Bindu Nair Maitra
Apr 21, 2011

Close-Up: "Media needs to support indigenous entrepreneurs"

Preeti Vyas, chairwoman, Vyas Giannetti Creative talks to Bindu Nair Maitra on being a maverick in the communications industry and her journey so far.



How did you get into advertising in the first place?
I am not really in advertising, the way it’s understood by everybody. In that sense, I have always considered myself a maverick. I was trained as a designer and through the course of my career, there has never been a point where I was not a designer. I cut my teeth with Contract when Mohammad Khan was the creative director. He became my first boss, he was also my mentor. That experience of sitting in the same room with Mohammad for four and a half years truly benchmarked my work.
Tell us about your years at Contract under Khan and how did that experience shape your career?
As part of my last project at the National Institute of Design, I interned at Contract. Khan was the creative director of this newly set up small agency with a staff of nineteen. I worked on some fantastic projects and I realized that while what I learnt at NID was fantastic, my work needed to be creatively oriented and Mohammad taught me that. He taught me my love for words, love for typography.
I later worked with the likes of Ravi Gupta and Christy Rosario at Trikaya Grey- this was a different kind of benchmark- it was more strategic.While I was with Contract, I also designed film graphics for director Muzzafar Ali’s Umrao Jaan. I was even branding exhibitions. Looking back, I would say my only real job was with Contract. With Trikaya Grey, it was a long association of ten years but I was always a consultant. So, I had my own studio. When the editorial opportunity came along, I must have done some 15 editorial revamps. When the interactive medium opened up, I was there. When TV opened up, I was there. I was designing TV software, designing film sets, directing music videos. All these different choices ended up giving me a vantage point. I always saw myself as a by-design person rather than an advertising person. Advertising is a part of what we do, but we don’t lead from that. That positioning has become clearer of late than it was a few years back. We find today that we engage with key stakeholders much more.
Why do you believe it was important to go on your own, at the time that you did?
I started VGC because I felt that I needed to have a corporate structure to carry on what I was doing at the time. VGC was started in 1997. I thought there was nobody offering the services that I believed VGC could offer. The new age was going to be upon us very soon and somebody needed to really encompass that. This was just when the media-creative unbundling was taking place. In that sense, I would say we were the first creative independent in the country. To digress a bit, I must mention that after Contract, I spent a year traveling the world, had a lot of different experiences- waitressing, selling in flea markets, teaching in schools. That was a year of great learning and exposure to the wider world. During the end of my work with Trikaya, for personal reasons, I had to leave everything and take care of family matters. The only professional activity that I could sustain at that point was my consultancy with Trikaya Grey. I got a hard-nosed focus of advertising in the last few years there. Although I loved this world of advertising, creativity and strategic thinking- in those days, design did not embrace strategic thinking. I felt back then that even Trikaya was not getting the big picture. I felt like I had encountered a bit of a conceptual glass ceiling. I felt that it was best to step out. I could have been creative director forever. But it was too linear for someone like me. So VGC was launched with one computer and one employee in my house. The first client that we had was Aditya Birla Group and then The Times of India Group and it just grew from there.
You must have had offers to be bought over yet you’ve stayed independent through the last fourteen years. That must have been challenging.
From year two, we have been approached to be bought over and acquired. Before it became brand union, Enterprise IG came to us first and I was advised that it was too early to go through with such a partnership. Eventually they went with Sujata (Keshavan). I want to be with somebody at a time when it makes sense. One is always open but it has to be meaningful. I have seen a lot of such (work) marriages go bust. I have always maintained that either the partner was not right or the reason for them coming to India was not right or it was a wrong time for us. We are in a global age and we have been eager to learn, collaborate etc. A lot of fantastic things happened in those ten years. A lot of people have worked here and moved on. They have gained from the experience, I know a lot of them for whom the work that they did at VGC matters in their resume. That’s clearly a good feeling for me. The fact that we have not got money from outside means that whatever we have done has been on our own efforts. We have sustained a business structure and our reputation without an MNC behind us. I have had my share of ups and downs but I think that having achieved this- for the organization has truly been a good journey. I have to say- I have always felt that the Indian media never really pays enough attention to the stories of entrepreneurship that we have in this country. It takes so much to sustain a business; I don’t think we get enough credit for that. The media needs to support indigenous entrepreneurs. They are always happy to talk about the glamourous MNCs- that’s always been a better talking point for them.
When you started VGC, you would have had a certain definition of what the agency had to offer. How has that definition change today?
The core of the definition is the same as before. I think we are just addressing new milestones within the company itself- there is a greater awareness of what is required outside. As an organization, the first thing that needs to be addressed is a level of fulfillment, which as a creative person I would want to achieve.
That idea of what defines fulfilment goes through changes. What you did ten years ago was great for that period of time. Today we have far more experience and depth to offer. We have different skillsets and the confidence to make sure that we can succeed doing that. In the context of that level of fulfillment- the bar has been raised. Therefore, we have re-engineered the organization to meet with those internal objectives. It is far more relevant today because the world has opened up to India. If we do not make ourselves relevant and bring in value interventions across the board for the client, I don’t think the client will get the kind of fulfilment that he/she deserves.
Is the communication industry taking advantage of the fact that the world is looking to India with such expectation today?
I believe the industry in India is too entrenched, it's too inward looking. It talks to itself much more than it talks to anyone else. Intellectually, although there is enough knowledge of what is required in the new marketplace, organisations are too mired in the old way of functioning. Unfortunately, the ra-ra moments are still coming from the old world advertising accolades of TV commercials. So the industry is not able to move out of this kind of thinking in terms of the quantum leap that is required to effect the change. The kind of integrated thinking that we see abroad seems to be lacking here. There is a lot of knowledge about what the digital media can do but very few people know how to leverage that. I feel that the overarching theme in all new media is a lack of creative thought. What we have is technology. It’s the creative ideation that you are seeing in more developed markets which is yet to come to India. But I believe it will happen. I think that in about five years we should expect to see some real, meaningful interventions here.

