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Startup 2.0

by April 4, 2016 General

A few years back, the advertising industry witnessed a slew of start-ups championed by admen who wanted to move out of mammoth networks. The likes of Taproot, Scarecrow, Curry-Nation and Enormous Brands saw the industry’s best creative brains take a plunge into the independent agency pool. Cut to 2015, where we once again see a plethora of ad start-ups mushrooming across the nation. However, what differentiates these from the predecessors is the fact that they label themselves as ‘holistic’ or ‘specialised’ firms rather than just an advertising agency. BrandWagon’s Meghna Sharma gets us the lowdown on this new breed of ad start-ups to understand how they are positioned, how they are faring and what they plan to do next:


Founders: Arijit Ray, Arindam Sengupta, Raju Gondhlekar

USP: Arriving at solutions which are simple, media/platform agnostic, visually brilliant and relevant

Major clients:, Furniturewalla, ABS Realtors, Tycoon Group, BARC (project), TATA Group (projects)

Presence: Mumbai

Staff strength: 10

Claim to fame: The complete package for

On challenges

Fortunately for us, the varied body of work we have been able to generate in a short period of time has helped us circumvent some of the barriers of a start-up set-up. The challenge now is growth and expansion. Going forward, the focus would be to grow our talent base in tandem with the revenue  and portfolio growth.

On expansion plans

We obviously want to expand our portfolio. We want to work on more categories and are in various stages of engagement/ discussion with quite a few clients. We are already working across geographies. One of our clients is based out of India. However, we would gradually start focussing on other markets in India.

Us versus the network

I think the positive side of all this is that clients no longer believe the best ideas will come from large structures. The process of democratisation of ideas has been taking shape and clients are seeking ideas from everywhere.

The one thing, however, that separates us from a large agency is the quality of our engagement.

Open to acquisition?

Not at this stage.


Founder: Satbir Singh

USP: Led by digital

Major clients: StartUpIndia, Ankur and Priyanka Modi, and Soothe Healthcare

Presence: Gurgaon

Staff strength: 8

Claim to fame: #StartUpIndia campaign

On challenges

Funnily, the challenges and hurdles we faced while starting out were not work or business related. As a self-funded agency, the challenges now are adjusting to credit periods and paying service tax before payments come in.

On expansion plans

We have a thousand square feet office right now. I’m hoping we will be in a two thousand square feet office by year-end!

Us versus the network

The biggest difference is that we do not have globally aligned businesses. We have been in business for a quarter now and no one from New York or Singapore has called to check on numbers.

Open to acquisition?

Yes, I am hoping to acquire a small digital agency.


Founders: S Yesudas, Ajit Nair, Amit Tripathi

USP: We allow brand owners to have a good understanding of the market ‘for’ consumers as against marketing ‘to’ consumers

Major clients: Unfortunately, since we have not made any public announcements yet, it would be difficult to name them

Presence: Mumbai (two offices)

Staff strength: 145*

Claim to fame: Most of our work is currently at the strategy development stage

On challenges

As a three month-old infant, we are still in the start-up phase. But the challenges in the very initial stages when we took our ‘unagency’ to the market were trying to explain what disruption in the advertising business is and why it is needed. The challenge we will face is the quality of data for us to base our evaluations on. Clients have to realise the current audience measurement is insufficient.

On expansion plans

We have set up a five year target for ourselves. We have identified 18 categories, which we believe can benefit from our thinking/work. We also plan to add around 10-12 team members every year for the next three years.

Us versus the network

The most important aspect is we are the ‘unagency’. We believe when businesses digitally transform, all ‘agents’ will meet with an untimely demise. So will the ad ‘agent’. And there are clear reasons for this claim. The other aspect is the freedom we are enjoying to chart our own course.

Open to acquisition?

We are open to acquisition — of acquiring or collaborating with like-minded companies/ professionals who can bring on board complimentary skill sets. At some stage we will also be open to being acquired.


Founders: Navin Talreja, Kawal Shoor

USP: To help brands connect with culture and people through big platforms

Major clients: Vini Cosmetics, Diageo-USL, RSPL, Red Chief Shoes, Indian Trading League

Presence: Mumbai

Staff strength: 21

Claim to fame: Fogg deo’s Kya chal raha hai, Fogg chal raha hai campaign, Dimaag ki league ad for Indian Trading League, and Red Chief Shoes’ Jooton mein mard ad.

On challenges

For us, it is always people first, work next, and profits last. Our initial challenge was to find and excite a bunch of talented individuals who share the same ideals as we do, and get the chemistry going. Our current endeavour is now to find the next set of clients who put a big idea at the centre of everything.

On expansion plans

We don’t have any targets because we are not owned by anybody. Our only endeavour is to keep creating work that is admired by consumers and that works for brands. As far as people are concerned, our strength should be about 28-30 by year end.

Us versus the network

In almost every way, we are different. Our people are different (hungry, self-motivated), our culture is different (informal, quality-obsessed, empowered), our work is hopefully on its way to being different (buzzy, yet rooted in strategy). And yes, our fee is different (at a premium compared to the top three agencies).

Open to acquisition?

As long as the culture matches, we are absolutely open to acquire.


