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5G is going to disrupt digital like digital disrupted traditional, says Shrenik Gandhi of White Rivers Media

Gandhi, Co-founder and CEO, White Rivers Media, speaks to on his vision for the company, which recently turned a decade old

Shrenik Gandhi

In the last decade or so, independent digital marketing agency White Rivers Media has created a remarkable space for itself in the very cluttered and hyper-competitive market.

Launched by Shrenik Gandhi and Mitesh Kothari in 2012, the agency today enjoys the trust and partnership of top brands such as Netflix, Amazon and Dharma Productions, among others. caught up with Gandhi, the agency’s Co-Founder and CEO, to find out if the agency has achieved what it hoped to and what lies ahead.

Upon being asked how the 10-year-old milestone feels, Gandhi said he feels both heavy and light since there are not many 10-year-old agencies out there of their size.

“Digital itself as a line of business started some 12 years back. If we have managed what we have done in 10 years then I’m sure we will survive,” he said.

Speaking about his vision and approach for the future, he said they want to focus on creating more impactful work that makes a mark internationally.

“We have a lot of discussions about the anniversary themes. The one thing everyone agreed to in unison was that we are grateful for yesterday and geared up for tomorrow. The next few years are going to be very crucial, especially for the Indian ecosystem.”

 “As we speak, we are geared up to have much more international recognition for the agency and create impact-worthy work that makes waves globally. Awards are never a priority, we are not an agency that will create campaigns for the sake of awards. Having said that, everyone likes awards. Awards would be a cherry on the cake, but they can't be the cake. The cake would be to create impactful and trustworthy work,” he added. 

Asked if that also means global expansion for the agency, he stated, “When we spoke to a lot of international counterparts, we realised that everyone is rooting for India and the world is coming to India, so I see no reason why we should go out. There is a lot more depth that we can have still in the Indian ecosystem.”

He explained that they are focusing on scaling in categories that they have actively been working on so far like M&E, Big Tech, FMCG and Web3 by providing more solutions to them as well as expanding the client wings.

How has the agency grown over years

He explained that every organisation has a 1-10, 10-100 and a beyond vision. “Our 0-1 was until 2015. We were trying to set our base and culture, and we got the initial set of leaders working for us. Our 1-10 was between 2015 to 2018 when our work started being noticed. We got many incoming business opportunities here. Our 10-100 started in 2019 when a good portion of this was in the pandemic.”

“Now, our vision is for 350 for the next decade,” he added.

According to Gandhi, every year for the last five years has been the best year for the agency. “My benchmark is what we delivered yesterday and I’m not comparing us to anyone else, but if we had to do a real comparison, we are doing much better than what we did last year.

“Every year in the last 5 years has been the best for us and I feel that is the best place to be in. We are working with brands like Netflix, and Amazon which are some of the brands I have always aspired to work with,” he stated.

The next big things in digital

As per Gandhi, 5G will be very disruptive and revolutionary for the digital ecosystem in India. “5G is coming much sooner than any of us would have expected. 5G is going to disrupt digital like digital disrupted traditional a decade back. We are looking forward to a whole new ecosystem that will be much faster and have much more penetration. The data rates will go lower and it will be very interesting.”

He shared that the talks around going cookie-less have resurfaced in the industry and are making him glad. Upon being asked how the agency is preparing for it, he said, “Cookie less future is the future. Principally one can’t steal data or advertise basis the absence of consent. We have created a link called Unilink which is the answer to cookie-less. What we are doing is we have implemented 40-50 projects. The idea is to create non-identifiable personal data collected with consent and use it for advertising. We are at the Beta stage right now; the Alpha stage has been successful. We are rooting for it; it is going to be a different ecosystem. Cookie less future combined with 5G is going to be massive and a new world altogether.”

Asked about how they have geared up for Web3.0, Gandhi said that the challenge with Metaverse or Web3.0 is that there is too much noise about it. “One of the challenges of Web3 especially from a marketing perspective is that there's so much noise that people are confused. A lot of CXOs are finding it hard to find the right information about it. There is too much information that may or may not be right.” 

To tackle this, they have partnered with a firm called Phyvital, who are Metaverse experts. “We have started CXOs training for Web3.0. The training modules are being created from completely non-tech background people and our agenda is to sound non-jargonish. Even an 18-year-old will understand,” claimed Gandhi.

Challenges in the digital space today  

According to Gandhi, there is too much dependency upon a few platforms when it comes to digital marketing. He said monopolies don’t lead to the healthiest ecosystem.

He further spoke about the talent crunch at agencies and said, that a lot of people have gone to start-ups from agencies in recent years.

“Now suddenly there are hiring freezes, pay cuts, people being laid off randomly at start-ups. All this has led to ‘salary bloat’ what that means is if I went to a start-up at 1.5x growth in salary, I can’t come back to an agency with a 1.2x growth. This is actually leading to career winters as I’d like to call it, these people are actually stuck. How many agencies have you seen shutting down? Agencies are a safe place to grow and people should stay around. It brings a lot of growth, especially with 5G there is going to be a lot more growth.”

He further stated that there is going to be a lot of growth when it comes to opportunities in India. “A lot of people go outside India and settle; however, my honest belief is that the next few years are the years of the India story.  The grass may seem greener at the other end but talking from first-hand experience, the kind of conversations we are having with multiple organisations, and global governments, is that everyone is coming to India. So one needs to re-evaluate closely before changing careers by changing geographies,” he concluded.

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