Schbang has expanded to international shores as the agency launched operations in the UK with an office in London.
The London office is the start of Schbang’s expansion plans into the global market, with an office scheduled to be opening in Europe in the next 90 days. In London, Schbang currently has a three-member workforce, and 20 members in India have been designated to work for clients in the UK.
In a conversation with Campaign India, Harshil Karia, founder, Schbang, and Martin Vinter, managing director, Schbang UK, explained the model.
“We’ll have strategy, consumer insight and client relationship management in the UK. We are looking at India as a big delivery centre,” revealed Karia.
He added, “While we have two clients, there’s no marquee work that has been released yet. We are working on UK-based brands. Our focus is to be as grounded in the culture of the UK as possible. We are an Indian company, building in the UK, and have to respect where we can add value. We have been working with a fair bit of companies in India, who have a large presence in the UK, and so we will be leveraging those associations too. I wouldn’t say it’s a rollicking business at this moment, but we’ve got the ball rolling.”
The office will be headed by Martin Vinter, who has moved from Brainlabs, where he was senior vice president. Vinter has also held the roles of managing director – media at Ebiquity, head of media and performance at iProspect and various positions at GroupM.
On the talent front, Karia added, “Martin has a lot of credibility associated with his name. We also have a mentor in Axel Chaldecott. He’s been part of agencies like Wunderman Thompson as global creative director and has joined us as an advisor on the board. We have a couple of more advisors from the market joining us too.”
Karia also revealed that Schbang’s focus area in the UK market will be growth marketing, as creative and performance marketing are areas which have plenty of players already.
“Whether it’s top, bottom or the middle funnel, we want to bring creative, media and tech together. A lot of D2C and app-based businesses can be served on that front. We have already got a fair bit of work on our portfolio which is tech-driven around hyper-personalisation,” said Karia.
Dentsu was in the news last month as the agency stated that it offshores 17% of its 45,000 workforce in cheaper locations at this moment, with a stated target of that number increasing to 22% by the end of the year. The agency currently has 6,000 of its offshore staff members working in India.
While Scbhang is also looking to its Indian staff to be part of its ‘large delivery centre’ for the UK, Karia doesn’t label it offshoring. “The difference is here that we are an Indian entity that’s expanded to a market abroad. So, India will never be the back office. We’ll be the head office. We’ll be using the centre of excellence to fill a gap in the market. We want to bring the best of the world back to India. So it’s important to have the best talent from global markets we operate in,” he said.
Vinter added, “We are an Indian agency but for the UK team, we want to be hiring from the UK. It’s important to find the right balance and mix of talent from India and the UK. We want to make sure we have the right team in place. We want to play against the UK local agencies and that’s the right thing to do.”
Karia further explained that the opening of a UK office will help the agency attract top talent.
“We see an opportunity over the next few years for Indian talent to visit the UK. That’s an opportunity for us to become a preferred talent destination. There are already about 1,000 people working in India. We are beefing up our management teams in India too. We’re building India, out of India. It’s going to be based more out of here, but will allow the teams to get that exposure and travel. For the UK team, we want to be hiring from the UK.”
With talent from India being much cheaper than in the UK (primarily because of the disparity between the pound and the rupee), one of the reasons clients could potentially pick Scbhang in the country, could be related to economics.
But Vinter highlighted that price will not be the agency’s USP.
“We want clients to find our model attractive. We want to partner with those clients that are willing to go look at something different and recognise that there’s huge talent in India, which is just as good as the UK (if not better) that can deliver the work. It’s not about price, and we’re not leading with that positioning,” he said.
However, with a recession likely to hit Europe, Vinter does believe price will help the agency grow.
“That’s the time when advertisers rightly start scrutinising their budgets, so it could be about being more efficient, and we could certainly do that. But it’s not about undercutting or low pricing. We have to be careful about it and we want respect in the market,” he said.
Partner with an agency
We’ve seen agencies in the past setting up their stall in a foreign market by partnering or acquiring an agency.
Karia stated that the agency did look at the option of acquiring UK-based agencies, but partnering with one was a route it didn’t want to go down.
“It’s not the way we want to build a global company. Partnering wasn’t an option in the UK unless we were able to buy a company. We evaluated a few options, but thought it’s better to create an establishment there. However, in the future, we might look at acquisitions in other markets,” said Karia.
He further added, “Indian businesses are accepted in the UK, and a lot of Indian billionaires make up the top 15 richest people in the country. We have the natural advantage of knowing the English language and so we can serve clients too. The third bit was the alignment of client relations that we have in India, who we serve, and therefore can take to the UK. We might not have this natural fit in other markets in the world and we’ll be looking at taking over companies there.”
A year later
When asked about where the agency should be a year later, Vinter revealed that they’re looking to be realistic with their growth plans.
“We’re not looking at super ambitious numbers, but should be doing business worth GBP 6,50,000. That’s what the plan is. We think this is realistic. We spent some time looking at the UK market and came up with this number. We’ve got a few projects and clients to achieve that number,” he said.
Vinter signed off with a warning for the holding companies.
“The big groups in advertising currently are American, British, Japanese or French. If you look at the grand ambition, there should be an Indian group too."