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Our current mandate is to carve a niche for the fashion magazine bearing in mind its Easy Chic positioning that encompasses high-street and luxury for the new age Indian fashionista.

 Aditya Birla Group
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Aditya Birla Group has recently launched its refreshed Logo and comprehensive Brand Architecture for its various group companies. It was momentous for us, as Aditya Birla Group was VGC’s first and continuing client over a decade ago, when we had created the branding and group architecture which was relevant for that time.

IndusInd Bank
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The task was to show ‘IndusInd Bank is your key to prosperity’. The visual element of the Zebu bull - a symbol of leadership since ancient times - provided the ideal platform to explore different creative renditions, without straying away from the core identity.

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We rejuvenated the brand giving an impetus to the launch of the remodeled store in Worli. We went through a strategic branding exercise to create a seamless experience for the brand bearing in mind the customers, understanding the nuances of the lifestyle category.
World Brand Congress
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This dynamic new image positions the WBC firmly as a new age brand, using visual metaphors of growth; bar graphs and pie-charts. The colors are dynamic and vibrant-inspired by the stimulating world of Brands.

Writer Corporation

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As Writer Corporation grew into a multi-faceted group, VGC’s branding exercise involved creating an identity that symbolized the corporation’s quality of service, customer care, people relations, eco-friendly environment and optimum results.

The task was to create a contemporary newspaper which was distinct from all the other me-too products in the publishing space. The brand was about news from a different perspective; crisp in style. We designed the look and feel of the brand.

The Times Group
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VGC created a robust brand identity programme for The Times of India Group. The enduring design architecture does justice to the individual companies whilst retaining a strong association with The Times of India’s iconic crest.

The Park Hotels
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Along with our UK-based design collaborators, Dixon&Baxi, we revamped Park Hotel’s website to fit its brand image as a boutique hotel. We also opened a channel for e-commerce or online booking and extended the brand language to 10 other properties of Park Hotel.

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Ariisto developers, a real estate development group, recently appointed VGC to envision a brand new corporate identity that is ready for a roll out.
Campaign India

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