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We’re aiming to grow by 30% in 2022: Shradha Agarwal of Grapes sat down for a chat with Agarwal, CEO and Co-Founder, Grapes, who is counting heavily on the work culture of her organisation as part of her growth strategy

Shradha Agarwal

The biggest strategy for growth today is people and work culture is very important in ensuring sustained growth, said Shradha Agarwal, CEO and Co-Founder, Grapes.

Talking to on the question of the resignation spree ongoing in India, Agarwal said it is indeed very problematic and steps need to be taken to ensure employees feel at home and motivated to work. 

“Because of ‘The Great Indian resignation’, people are moving like crazy. Someone who didn’t know that I am the Co-Founder asked me when am I planning to move out of Grapes,” chuckled Agarwal as she spoke about the importance of work culture. 

She said, “People are moving out like crazy and which is why the work quality is getting affected. And in the end, it’s the client who suffers. So, the biggest strategy for growth today has to be people. And hence, culture for me is very important. Because otherwise, your people will never stay with you. Whether you give them more money or you give them any kind of perks.” 

Along with work culture, Agarwal also spoke about her new role as the CEO, what her plans for the future are and how the agency is slated to expand. 

While responding to a query, with so many agencies now pulling up their socks to deliver the choicest of creative work, how Grapes make a difference, she mentioned an instance and said, “Once a client asked me, why should I select you? And I was fumbling. I had answers that I have 3 offices, 250 people on board, so many clients and this is my case study work etc. But I think that would have been in the pitch of any other agency.” 

“So, I went back and I called up all my clients. And one thing that everybody told me was that one thing that Grapes has done really well is – they’re literally like our right hand. They know us, they understand us, they know that the client's KRA is our KRA and we stand with them. From there we got – ‘We own it’ as our tagline. And this is how Grapes make a difference.”

Further speaking about her checklist as the CEO, she said, “It consists of three simple steps: 

1 I want to own the business problems of my clients.

2 I want to build a culture for my people. One should not join Grapes because it has big clients etc. One should join because of the culture. 

3 Do great work and set an example for the industry. 

These are the three things I want to do for all the stakeholders of Grapes.”

Further, she narrated how organisations, and service business specially, can flourish by focusing on their people. She said, “You need to see how you can plan individual goals with that of the organisation. Give your employees that vision of why they should come to your organisation. Once you have people sorted, growth will come. See, I am in the service industry which is why manhours are important for me. Once that is sorted, business will come.” 

With people and work culture in mind, she explained the business goal that Grapes is chasing. She spoke about the two most important business goals and said, “Actually, there are two – revenue and awards. We want to ensure our revenue increases and second is, we want to do more international awards. We’ve done a lot of domestic awards but we never applied for international awards. Because obviously the entry fee is very high and you literally have a budget set for that.” 

“So, this year onwards we want to go a little aggressive about awards. We’ll participate in Goafest and Cannes next year. We did take part in Spikes this year,” she added. 

To achieve her business goals, Agarwal is also planning to onboard more talent. She said, “We are hiring across levels, across different teams. We are looking forward to a lot of senior people joining in. 

“In fact, the hiring strategy that we’ve applied in the creative team is in the offline world. We have a duo team. For instance, there’s always an art and copy duo. We’ve also made our 5-member HR team into a 15-members team and they will not be only focusing on hiring. Because it’s not just about talent acquisition. It’s about engagements, growth, payrolls and a lot more,” she stated further. 

While speaking about various teams and people that have recently joined Grapes, she said, “In the media team also we’ve hired more people like Priyank Narain has joined us as Executive Creative Director, Partha Gupta has joined in as Creative Director, Shradha Bhatia as Business Director and Earned Media Head, (PR, Influencer & ORM).” 

“We’re also looking at hiring a senior strategic planner to lead the strategy team. We’ll also be hiring strategy directors, strategy head and data head. We’ve hired creative directors in content and visual but this year we’re looking at art also. Right now, we’re 200 people and I am looking at taking it to 300.” 

Hinting at the prospects of a few mergers and acquisitions in the ongoing year, Agarwal said, “2019 and 2020 were the same revenues. By 2022, we are aiming to grow by another 30%. In fact, we’re also looking at some smart mergers and partnerships. If that happens, we should grow by 50%.” 

Speaking about the recent account wins, she mentioned winning the entire digital mandate for CP Plus, and others such as DS Catch Group, Rajnigandha, Lava Mobiles, Jubilant Foodworks, Truebil and Dabur Gulabari.

“Some of the other account wins are also in the pipeline and we’ll soon share the news about them,” she said.  

The agency has recently undergone a rebranding where it became Grapes from Grapes Digital.

Explaining the intent behind it, Agarwal said, “As a name, I don’t want to state that I’m only taking care of your digital stuff. Brands often tell us about their offline campaigns and ask us to do something around the same idea on digital platforms. Simultaneously they want us to do something separately around their brand strategy for digital platforms. Now digital strategy and brand strategy can’t be the same. 

One has to have an understanding of the brand's overall goals to have a digital strategy that resonates with the brand strategy. Digital is a very platform-driven approach.” 

She said that after the rebranding when the agency goes to a client, it thinks at four different levels. 

1.      What should be your brand strategy. What is that the brand stands for and what should you communicate throughout the year for your brand. 

2.      Product-wise strategy. Because so many of our clients have multiple products. 

3.      Platform strategy. 

4.      Market strategy. 

“And after doing the strategy and communication this way, we tell our clients that we are an expert in executing this on digital. Whereas for other platforms, we have partners who do that for us,” she added. 

Agarwal further shared how the agency functioned during the pandemic and what are their targets for the current fiscal. She said, “Earlier, we requested everyone for a tiered cut in their salaries. Those who were getting a higher salary went for a higher cut from their salary and people with a lower salary had a lower portion cut but for those who were getting below Rs 30,000 there was no salary cut.”  

“By June, we made no pay cut for below 50,000 and the senior people continued with pay cuts. Then by October, we restored everybody’s salaries and on Diwali, we gave every penny back to our employees,” she added.

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