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With Communicate2.0, I wanted to help Indian companies use digital in advertising: Vivek Bhargava, DAN

From the company’s first client Muchhad Paanwala to getting acquired by DAN, from selling internet connection at the company’s first pitch to focusing on content, Bhargava shares iProspect’s 20-years journey with

Vivek Bhargava and Rubeena Singh

iProspect, which started as Ultimedia and then changed to Communicate2.0, has completed 20 years in the country. Going back to 1997, it was around the same time when the internet boom had come to India and there was nothing called digital marketing then.

Recalling why he launched a digital agency at that time, Vivek Bhargava, now CEO, DAN Performance Group, said, “I wanted to help Indian companies to use technology and digital in advertising and marketing and I think the job is still not done. I am still helping the clients.”

After much effort, when the agency was set up, Bhargava got his first official client as Muchhad Paanwala, who told him, “make me the first pan vendor on the internet”. Bhargava obliged him by creating his website. The popularity of the pan vendor shot up and there were busloads of tourists visiting his shop.

The company was launched as Ultimedia in 1997. The legal entity is still called Ultimedia. Why the name change? “Search was not very good in those days and it used to give out results like ‘multimedia’. We would not get the first rank and it was embarrassing to be a search marketing company and not being able to get listed up on the ranks. At that time, 2.0 was something that was too talked about. Also, I thought that this is second level of communication wherein it was a bidirectional communication. Hence, we changed to Communicate2.0,” said Bhargava.

He jokingly added that he could ultimately sell his domain name for $7,000, which was a lot of money in those days. So, the company changed to Communicate2.0 in 1999. Thereon, DAN’s acquisition changed it to iProspect Communicate2.0, and then iProspect.

Bhargava shares the tale of his first formal pitch, “I made the first pitch of my life which went on for three hours and it was to convince the client that he needs a website for his company. The result was that the client said, ‘You have convinced me that I should have a website, but I am not sure if it is now. But everyone has been telling me to have an internet connection at office and I will get that done now.’ I ended up selling an internet connection, instead of a website (laughs).”

Today, Bhargava feels is a time that a CEO can afford to miss all other meetings but not the one that discusses the company’s digital strategies. Such is the change in people’s mindset about digital.

When digital was almost a non-existent entity in India, Bhargava happened to visit Paris for some trade fair and he took inspiration from there. “The way the developed countries were using technology was something that impressed me big time. I thought that I can revolutionise advertising and marketing and came back to India with a changed mindset,” said Bhargava.

Digital is omnipresent today and there is no choice left with people but to chase digital. Bhargava believes that soon, digital will power everything in the world, whether it is through AI, internet or anything else. “We will slowly stop distinguishing between digital advertising and advertising – the way we came down from digital camera to camera.”

A lot of companies were born in the dotcom boom but most of them perished. Bhargava said that possibly they are the only survivors from those days.

What next?

The founder of Ultimedia/ Communicate2.0/ iProspect Bhargava has moved on to a larger role within DAN in December 2016, while Rubeena Singh stepped into his shoes as the CEO, iProspect.

What next from here? “Lots more. We have seen a huge growth in the past five years, almost by 300 per cent and we want to continue that. We have always stayed ahead on the curve and brought services to clients much ahead of others in India. Content is something that we are very focused on. It will be about content, optimising with creatives. We want to reach a person at a time when he has the maximum possibility of engagement. Measurability, I think, is not just measuring, but what behaviour and actions were taken and the insights generated by it. There is also scope of acquiring skill sets.”

Speaking more about her 10-month journey at iProspect, she added, “It is challenging when you inherit a high-performing big business. It’s a challenge to continue that growth and scale the business to even newer heights. Digital is fast evolving and keeping abreast with that is crucial. Amongst the many things we do to stay relevant, developing our technology and tools is an important one.”

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