IMPACT's 40 Under Forty Entrepreneurs: Building Business
IMPACT from the exchange4media Group launches the first edition of its ‘40 Under Forty’ list to recognise extraordinary achievers who are 40 years of age and below in the Indian Media, Marketing and Advertising industry
The disruption caused by the advent of the Internet saw a new crop of businesses emerge as a slew of youngsters relied on innovative ideas to turn entrepreneur. While the majority of entrepreneurs on IMPACT’s 40 Under Forty list belong to the Digital space, the presence of Akshaara Lalwani of Communicate India, Indranil Das Blah of Kwan Entertainment and Kunal Kishore Sinha of Value 360 Communications indicates that young entrepreneurs are also making their presence felt in offline domains. Also worth making a note is that while some of these players have sold out to corporate biggies, and earned big bucks along the way, some still hold out and fly high their independent spirit.
IMPACT from the exchange4media Group launches the first edition of its ‘40 Under Forty’ list to recognise extraordinary achievers who are 40 years of age and below in the Indian Media, Marketing and Advertising industry. Below are the entrepreneurs revealing the deep motivators and personal qualities that drove them to make their big idea a reality.
SUVEER BAJAJ and PRATIK GUPTA
Age: 30, 30
“The industry has become extremely cluttered and the most challenging aspect is how to stand out from the rest,” is how Suveer Bajaj of FoxyMoron assesses the media industry today. Just 30, Bajaj already has over a decade of experience and has worked with a plethora of top-notch brands that include the L'Oreal Group, Castrol, the SAB Miller Group, Fosters, Asian Paints, the Zee Entertainment Group, Bisleri, several brands from P&G, Motorola, Snapdeal, Bajaj, Britannia, Ather Energy, etc.
Today, as co-founder of digital marketing agency Foxymoron (which he set up along with Pratik Gupta and two others when he was just 19), Bajaj’s responsibilities stretch across all avenues - from building the Media Buying and Planning vertical, Search, Data Analytics and Video Content Production and Strategic Alliances. He strategically consults with brands to build the digital architecture and ecosystem for what brands do across digital and new media platforms alongside managing the life-cycle of brands and digital products across the board. The focus is on ensuring that marketing and communication campaigns are ROI-centric, by leveraging the understanding of creative and content along with a strong grip on technology to deliver efficient, unique and logical media solutions. This has helped in the acquisition of clients such as Hershey’s, The Castrol Group, COTY, Burger King, the Discovery Channel Group and GoAir.
A campaign that Bajaj is “most proud about” is one for HBO India for the TV premiere of Suicide Squad. The campaign was executed for only the Mobile platform, utilising WhatsApp as the primary medium - a platform that is used by over 200 million people in India on a daily basis. “We wanted to break away from the clutter by taking the Suicide Squad characters into the audience’s personal space. Hence, we decided to get them to the platform they give first priority to – WhatsApp,” he says.
Gupta’s primary role at FoxyMoron is to look after new business acquisition, strategic alliances and reinforcing the current client roster. This includes bringing the best of digital services to potential and existing clients through creative ideation, effective execution and management of resources.
Prior to FoxyMoron, Gupta worked at Balaji Telefilms Pvt. Ltd. as a Business Development Executive, creating new concepts for potential business opportunities. He has also worked with Castrol India Ltd. where his role included researching market data with regard to the consumption patterns of various vendors that Castrol dealt with.
Liaising with the clients’ agency partners to derive media-agnostic unique solutions has helped establish FoxyMoron as a holistic media and communications agency, going beyond Digital to ATL, BTL, sponsorships, proprietary events and technology.
For Bajaj, success comes from good instinct. “Never overthink anything! You must be willing to embrace the unknown, to experiment with scenarios, be patient and trust that good instinct will help find the way forward.”
Founder & CEO, Communicate India
In an industry where few Indian PR agencies exist, 23-year old Akshaara Lalwani founded Communicate India as a home-grown Public Relations agency with just Rs 10,000 as capital. Seven years on, Lalwani has built an agency that has over 100 employees and works with MNCs and blue chip companies including Hershey’s, Mindshare, SKF Bearings and The World Bank, among others. Lalwani considers herself a modern day David in the world of media Goliaths!
A recipient of multiple awards, her agenda last year was to move Communicate India away from a traditional PR firm to a digitally transformed, new-age agency. She also developed three new business verticals, growing by 100 per cent, year on year. Reflecting on the many campaigns she has worked on, Lalwani is “extremely proud of” the Lux Golden Rose Awards which reached over 1 billion organic impressions across platforms.
Looking back at a milestone in her journey, she recounts an incident which happened just a year into the business that would define what entrepreneurship was for her. “We were a small team of five people and a day before an important press conference for a leading automobile brand, the entire team quit, barring one person. We also had two events that were scheduled to take place after that. It was at this point that I reflected on what I am really dealing with and what entrepreneurship is all about. It is not about client satisfaction and cheques coming in, but about the darkest of days when you are pushed to think that this could be the end of the road, but you have to motivate yourself to fight it through. Needless to say, we managed to pull off the events and came out stronger than before,” Lalwani recounts.
“Being successful is about finding the best in people. Everyone has his/her shortcomings; we need to accept this and look beyond to identify strengths and bring out the best in each person to collectively achieve individual and organisational goals.”
