Independent Law & Kenneth set up shop on 1 October 2002. Marking the occasion of turning 10, the agency has come up with an initiative to mentor and nurture social entrepreneurs brimming with ideas, in the form of ‘The Create Project’. Creators need to submit their ideas on www.thecreateproject.com, and the agency is promising to ‘act as a springboard for today’s creators’. Not restricted to advertising or communication, the initiative seeks to nurture business ideas that will make a positive impact on society directly, while demonstrably showing that the idea can be viable as a business. A lot of homework has gone into the ‘Project’, as we learnt from Anil Nair. Excerpts:
Tell us about the genesis of the idea. What is it trying to achieve?
Over the last one year, we have been thinking hard about what we’re doing. We’ve seen ups and downs in the last 10 years of Law & Kenneth, and if at all we’ve created something (besides brands), we’ve created an organisation, of which 300 people and their families are a part. We wondered if this was all we could do.
Ten years ago, when we started off, we were at a certain point. There are many, many people with ideas today that can lead to viable business, and can be ideas around doing business for social good. They also need to be ideas that are innovative in nature. We wanted to build something that would outlive us.
One would have expected you to incubate something in the communication business. And ‘The Create Project’ comes at a time when a lot of incubation firms are at work. How is this different?
We’re not looking down on advertising or the communication business. But staying within the world of communication would limit a lot of the scope of what could be done, and there is a lot that can be done. We were greatly inspired by what we saw at Cannes, like the Future Lions winning work showcased by AKQA – ‘Made by Waves’ was not just a communication idea, it went far beyond. Or Droga5’s ‘Help I want to save a life’, which saw bone marrow transplant registry kits placed in bandage boxes.
‘The Creative Project’ is about nurturing business ideas that lead to social good. But it is not a corporate social responsibility initiative of Law & Kenneth. It is also not a means whereby we are looking to pick on ideas to diversify our business. What we are very, very clear about is that the owner of the idea will continue to be the owner and the business driver on that idea. We will help nurture the idea and incubate the ideas that we select, with the help of some industry stalwarts from across industries, and we will dedicate our time for it as well. Where we can add value, we will.
We have had conversations with a lot of people. A lot of our clients are first generation entrepreneurs and they are very keen to support and encourage something like this. In today’s time, capital and funding are the least of the problems for start ups. The issue is in knowing how to go about executing it. When we speak to some of the guys from IIMs and IITs, we hear the top B-school guys saying that they know the method – what they need is the experience. And between our clients, ex-clients, friends and a host of entrepreneurs and domain experts, we are reaching a network that is keen to support these creators.
What do you look for? Business for social good can be interpreted in different ways?
The business should make a direct impact. It’s not about a detergent using less water. It’s not about creating the next big lipstick brand and employing a few hundred people to make it. That’s not how we’re defining ‘social good’.
The direct impact of the business has to be felt in society. It could be a water filtration unit at less than Rs 100, which filters out and cleans both soluble and insoluble impurities. It could be a financial product for a needy segment of people that has some kind of insurance built in, wherein the borrower is protected if he can’t pay back a loan (for genuine reasons).
We are looking for future entrepreneurs, not dreamers – there’s a difference. Entrepreneurs dream with a plan. We will look for the clarity of their ideas and whether it makes business sense. And we won’t be evaluating them alone; that’s where the experts come in.
What are the challenges you foresee in this?
We decided to do this four months back. We waited till we were sure of the process, and postponed this from the targeted launch date of 1 October. Praveen (Kenneth) has been the guiding light on this. And this is a Law & Kenneth initiative and all of us are fully committed to seeing this happen. Having said that, our bandwidth is the only challenge. We will split forces; we hope to spend a lot of time on The Creative Project. We have consciously brought in professionals to run the advertising business; of course we will be involved with that too, but it gives us a little more bandwidth. We are hoping to identify four to five sustainable business ideas to incubate and take forward.
How will this be promoted, to invite ideas?
We’ll be doing a massive twitter campaign. We’ve linked up with the IIM and IIT alumini too. LinkedIn is also backing this in a big way and we should see that kicking off post Diwali. The initial response has been phenomenal. We have double digit responses already and we haven’t done much yet. We want to wait for 21 days to see the response.
The Create Project is not a one-off. We’re gauging the response now; we may revisit with another wave in the next six months. The proof of the pudding is in making it work and showing it to the world. We expect to see seminars and events where we can showcase what we have been up to. The quicker we are able to incubate one or two business ideas and talk about them, the better it will be for the Project.
We have a request to get the communication online going in Indian languages. So we’ll be launching in six languages shortly.
With such handpicked ideas, you must also be craving to build brands for these as businesses?
Our intent is not to hunt for profits with these ideas. We are not using this to become the advertising agency to these businesses. But yes, where we can add value, we definitely will.
We are an independent and we handle a lot of entrepreneur-driven companies. Many a time, when potential clients see our client list, they show us tremendous respect. One such brand built by Law & Kenneth with the client is Kent water purifier. The business started with the entrepreneur’s family falling ill one after the other, affected by jaundice. He discovered the reason when he went up to his water tank on the terrace. The rest is history and we are proud to have been part of the story of brands like Kent.
The idea is to do justice to the idea, serve the entrepreneur, and not ride the wave with him. There is enough business in the agency to support the 300 people on board and their families. We’re not greedy; we’re not after imported yachts.
What else is on at Law & Kenneth, as you turn 10?
Three or four years ago, we reached a stage where we decided that the only way to grow is by impacting brands in a big way - in the market. We realised that we needed to bring about difference to the business.
This year, the stated objective has been to improve the creative product, and by that I don’t just mean from a jury perspective.
We made announcements on senior hires recently on the servicing end. By the end of this month, we will have one senior creative on board, and one more by mid-December.