Sandeep Goyal took the CAT examination this year. He was forced to, as the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) told him he needed to in order to admit him into its doctoral (Ph. D.) programme for 2012. The advertising veteran with the CAT registration number SR7720083 was among those interviewed in April this year. He eventually topped the list of those selected with a score of 86 per cent. His subject for research? People brands.
“How do you take a person brand from being great to being immortal? Mahatma Gandhi continues to be the benchmark – without anyone actively doing anything about it, it remains relevant. On the other hand, a Mother Teresa continues to fade. What should a Ratan Tata do? Do famous brands have to fade away? Can we create a predictive model?” he asks, thrilled at the prospect of diving deep into the subject. And then he reflects, “We also need to ask, do you need to keep them (people brands) alive?”
After selling Mogae’s 26 per cent stake in Dentsu’s India operations to Dentsu last year, one would think this was the perfect time for the academically-inclined Goyal to pursue his other passions. It turns out that the Ph.D. is just one of the many things he’s pursuing with a passion. He is, in his own words, ‘Too young to retire’. Post a three-month break (after announcing his Dentsu stake sale), he was back in the thick of things.
Mogae was born in 1991-‘92. The then boutique HR consultancy run by Tanya Goyal got its name from a town in Punjab, Moga - her husband Sandeep’s native place. In 2002, recalls Sandeep, when someone told him he didn’t have a company or agency that could partner with Dentsu to bring the Japanese advertising giant into India, Mogae Consultants got registered as a private limited company. The rest of Dentsu’s India journey so far is well chronicled. Meanwhile, Mogae’s story is one that is waiting to unfold, says Sandeep.
Seated in his Worli apartment on a Friday afternoon, he is busy attending to calls on his mobile - from those seeking investment in their start ups to clients of his rapidly growing ‘start up’, Mogae.
While Mogae Consultants is primarily an investment vehicle, Mogae Digital is a 50:50 JV with Astro of Malaysia. From running the short code 58000 for Aircel with 180 services under it, to creating IP like talking comics, to Mobigamapa, a mobile karaoke offering that is set to unfold shortly on Aircel, Airtel and Tata Docomo, Mogae Digital is a busy unit. There are also established products like the Indian Fantasy League (which is headed for a revamp) within it.
But a huge chunk of the action is elsewhere, in a unit that is keeping Sandeep Goyal truly busy – Mogae Media, a unit born in 2011 but activated only in 2012. The mobile marketing agency of the Mogae Group handles the inventory management for cellular services provider Bharti Airtel. It recently even launched a mobile creative agency Mobocracy.
Sandeep is as excited about Mogae as he is about his Ph.D. He says, “Mogae will take up 100 to 120 per cent of my time for the next two to three years. To start with, Airtel has trusted me with the business; and I am duty bound to lead the business. Also, the space of mobile is set to explode. India is one of the few countries where the mobile (1994) as a medium is more mature than the internet (1999-2000).”
To make his point, he reminds us that by 2015 (or so), mobile search will overtake internet search, making it imperative for SEO and SEM to work for WAP.
A key business area at Mogae is in the area of Customer Lifecycle Management. For starters, the reams and reams of data of Bharti Airtel’s 187 million mobile subscribers needed to be converted into meaningful consumer insights. The ‘Incelligence’ that is being distilled from the data will prove invaluable for brands, says Sandeep.
From October 2011 to March this year, the focus was on building ‘Incelligence’ that brands could use. Now, inventory is being sold across DTH, WAP, USSD, SMS, MMS and voice products. And clients who bought in include Pepsi, HDFC Life, Lufthansa, Dabur, Samsung, Toyota, Honda, BMW, Yahoo, Star TV, Zee, Sony and Colors.
“Between various apertures, we have had 51 advertisers over the last four months. In any one month, there are 25 active customers,” adds the entrepreneur.
The next big thing
Across Mogae Digital and Mogae Media, there are 140 people employed currently. This is expected to swell to 200 by December, and touch 250 to 275 by March 2012. The small office in Mumbai that supports Delhi headquarters is set to expand on headcount, while a Bengaluru office is slated for September launch. A physical presence in Chennai will be launched soon after. With an eye on expanding the sales team and advertiser base, Pune and Ahmedabad are being considered for expansion too.
Ask him when Mogae will break even, and there response is instant. Says Sandeep, “This is an expansion phase; but I think we are doing well. If we were to stand still in a month, without investing in expansion, we would turn in profits this September.”
On the competitive landscape, he admits to a bit of overlap with the likes of Madhouse, ad2c and Vivaki, but is quick to point out that Mogae works with them, not against them. Eventually, he acknowledges that there will be competition.
“Competition will come in. So the idea is to build a huge differentiation, investing in analytics infrastructure, newer tools and products. There are several private equity (PE ) people who come to me. To grow this, we may even accept some PE funding,” he notes.
So will that be the precursor to his exit from Mogae? Sandeep underlines his commitment to growing Mogae in response.
Prod a little further on his possible exit from the business, and he says, “I might eventually look at exiting the business, once it reaches the kind of potential there is for it (maybe in the next five years? Or eight?) If you want a valuation I’ll be looking at, I hope it goes for a higher valuation than Dentsu (India) did.”
The gold medallist in English literature is eyeing another pot of precious. And he’s willing to toil for it. The first moves have been made.
Current interests include
- Non-executive founder chairman, Dentsu India
- Ph.D. at FMS Delhi
- Mogae Consulting (investment vehicle)
- Mogae Digital (50-50 JV with Astro)
- Mogae Media (handling inventory of Bharti Airtel)
- Food Food (minority investor and ‘Chief Tasting Officer’)
- Next book: Ready reference to doing business with the Japanese
View on Japanese: “I think it’s time for the Japanese to reinvent themselves. I have great faith in their ability to rise to the challenge; and I see Japanese brands becoming world beaters again. Their value systems remain unchanged - I believe in their ability to cope with adversity without too much hue and cry.”