INDRANIL DAS BLAH
Founding Partner & Co-CEO at KWAN, & CEO- Mumbai City FC
In 2009, Indranil Das Blah co-founded KWAN Entertainment & Marketing Solutions. He played a pivotal role in establishing KWAN as a premier entertainment agency, as well as in its eventual evolution into a diversified entertainment marketplace which connects investors, brands and artistes. Blah was recently promoted as KWAN’s Co-CEO.
What inspired him was watching the movie Jerry Macguire about a sports agent and his relationship with an American football player, played by Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr respectively. “Jerry Macguire made me realize that one, there is a career to be made in sports in India; and two, you can stick to your ideals and values and yet be successful,” says Blah. Today, KWAN works across multiple domains such as celebrity management, live entertainment, sports, TV, licensing, movie packaging, music and regional cinema. KWAN exclusively manages the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Hrithik Roshan, Sonam Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, Sania Mirza, Shraddha Kapoor & Sushant Singh Rajput, to name a few.
Blah is one of the leading minds in the country when it comes to brand sales, celebrity endorsements, and sports marketing. Under his leadership and guidance, the sports team at KWAN established Ranbir Kapoor’s Indian Super League (ISL) football club, Mumbai City FC, as one of the strongest non-cricket sports brands in India. He also supervises the brand management of Sanjay Dutt’s cricket franchise, Leo Lions, which is part of the Masters’ Champions League in the UAE. He has also been deeply involved in over 200 sponsorship and endorsement deals over the last five years for the various athletes on Kwan’s roster.
In April this year, Kwan Entertainment partnered with sports marketing and entertainment veteran Ravi Krishnan to launch KWANAbler, a new company to provide end-to-end support for global sports, media and entertainment brands, companies and investors tapping the Indian market.
For Blah, success is in the detail. “The work dearest to me has been the birth and launch of ISL club, Mumbai City FC. My team and I have been responsible for the brand identity of the club, starting from the logo creation to marketing campaigns across four seasons now. Great detail has gone into making the club recognisable not just in Mumbai but across India and I am happy to say that the club today is a strongly visible brand across the sports and entertainment landscape of India,” he says.
Co-Founder and Managing Director APAC, Httpool
A serial entrepreneur and an angel investor, Sunny Nagpal has successfully built Httpool’s operations ground up in India, as a JV partner, with a paid up capital of Rs 3 lakh to a multi-million dollar enterprise, engaging over 350 top brands, major agencies and 450+ local publishers. Nagpal currently manages Httpool in India and leads its expansion in APAC. He also leads Httpool AdTech Platforms and is involved in development of a cross-channel marketing platform that would enable execution of campaigns across all channels and devices from one single point.
On his journey so far, Nagpal says, “The decision to start my own business before I got tired of learning through jobs was the turning point of my career. My determination to win and patience to work by the book from the ground up was required. I had both. So I got down to business without cutting any corners.”
Among other achievements last year, Nagpal led the pitch and won the exclusive mandate to represent Twitter and resell Twitter ads in India. He co-founded Httpool Indonesia and Httpool Malaysia and also led the winning pitch for Twitter official Ad Sales partner for both these South Asian markets. Within two quarters of the Twitter association, Httpool exceeded expectations on all parameters to the tune of 180% across some markets in the region. In addition, Nagpal was also responsible for establishing exclusive/preferred ad sales partner deals with major publishers and media tech companies like Wittyfeed, Happn and Adara in the Indian market. Httpool in India has registered growth of 55% (YoY) and executed over 3,200 campaigns in the last 12 months from 375+ top brands, engaging all major agencies and co-operating with over 300 publishers. Nagpal successfully led the majority stake sale of Httpool India (as part of a global deal) to IMS- Sony Pictures Networks in 2017-18 (he held 49% in Httpool India prior to acquisition). Outside work, Nagpal loves swimming, diving, playing snooker and writing poetry. He is not just flying high at work but literally too, as he is pursuing a Private Pilot License course at Bombay Flying Club.
For Nagpal, challenges bring success. “Challenges in life have always inspired me. I believe in taking the bull by the horns. Hunt for challenges because that is on which the opportunities ride,” he says.
Hitesh Chawla is the founder and CEO of SilverPush, an AI-driven multi-screen advertising platform. He has been driving the overall vision, strategy and products at SilverPush. Under his leadership, SilverPush has worked with more than 1000+ brands and has expanded a true-blue Indian company to eight countries, all in a single year.
Commenting on the firm’s remarkable growth last year and his personal achievement, he says, “My biggest achievement is that I have built an amazing team and the credit goes to the team for the work done. In the last one year, we expanded the company internationally to Southeast Asia and Japan, and in the Africa market. International expansion from India is considered to require a lot of investment. The wonderful part of our expansion was that it was achieved profitably, by signing up clients even before we launched in those countries.”
In addition to expanding to newer markets, Chawla grew revenues by 2.5x last year and doubled the team which grew from 60 to 125 people. The company also raised fresh investment from Japan. He says, “The feeling of creating something meaningful in life, and then being able to grow it is unique. Building a company provides that feeling at every step, since every day presents a fresh set of challenges."
An important moment for SilverPush came when the company was selected for the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley. The time spent in Silicon Valley changed Chawla’s perspective on how SilverPush as a company was being built. What SilverPush also prides itself on is that the company has always led the industry with innovations, and this year, another new product is being launched. Chawla has two patents to his name in the US.
For Chawla, success means being constant. “The best advice I got while building SilverPush is to swing for the fences and not sell short. I also draw inspiration from a quote by Walt Disney, ‘The difference between winning and losing, is most often not quitting’.”
This is Part One of the list of entrepreneurs from IMPACT's 40 Under Forty list.
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