Founders: Sudhir Nair, Navin Karkera

USP: The operating principle and philosophy. Have invested in building a planning process called ‘Aether’

Major clients: Scoot, EPPS Infotech

Presence: Mumbai

Staff strength: 30

Claim to fame: The Time to scoot campaign for cab aggregator Scoot

On challenges

When we started, the key one was to change one’s mindset from a being part of a large network to running your own show and on a totally different scale. Then came finances, followed by attracting the right talent. The most important one was to hunt for business.

The current challenge is to maintain the winning momentum and also grow simultaneously.

On expansion plans

We hope we can get clients across all major verticals — start-ups, e-commerce, FMCG, technology and BFSI. Our plan is to scale up to a team of 70 and open offices in Delhi and Bengaluru.

Us versus the network

Being independent gives you a lot of freedom to experiment and do things differently. At this point, we are able to take decisions quickly, particularly those involving investments, and even hire when we need to.

Open to acquisition?

Yes! But it is too early for us to think of acquisition. How about a strategic tie-up?


Founders: Nitin Suri, Chraneeta Mann

USP: A mobile first agency

Major clients: Vistara, Tango Media, Connected Homes, Yes Bank, Videocon, Titan, Hathway, BILT

Presence: Bengaluru, Mumbai, Gurgaon

Staff strength: 28

Claim to fame: Vistara’s Pehli Diwali campaign and #WomenWhoMakeUsFly, the rakhi campaign for Videocon

On challenges

The challenge was more to tell prospective clients about why we believed mobile and digital as a medium demands serious consideration as brand platforms, and not just ancillary mediums upon which to adapt a campaign. Now that we have clients on board, we are in the second stage of growth, which is about beefing up our teams, reinforcing a way of thinking and creative which can be ours as The Mob alone.

On expansion plans

The Mob never reveals its targets…but yes we have a plan in place in terms of where we see ourselves a year down the line. Our hunt for talent is more around looking for avid Instagrammers, app junkies, social surfers… you have got to live and breathe the medium if you plan to create on it effectively.

Us versus the network

Our brand ideation is our edge for sure, and to add to that we are much more agile and quicker on the response, being a leaner, sharper outfit. Of course one does not have the comfort of aligned businesses that are an advantage of being part of a large network, but at the same time, we have the freedom to work with like-minded clients and really be driven by the sort of work we would like to do, rather than by the finances it could bring in.

Open to acquisition?

It’s too early to think of acquisitions and sell outs…we’re having fun growing our own space right now. Yes there have been interested parties, but we are happy to be the undiluted ‘Mob’ for now.


Founders: Amit Akali, Praful Akali, Huzefa Roowala, Hammad Khan

USP: Full-service digital agency (web and app development, SEO, SEM, media, social media, analytics, CRM, content, in-house video development and production, mobile, etc)

Major clients: Kotak Securities, ITC, Citrus,, Franklin Templeton, Nilgai Foods’ FMCG brands Pico sauces and beverage brand Cocofly, and Wedding Wishlist

Presence: Mumbai

Staff strength: 80 (along with network agency Medulla)

Claim to fame: Flipkart’s Auto driver film, Bharat Matrimony’s Hazaron mein ek nahin, lakhon mein ek ad,

social media campaign Clear the fridge for Pico, Kotak Securities’ Agar magar se aage bado, and

#AskWhatElss for Franklin Templeton

On challenges

Very rarely does vision and planning match results. The good thing is that what we had envisioned is happening. The challenge has been getting the right people on board, which is why we launched only after we got the right digital talent. This year we are looking at leapfrogging into a much bigger team and building strong second levels for the founding team — that is the only way we’ll be able to do more without compromising on the work.

On expansion plans

We want to stop saying no to more business. We want to have an equally invested team, especially a strong second and third line to the leadership team. And then go after industries that our core team has a lot of experience in: automobile, telecom, FMCG and fashion.

Us versus the network

There’s no pressure, other than the pressure of doing great work. A network agency usually acquires business due to legacy or mandates won by other partners. With us, we have been closing brands purely on the merit of our ideas and the wholesomeness of our strategy.

Open to acquisition?

It is too early to even think of acquisition, but we are not closed to anything.


Founders: Pratap Bose, Mandeep Malhotra, Pradeep Uppalapati, Arjun Reddy

USP: One integrated solution for clients that are looking to drive business results

Major clients: Britannia, Lenovo, Birla Sun Life, Discovery Channel, IDBI, Aegon Religare, Dell, Reebok, Daikin, LIC, Nerolac, Tata Motors

Presence: Mumbai (two offices), Bengaluru, Delhi

Staff strength: 140

Claim to fame: Good Day Smilometer

On challenges

The challenges when we started out were all about finding the perfect team, raising funds, establishing a network of offices and getting our first set of clients in. Today, it is all about driving our integrated offerings to our clients, upping our creative game, managing people and driving the key business verticals.

On expansion plans

We will definitely be working across various client categories and we should be 200+ strong in terms of employees in the coming year. Our sense is that we would be present in Asia Pacific as well, with a couple of acquisitions/JVs in the digital and retail spaces.

Us versus the network

Actually there is not much of a difference. We have built many successful businesses within large networks and this one is no different. The only difference is that it is now OURS.

Open to acquisition?

Only when the time is right and only after we have built an organisation that runs on autopilot.