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Strategy in advertising should not be looked through a complicated approach

Yousuf Rangoonwala, Founder and Head of Strategy at Kakkoii Strategy, Communications Technology, and Entertainment, talks about his new venture and the challenges traditional advertising agencies face today

Yousuf Rangoonwala

With a lot of uncertainty during the pandemic, clients realised they need specialists who knew what they were doing to complete specific tasks, said Yousuf Rangoonwala, Founder and Head of Strategy at Kakkoii Strategy, Communications, Technology, and Entertainment, who started his own venture ‘Kakkoii’ after 16 years in advertising.

He was earlier with Famous Innovations as the Head of Strategy and decided to quit in March 2020. “I had plans to move to Bengaluru from Mumbai and had informed Famous that I was going to start something in July.  But in April, I realised why to wait till July,” he said. Rangoonwala says while he always had entrepreneurship in the back of his mind, he only took the plunge after cultivating courage and defeating his fears. Within two months of starting out, they already had two projects in hand.  

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“A pandemic gave rise to a large number of brands and startups, compared to the old, large, and traditional organisations. A  lot of people took advantage of the economic truth about a crisis, economic depression, and recession which is that if you start during adversity, then things can only get better. We started getting calls from a lot of startups with a lot of money. Everyone thought the pandemic would take time to go away and India and other countries would require time to regain normal pace. They wanted to use this time to invest as much as they could in building the foundations of brands, which usually they don't get during normal times because they have to rush through things,” he said. 

Speaking about the name, Kakkoii, Rangoonwala said, “It is actually the Japanese slang and colloquial word for anything that's cool or trendy in pop culture. I discovered the word in Japan. Whenever we tried to search for anything cool people would say ‘Kakkoii’. So it can be a  person, thing, or a phenomenon. That's the whole concept of brand building and narrative prediction today.  If it's not Kakkoii then it becomes irrelevant. That's our philosophy. So I used it as an inspiration and when I started my venture, I thought it will be Kakkoii, so that we can make brands as cool, trendy, popular, and as much a part of the current culture as we need to.”

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Speaking about some of the projects Kakkoii has been a part of, Rangoonwala said they helped in creating brand purpose for 7rivers, a craft beer brand owned by AbInBev. “We're very proud of it because it's turned out to be excellent. The work was so good that the purpose got approved in the first meeting itself,” he said.

Kakkoii also did the brand purpose exercise for a Youtube channel called Pocket Change of Civic Studio, which wants to encourage democracy in India with humour and a Hinglish-first approach. Neeta D'Souza and Nikhil Pillai worked as strategists on the initiative and Durgesh Singh, writer of Gullak's second season on SonyLIV, as the writer for the name and tagline for the project.

“We were involved with them right from the research till the naming of the channel, the tagline, the manifesto, writing, the design strategy, and the design brief,” he said. They spoke to six different experts like Aakar Patel, political scholar, and journalist, a stand-up comedian because the channel was about humour, a professor of civics and history in a small town in Rajasthan, and also spoke to the founder of an influencer marketing company about how to monetise a brand like this because it's not regular content.

Future plans

Rangoonwala said they further plan to add strategy, communications, design, and entertainment divisions.  “Entertainment is our next biggest priority. We want to get into entertainment production, in fact, we have some very important conversations going on with a few OTT platforms. We want to get into a very interesting concept called socially useful film production for OTT brands and advertising by this year. We want to set up Kakkoii entertainment for socially useful film production, which means that our production house will either work through the subject or the process of production and add value to society when we take up work.”

In the technology division, they are looking to offer solutions to brands that are not just Digital Marketing. He said they are working with people who can develop AI and tech-related products which can solve a variety of problems for brands like identifying counterfeit products to change the ADAS technology that is used in the cameras of cars. He said their preferred design partners are Thought Over Design which is a design studio run by Anushka Sani.

“There is a reason why we are doing these three divisions of business strategy and communication, technology and entertainment that goes back to some principles of Kakkoii. We believe that we are in times today where what matters most is everyone’s narrative. It matters so much that advertising is not the only asset to create narratives for the brand. Everything that the business does, even when it solves a problem for people, contributes to the narrative of the organisation. When it invests in certain kinds of entertainment that's the kind of narrative that it creates. We think that entertainment and technology are the future. Therefore, if we are not a part of it, how will we be able to create narratives for brands and organisations,” he explained.

When asked what makes Kakkoii different from other consultancies, Rangoonwala said they don’t have corporate greed and are not afraid of failure. “We will do what is necessary for the brand but we have no greed. We are not going to be that startup that wants to get Rs 10 crores in the first year. We want to do quality work.”

He stated they do not want to have the toxicity he has witnessed in advertising.  “We don’t work on weekends and we tell clients that. In the last nine months, we've actually worked only four to five weekends at the most and that's only on Saturdays.”

“A lot of people in advertising often use work to compensate for a lack of emotional fulfillment in their own lives. That's something we don't want to encourage at Kakkoii.”

Speaking about their hiring strategy, he said they did not hire much in the beginning and used a collaborative model. They were working with people who were available for freelance projects or could commit three months.

He also spoke about hiring strategists and said,  “For a long time in India, the strategy had been, and for certain agencies still is, connected to esoteric language and complicated thinking. This is a bizarre reality. It's funny that strategists are supposed to be people who can think smart, creatively, and sharply,  but strategy teams in a lot of agencies had become arrogant people who used to behave like the intellectuals or the department of smarts in the agency. That was because a lot of people were hiring them, and they were looking at how many books they had read, especially complicated ones that really had very little to do with an actual understanding of human psychology, culture, brand, and business building.”

He said the ability to think has very little to do with or should not be confined to the ability to read. “It comes from experiences, interactions, from being on the ground and along with it, of course, reading.  So therefore we, as an agency, look for the ability to think, not the ability to read. We look for simplicity and clarity, not complication and esoteric language. That's the kind of approach we have to strategy and the strategists we hire.” He stated that even clients who were from IIT’s have appreciated them for writing strategies in languages they understand. 

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