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Driving performance through digital media will be big in 2024: Grapes’ Shradha Agarwal

In her interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, Shradha Agarwal, CEO, Grapes, mentioned how the agency’s retainer value is already 50% up YoY this year and moving forward the objective (for 2024) is to not just bring in new clients but grow business by maturing the relationship with existing clients

Shradha Agarwal

First established as a software company specialising in website design and product management in 2009, to offering marketing services to its clients alongside doing SEO for them from 2015 onwards, it was only obvious for Grapes to expand and increase its ticket size as a company to become what it is today.

Speaking to BestMediaInfo.com about the evolution of the company from Grapes Software to Grapes Digital and then finally as Grapes, the Co-founder and CEO, Shradha Agarwal, mentioned that when Himanshu Arya started the company, the idea was to work on websites, apps, e-commerce etc. all of which include building SEO.

But when she herself, with all her prior experience in marketing joined the company and did websites for a year, she realised that she could also pitch to clients marketing solutions alongside websites as a product extension because that would help the company grow even further and hence began Grapes’ journey in the digital realm.

“When we started doing this, we opened the Pandora box also in a way as a lot many people began asking how we as a software company can do marketing and therefore we decided to rebrand ourselves as Grapes Digital. It was post this, that we were approached by Maruti Suzuki Nexa’s offline creative agency to build a website for Nexa. We pitched and we got the business, and a few days later when they were looking for a social media agency, we decided to pitch for that and got that as well. Later, they asked us if we could do media planning as well and we agreed to participate in the pitch and won that and in this way, we organically extended our services in the marketing world,” she said.

With this, she also pointed out that it was back then that they had decoded that marketing spending would reach a stage where the discussion would no longer be about what campaigns run digitally and what on TV, but about using different platforms effectively to make the most out of one campaign and hence the decision to rebrand Grapes Digital to Grapes.

“Even today, approximately 75-80% of our clients are still digital-first, but 20% of our clients are offline based and we are managing TVCs, outdoor, print, radio, positioning, logo, branding, etc for them. And now, we’re also getting into the space of creating the entire campaign for both offline and online,” she added.

Having said that, she also mentioned that Grapes, as of today, is 50% higher in terms of its retainer values on a YoY basis, but even so, the revenue has not grown as much because the base size of the company has also grown significantly.

“By the time we close for the year, I am extremely confident that we will have grown by at least 25% YoY,” she asserted.

Additionally, she also stated that while the company’s growth along with new clients is crucial for agencies, what feels more important and necessary to her is to grow Grapes’ business with existing clients even more and that is precisely what the company is aiming to do next year.

Interestingly, she also assured that when Grapes participates in pitches, 95% of the time the company is already in the top three! Therefore what’s more challenging to her is not winning clients today, but ensuring that once an account is won, the client actually lives through what had been promised to them.

Furthermore, she also mentioned that Grapes, this year, has also launched four new verticals- Grapes Storytellers Studio, Grapes Imagine AI Studio, Grapes AI Commerce Lab and Grapes Vernac Room to build further capabilities in the domain.

Upon being questioned if the company is now going to focus on more AI-led work, she replied that the plan is to leverage AI for creating images as the richness in image Gen-AI tool gives versus a Photoshop image is very different, for doing buzz campaigns where one can create a world of realism and fantasy or creating multiple content pieces such as an array of Tweets or a content piece for a website or even finding a code for a particular website, for dashboard reporting or SEO based content research for marketplaces.

“For such kinds of things, leveraging AI works extremely well. But when it comes to creative thinking or dialect which is the bigger challenge, it's still not there. Therefore, to build on that front we have come up with our own content studio and vernac room where we can actually get people on freelance or project basis to work on getting the dialect and pop-culture references right for various sets of audiences,” she added.

On slightly different lines, she also mentioned what has happened today in the digital landscape is that when Facebook reduced the 100% engagement rate to literally 1-2%, the brand owners forgot the simple idea of why the brands had created communities in the first place- to make customers stay with the brand in the long run and to engage and not just be subjected to topicals or product posts, upon which brand today spend anywhere between 25 and 30% of their ad budgets.

“When brands started pushing content on social media platforms such as Facebook, what they didn't realise is how Bollywood pages and news pages were performing at the time- contrary to the brand engagement rate of 1%, they had been clocking in 16% on average. Next, came the era of influencers and content creators who also began creating content like the two of them. But, all this time what they didn’t realise is that they had been losing followers to these three,” she anointed.

It was to solve these content-related problems for brands that Grapes realised that it is high time that brands go a little more macro in terms of their category, apart from product posts, because that is what can't happen on Photoshop. Hence, today there is a need for every agency to have its own content studio today, which Grapes has set up in-house in the form of Storytellers Studio.

Commenting on why would the clients reach out to agencies which have launched such comparatively new verticals for such services rather than the ones who specialise is the same, she stated that what specialist agencies do is that they come and sell clients their services and not solutions for business problems, unlike strategic partners such as Grapes who actually give out solutions to brand and business problems which further enables one to achieve their numbers.

“For the ones like us who don’t have speciality in certain domains, there is always an option to outsource and get somebody who is either capable of doing work or specialises in that particular field as execution partners,” she added.

In fact, moving forward, Grapes doesn’t want to be perceived as an agency but as a partner because, unlike the yesteryears when the company only provided marketing services to clients, today it is aiming to become a transformation partner for brands.

Commenting on some of the trends that she foresees picking pace next year, Agarwal mentioned that driving performance through online media will be one of the biggest things in 2024 and to do the same one needs to understand data, therefore Data Analytics is also going to become all the more important with everybody grinding on the same.

The other big thing for the ad world in 2024, in her view, will be innovation, so much so, that there will be a huge fight between the relatability of the campaign versus the innovation in the campaign. Hence, a lot of agencies, as per her, will try to go and sell innovation even though they may or may not be relatable.

“Every agency and every client spends about 40-45% of their marketing budget on topical marketing today, but what they often forget is to answer the question of how the same affects their brand. Hence, we also created our proprietary model called COT, where we define topical marketing by Class and Ownership wherein we first decide what is the brand trying to do with the creative and then guide them on how much money should they spend on creative or even media. For this, we have to take out the entire budget of the client and ensure that he/she achieves their objectives,” she added.


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