Starting a decade back on April Fool’s Day, Infectious Advertising has come a long way ahead. Therefore, to take a deep dive into the 10-year journey of the ad agency, BestMediaInfo.com decided to get into a freewheeling chat with the co-founders and hear their stories.
Recalling the initial days of the newly-born agency at the time, Ramanuj Shastry, Co-Founder and Director, Infectious Advertising, stated that the selection of the day for the beginning of their journey was testimony to the fact that “We can laugh at ourselves because when you start your company on an All-Fools’ Day, you’re saying a few things about yourself. Also, when you’re starting entrepreneurship, the first few years the laugh is on you because you have left a position of absolute power and control to jump into the unknown.”
He also went on to add that in the transition, the first thing one notices is the silence - because even though one may be known for their 100 crore+ big brands or ad campaigns, one no longer remains relevant and that from “Who’s who” one becomes “Who is he/she?”.
As per Nisha Singhania, Co-Founder and Director, Infectious Advertising, the past 10 years have been a complete rollercoaster as there have been both highs and lows and a lot of learnings.
“I don’t think we could have ever got this learning in any job that we’re doing at all. So, it’s probably the best decision of our lives,” she said.
Commenting on the biggest achievement and challenge for the agency in its 10-year journey, Singhania pointed out that ‘surviving’ and ‘not throwing in the towel’ have been some of the biggest achievements because the initial years can be really tough and the challenges don’t just come from the business front, but also from decisions such as retaining or sacking talent due to network agency structures, or situations like the Covid-19 pandemic, etc.
Elaborating on the achievements, Singhania also shared that most often when people start their entrepreneurial journey, they start off with funding and “when we were starting Infectious, we were against funding and therefore we were more in favour of setting up the agency on our own. Therefore, it’s the tenacity that we’re very proud of in addition to the fact that we didn’t give up on our values even when there was no money, or there was a client that we didn’t like, etc., therefore, saying no was what we are proud of.”
“I think after 10 years, there has been a huge list of clients that we’ve worked with and there’s a lot of work that is out there. Also, some people have worked for Infectious in the past and they speak well in addition to our clients. Therefore, at the end of the day, our word-of-mouth business is there. As compared to 10 years back, today it’s far easier to walk into a business and get it or to even hire top-notch talent,” she said.
She also went on to add that what has also changed in a decade is that the talent or people who the co-founders themselves found it difficult to call and ask for joining them in the independent ad agency today call the co-founders just to find out if there’s a place for them.
“The phone calls ring a lot now instead of you going around for business,” she added.
Shastry also went on to emphasise that the most heartening thing in the agency business is that the source of most of their new business comes from satisfied customers and referrals and that is something which Infectious is really proud of because there’s nothing like a delighted client.
Throwing light as to why Infectious, unlike other independent agencies, does not talk about collaborating with foreign companies for ad tech, martech, new-age tech etc. Singhania said, “We do believe that technology is going to change but at the end of the day, we are about storytelling and we are a people’s business. So, the mediums are not going to change but at the end of it all, one needs to be a good storyteller.”
Adding to Singhania’s POV, Shastry also stated that Infectious thinks of itself as an ideas and creative company and that technology is just an enabler for dispersing that creative amongst the target audiences and not the selling point.
“One of the first big clients that solved the entire ‘kar paenge ki nahi’ problem for us was when Zee was launching &TV and it was a Rs 100 crore launch. I have worked in the agencies that had launched GECs and those agencies have collapsed because it is one of the toughest categories to handle because of the sheer workload and the humongous logistics that are there. But our client gave us the business and thanks to him that he took the punt on us and looked at us and asked ‘Kar loge na?’ and we looked back at him and said ‘Kar lenge’ confidently and that suddenly gave us the momentum and the confidence that we can do anything,” Singhania shared.
Elaborating more on why the ad agency was against funding since the very beginning, Singhania shared the opinion that ‘funding is a trap’ and it is simply taking the easy way out as in the case of funding one would eventually be playing on someone else’s money and not their own.
Upon being questioned if getting big businesses was a difficult task since Infectious is an independent agency, Singhania replied that it definitely was but not anymore because when an agency is working with multinational clients today, they do have something to look at and then refer back to the agency and that there’s a ‘credential deck’ that exists and is shared only in the case of relevant work.
“Earlier it was more like, Ramanujan and I would talk about what we had done in the network agency structures and not here because Infectious had just started. But everybody wanted to see what Infectious had done and now that whole body of work is there and some clients are talking highly about us,” she added.
Throwing light on the profitability, Singhania mentioned that the agency was not profitable in the first year and that it took the second year to break even and then the third year onwards, the agency started making money.
“In the fourth year, we realised that we had taken a lot of small clients and therefore we decided to take a step back and let go off some of the clients who were not letting us do great work and where we felt that there was neither fame nor money that we were getting out of those clients. But in the last two years, we have been able to grow over 50% on a YoY basis,” she added.
Commenting on how the agency business fared out during and in the aftermath of the pandemic, Singhania also shared that the first six months of Covid were extremely unstable because many of the clients had stopped their retainers and therefore, Infectious also had to take a hard look at the costs including office expenses.
“However, in the post-Covid world, what we are seeing is that a lot of clients are also very open to working with an independent agency and that somewhere there has been a mindset change because we are far more nimble and we adapt ourselves easily,” she added.
Additionally, Shastry also said, “The best years of Infectious are still ahead of us. I am looking really optimistic about the next 5-6 years and I am 100% confident of attracting the best talent.”
Elaborating more on the short- and long-term goals of the independent agency, Singhania shared that in the short run, Infectious Advertising aims to do some of the more ‘kickass’ work and that the Co-founders have been seeing stupendous growth in the long run along with investing in verticals such as content because consumers are now consuming more and more videos.