‘WE ARE THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE OF AGEN­CIES’

Impact - - INTERVIEW - BY SAMARPITA BAN­ER­JEE

The Glitch, a nine-year-old agency founded by Varun Dug­gi­rala and Ro­hit Raj has re­cently been in the news, cour­tesy its ac­qui­si­tion by GroupM. We talk to the two founders and the CEO, Pooja Jauhari, to un­der­stand how the new-age agency works, what makes them dif­fer­ent and their plans for the fu­ture

Back in 2009, when the world was hit by the re­ces­sion, col­lege batch­mates Varun Dug­gi­rala and Ro­hit Raj de­cided to quit their jobs at Chan­nel V after it de­cided to pivot away from mu­sic. While the tim­ing for tak­ing such a step would seem in­ap­pro­pri­ate and risky to most, for the duo, it turned out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise.

“We were told by a lot of peo­ple that it was the worst time for us to make the shift,” says Dug­gi­rala. How­ever, he adds that it turned out to be the best time be­cause that was when clients were on the look­out for smarter so­lu­tions. “And that is ex­actly what we were equipped to pro­vide them with. At that point of time, no­body was do­ing much in the Dig­i­tal space. We started off work­ing with a set of clients that we al­ready knew, mainly from the TV net­work. Grad­u­ally, thanks to word-of­mouth, peo­ple saw the kind of work we were do­ing, and liked it,” he adds.

In the last nine years, The Glitch has come a long way. Hav­ing started off as a pro­duc­tion house for the web, it evolved into an in­no­va­tion com­pany for the dig­i­tal space, then to a dig­i­tal agency and fi­nally to its cur­rent form, a 360-de­gree in­te­grated com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany. It was prob­a­bly this con­stant adap­tion to change and the qual­ity of work which they came up with, that fi­nally led to its ac­qui­si­tion by GroupM re­cently. Dug­gi­rala stresses that the evo­lu­tion has been an im­por­tant step in trans­form­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion into what it is to­day, and is per­haps what dif­fer­en­ti­ates them from a lot of other agen­cies out there. “To­day we don’t live in a world where you draw up a struc­ture and clients come and work within that. You need to cre­ate your struc­ture based on what clients want. We were able to do that for our clients, which worked in our favour,” says Dug­gi­rala.

THE JOUR­NEY SO FAR

It was at a mar­ket­ing con­fer­ence that Dug­gi­rala and Raj met Pooja Jauhari, the agency’s CEO. They ex­changed cards be­cause Jauhari liked what the duo had to of­fer and wanted them to make a pitch for the or­ga­ni­za­tion she was work­ing for then. Once the pitch was made, their work im­pressed her and she wanted to be a part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. “It was a great pitch; al­beit with some el­e­ments where I thought they could im­prove. For me, it was an op­por­tu­nity. I reached out to them and told them, “Hey give me a job and I will show you how to do it.” I lob­bied for my job be­cause I saw the work that they were do­ing and saw its po­ten­tial in the fu­ture. I wanted to be a part of all the ac­tion and wanted to use my ex­pe­ri­ence to see how we could make it far more ef­fec­tive as an agency.”

This was a time when Dig­i­tal agen­cies were given a much smaller piece of the mar­ket­ing pie. Jauhari con­tin­ues, “Brand man­agers were not talk­ing to us con­tin­u­ously and we re­alised that if we weren’t talk­ing to them through the year, we weren’t im­por­tant part­ners to them. When we look back on that time now, we re­alised that we would never have the ‘im­por­tant chair’ dur­ing client meet­ings and would sit in a cor­ner dur­ing the in­ter­ac­tions. We re­alised very soon that the only way we could move from that cor­ner to an im­por­tant spot was if we showed them how to sell the prod­uct. It’s all about ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing and that’s been the game-changer for us. We help sell prod­ucts cre­atively.”

