to be at all these ‘industry dos’.

I am better at focusing on what I am good at and what I enjoy.

Q. What are your thoughts on the new Frooti brand campaign? I’d prefer to pass this question.

Q. CLA charges a premium, at the same time you refrain from pitching how does this work in the real world? Creativeland doesn’t undercut itself or others. More times than often, we have won mandates despite of not being the L1 on cost at the procurement desk. We believe in creating great value for our clients and ourselves. We handpick our client partners as carefully as we pick our talent. It has been almost 9 years of Creativeland and every single year we have successfully delivered on setting benchmarks in every category we have brands to work with. Over the years, we have more and more clients inviting us to pitch and paying us a pitch fee for it. Every time a potential client says, “We are very excited to have you pitch and we are very keen to see the Creativeland perspective” I know the value the decision of sticking with a pitch fee has created for Creativeland.

Q. You haven’t participated in Goafest for 4 years now, 2012 was the last time CLA participated. Will we see CLA back at Goafest? The years we participated in Goafest, we have won big in front of a full house of participants. We have won big in competition with strong organizations like Ogilvy. Especially in the film and integrated campaign categories including the integrated grand prix in 2012. But, some of us also saw some amount of ganging up against winners, lobbying and alarming levels of scam ads by agencies desperate to win. Since we have a clearly different point of view on how awards must be conducted and instituted, I decided to step away. We haven’t missed being at the fest even once. In fact, staying away has added to our culture and focus.

Q. Coming back to Micromax, is this the first campaign that CLA has worked on, for a global audience? We have had several instances in the past when our campaigns have been used in overseas market/global audience. Audi, for instance. A lot of our work was considered and used in the Asian and European markets. The work we do for a lot of brands at Godrej gets used across the SAARC countries. Even as we speak, there are a few more global initiatives Creativeland is in the midst of in Africa, EU and US, apart from Micromax of course.

Q. Is this a very different task from some of the others that Creativeland has done for brands in the past? We’ve had invaluable experience of dealing with premiumization challenges across different categories.

We successfully repositioned Cinthol from being a popular segment soap to being at the premium end of the bathing soap category, making it a youthful and gender-neutral brand in the process. We did this by telling young India “Alive is Awesome.”

We re-positioned MTS from being a lower SEC, voice-driven brand for price-sensitive customers to becoming a data-focused brand for the digital youth of today, who consume gigabytes for breakfast.

We made MTS the definitive telecom brand for “The Internet Generation”, significantly growing its ARPU in the process. While these categories may work differently from each other, there’s no denying that building a consistent, meaningful brand identity and philosophy is key to capturing the hearts and wallets of contemporary, young India today.

And as this category slides further into parity product problems, brands will need to start differentiating themselves based on personality, based on how they make consumers feel about themselves, and how consumers identify with their beliefs.

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