Bose speaks about his plan of action for his new entrepreneurial venture and the road ahead, which includes acquisitions and joint ventures
Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | June 23, 2015
Brand stories start on the street. They are inspired by the lives of consumers and the interesting mind spaces where they intersect with brands. The Social Street, a new venture, has forayed into the competitive ad world with a bang and a set vision to find, tell and amplify the stories, no matter what form they take. Set up by veteran ad-man Pratap Bose in partnership with outdoor professional Mandeep Malhotra, entrepreneur Arjun Reddy and Pradeep Uppalapati, ex-Senior Director and India Lead for Global Corporate Development Team at Accenture, The Social Street gears up to make sure that the stories are powerfully rooted in an authentic brand truth.
Positioned as a digitally driven agency, The Social Street claims to embrace the best in technology processes and systems across its service offerings, which include branded content & entertainment, shopper marketing, media, out-of-home, retail, sport marketing, events & promotions, rural marketing, trade marketing and youth marketing, with operations in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
BestMediaInfo.com spoke with Pratap Bose, Managing Director and Chairman, The Social Street, at the agencyâ€™s new office in Mumbai, which clearly defines the value and core essence of the agency. Bose speaks at length about the thought process behind setting up The Social Street, the agencyâ€™s offerings, business strategy and more. Excerpts:
Congratulations! What is the feeling as you launch your own agency?
Initially, when I quit DDB Mudra I never thought of starting my own agency and was into the usual stuff of attending interviews and flying across the world for CEO jobs in top agencies, but when I was returning from Singapore, a thought that crossed my mind was whether I would want to do the same thing again in terms of working for someone or a big agency. When I thought about it I realised that I did not want to do this same monotonous stuff. The plans got a bit delayed as there were some family issues, but by the end of the last year plans got finalised and here we are today.
Which cities are you launching in now and what are the other cities that you wish to cover?
As of now, we are launching with three offices out of which we have launched in Mumbai. We will be launching in Bangalore in the first week of July, then in Delhi on July 31. The nature of business is unique and clients also demand depth and spread across the country. As we go along, we will probably be looking towards entering cities like Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad for sure and then there will be satellite offices in the East, Chandigarh and more.
What exactly is The Social Street?
The Social Street does not mean that we are a social media agency, though it is positioned as a digitally driven agency, but it claims to embrace the best in technology processes and systems across its service offerings, which include branded content & entertainment, shopper marketing, media, out-of-home, retail, sports marketing, events & promotions, rural marketing, trade marketing and youth marketing.
Itâ€™s simply because these narratives play well on the streets that matter most to your brand and you, the ones that people inhabit. It may be the literal ones that they walk beside and drive on or the virtual highways that they surf. Also, there are the verbal paths that connect mouths to ears and sometimes all of the above. These are the streets that make brands social. And very few can help you navigate them as well as we can. We are also looking at adding advertising, digital and social to its offerings by the end of the financial year, with more offices spread out across the country.
Why do you call it an advertising conglomerate?
This is actually a part of the process that we go down the road. We have launched The Social Street with the above-mentioned 10 offerings under one integrated roof. Having said that, I underline integrated as there have been a lot of players that claim to be integrated but very few actually thrive on the philosophy and are truly integrated. We believe that all of our specialist functions come together as one integrated outfit for the client irrespective of what the brief is or marketing communication is. It is very important that you address a problem holistically. And if you have an expertise in the areas of branded content, social media, OOH or rural, then it is very important that all of these come as one. And then that specialist view or the holistic view of the problem is what plays a vital role.
What is the unique element that the agency will offer that will differentiate it from conventional agencies?
Firstly, we are in spaces where very few agencies are. Secondly, I donâ€™t think any agency offers all that we offer under one roof. Going further down the line, I would be looking at acquisitions and joint ventures. Where we are right now, we are in the process of looking at forming a joint venture in retail, looking to buy out a few digital agencies, looking to partner or buy equity in creative agencies, and this will help us in being present in the entire advertising gamut.
Could you run us through the rationale behind the name?
The name â€˜The Social Streetâ€™ springs from the thought that every brandâ€™s story starts on the street. They are inspired by the lives of consumers. They are born on the crossroads, where the lives of consumers meet the purpose of the brand.
We had been toying around with the name and brand identity for the last 45 days, but nothing great was striking our minds; there were the weirdest of names that were coming across. But, we are in a world that thrives on co-creation, and two of advertisingâ€™s most sought after names â€“ Josy Paul, Chairman & CCO, BBDO India, and Bobby Pawar, Director & CCO, Publicis South Asia â€“ came in to help with the name â€˜The Social Streetâ€™ and its brand identity, respectively.
How many clients have you locked in till date? Please specify the names too.
Though we have already started getting businesses, it would be unfair on my part to share the names and details because of legal formalities. More than that, this is the time of launch and itâ€™s the time to tell the world that we are ready now and are open for business. We will be present in all possible industries.
Setting up a full-fledged agency costs big money. Who are the investors in The Social Street?
Again, I would have to refrain from talking about it because it is not appropriate right now! Also, I believe in talking to investors who would associate with us for the long term as it is not about how much they would like to invest, but about how much would they want to be with us. It also depends upon how much money we would need in the second or third round of funding as it is not that we require a lot of money since our business is a profitable one, unlike advertising and digital, so we expect to break even soon. We would require big money when we get into acquisitions.
It is often said that an agency is as good as its team. So who are the top advertising professionals that are in the team?
We have hired excellent people, but no big names as of now. We do need a Chief Creative Officer, but because of the nature of the business that I am in, one Chief Creative Officer will not be able to handle all the verticals as we are not a creative agency. We certainly need a strong creative team, a strong ideation team and a strong planning team to work with and the process of hiring is still on.
How many people across levels are you starting off with? And what is the manpower pattern you are looking at in the next few months?
We already have around 50-odd people across our three offices, out of which there are around 30 in Mumbai, 15 in Delhi and about 5 or 6 in Bangalore, which will grow eventually. We are looking for a team of 150 people by the end of the first year and we aim at growing to be a team of 450 by the fifth year.
Is it true that a large number of people from DDB Mudra have joined you? How many exactly?
It is not true that we are hiring only from DDB Mudra, but we have hired all those we should have from there and do not wish to hire the rest! But we are looking at hiring people who would add value to us from various other places.
Who will take the leadership for Creative and Digital?
Digital would be easy as we would look at acquiring and then we can look at someone from within that company. The Head of Creative has not been decided on yet, but we are on the lookout. We have already hired 5 to 6 of the best creative people, but they are yet to join. Also, I would see it difficult to make one person the head because the business is very different with different kinds of specialisations. But with time, if the need be, we will take a call.
Is media planning and buying also a part of The Social Streetâ€™s offerings? If so, who will lead Media?
We have already hired four people in media buying and planning. The reason behind getting into Media is that it plays a vital role. For me, Media is strategically and critically important for all the functions that I have. Media is like the glue that binds everything, hence if you are not strong there then you would by missing on certain things.
To sum up, will The Social Street be more like Ogilvy or nearer to the DDB Mudra model?
Neither of these two! Agencies take a different form with time and growth.