How­ever, it wasn’t re­ally easy for a Dig­i­tal agency to sell them­selves in a mar­ket that was still just learn­ing to grap­ple with the light­en­ing pace at which the Dig­i­tal ecosys­tem was evolv­ing. Says Raj, “Frankly, when we started, the first few years were spent only on ed­u­cat­ing brands. But that was the space we came from. Chan­nel V and MTV taught us the art of be­ing nim­ble, ag­ile and fast. We are the gen­er­a­tion that saw the trans­for­ma­tion from one chan­nel to mul­ti­ple chan­nels, to the even­tual move to smart­phones. It was easy for us to work around those pieces, and that clearly gave us the edge.”

How­ever, things are much dif­fer­ent now with more and more ad­ver­tis­ers open­ing up to not only in­vest­ing more on Dig­i­tal but also ex­per­i­ment­ing with its dif­fer­ent forms. To­day, the agency has ac­quired an im­pres­sive port­fo­lio of clients in­clud­ing Net­flix, Nokia, HUL, Linkedin, PayU, Star In­dia and Marico, among many other in­ter­na­tional brands from the en­ter­tain­ment, beauty and FMCG sec­tors.

So what is it that dif­fer­en­ti­ates them from other Dig­i­tal agen­cies in the coun­try? “From the very be­gin­ning, our aim has been to make sure that once we meet a client, they should never leave us. We should be able to do ev­ery­thing for them. And that’s what we do, we build ex­per­tise in our area of cre­ative work that can re­ally take care of end-to-end so­lu­tions for our clients,” says Jauhari. “We are the Swiss Army knife of agen­cies,” quips Raj with a smile.

The agency to­day is 265-mem­ber strong. With of­fices in Mum­bai and Delhi cur­rently, it’s eyeing the Ban­ga­lore mar­ket for an ex­pan­sion soon. More­over, it’s also plan­ning

to en­ter two in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

LIFE AFTER THE AC­QUI­SI­TION

While ac­qui­si­tions of in­de­pen­dent agen­cies usu­ally bring with it an ob­vi­ous fear of the loss of power and in­de­pen­dence, when asked how things have changed post the ac­qui­si­tion, all three an­swered al­most in uni­son, “Noth­ing re­ally.” The agency had been ap­proached by a lot of other agen­cies and net­works be­fore they fi­nally said yes to GroupM.

So what was it that made them say yes to GroupM? Raj says, “GroupM com­ple­mented us. Our strength has been cre­ative strat­egy. But dis­tri­bu­tion hasn’t been our key strength and that’s where GroupM came in. More­over, they come with a great un­der­stand­ing of data. We are al­ways look­ing at the fu­ture and try­ing to fig­ure out

how to stay rel­e­vant and mod­ern. And the fu­ture is go­ing to be data-led.”

More­over, Dug­gi­rala says that it was the mind­set that GroupM ap­proached them with that made them say “yes”. “They came into the equa­tion say­ing, ‘We like what you are do­ing and it’s ob­vi­ously work­ing.’ They wanted to help us grow, and work with us to cre­ate bet­ter and more ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions for clients. That was where we re­ally found com­mon ground. GroupM also has a strong fo­cus on con­tent – an ex­per­tise it has built upon for years. There is great syn­ergy in that re­spect as well, and all the pieces felt right,” says Dug­gi­rala.

Adds Jauhari, “They are also a great set of peo­ple. In our first meet­ing with GroupM, the way they spoke to us made it ob­vi­ous that they were aware of the im­por­tance of the work that we do and

were also aware of how this part­ner­ship could blos­som. We were not sit­ting there on a ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble talk­ing num­bers, but were re­ally talk­ing about the fu­ture of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

It’s al­ready been over two months since the ac­qui­si­tion. So how have things worked out so far? Dug­gi­rala says, “We spent the first two months speak­ing to peo­ple across all GroupM agen­cies - across cat­e­gories and func­tions. It has been over­whelm­ing to see a lot of pos­i­tiv­ity and ca­ma­raderie be­cause they are all peo­ple who re­ally want to work with us and vice-versa. We have a com­mon goal – that of com­ing out with the best so­lu­tions for our clients. We have al­ready started off on a bunch of projects to­gether, both in the con­tent space and on in­di­vid­ual brands.”

Ro­hit Raj, Varun Dug­gi­rala and Pooja Jauhari

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