Campaign India Team
Jun 11, 2015

'The ambition was to create the greatest problem-solving outfit': Abhijit Avasthi, on new venture 'Sideways'

The new entity will be up and running by end-July 2015

'The ambition was to create the greatest problem-solving outfit': Abhijit Avasthi, on new venture 'Sideways'
Abhijit Avasthi, ex-national creative director, Ogilvy & Mather, has announced the launch of Sideways, an outfit that will look to creatively solve 'any' client problem, including those in the realm of marketing.
Explaining the thought behind the entity, he said, "Creativity is a philosophy and a way of looking at things. Till now it's been used primarily for brand building, communication, advertising etc. But, there's no reason why you can't apply it for other things. Right from trying to patao a girlfriend to get yourself out of trouble when you were a kid, people have always been creative.When it's quite obvious that it is useful in most aspects of life, why should it be applied only to branding, communication (etc.)? That's the genesis of the firm." 
He added, "The ambition was to create the greatest problem-solving outfit. We have people with different skill sets within this outfit. We are talking to engineers, tech guys, design guys, art guys and writers. I'm a big believer in the power of collaboration. Today, when people come together in a room, they get excited by each of their ideas and look to build on it. So, I think there's something in bringing people of different skill sets into a room and looking to solve a problem with them. It becomes a very interesting  analysis and then offers a solution to the client. The problem could be unlocking a potential or an opportunity-spotting. There's no reason why we can't solve problems of our client with respect to HR, or other aspects. Anything can be made interesting and fun. Over the years people have gotten used to thinking in a certain way. These days my feeling is that a solution to any problem can come from anywhere. Technology, design, advertising, communications, policy changes etc. -- could get that change -- but the problem holder has a fixed notion in his head; he decides who can solve the problem for him. He either looks to pick an agency, or the IT department, or a packaging guy etc. I think there's where they miss a big trick. That same problem can be addressed in many ways. The idea is to explore all of them and then pick the right one."
Giving the example of the Mumbai Traffic Police having issues with people not stopping at a signal, Avasthi explained, "The advertising solution would be making a powerful piece of communication around it -- that works in its own way. You give the same problem to a technology guy -- that guy will come up with something like a sensor for a smartphone, which could probably sense each time one stops and could probably help with loyalty points to cut down your Income Tax payment! Then, an installation designer will look at the same problem and say, 'I'm going to make the red light so beautiful, that people will want to stop at it and look at it as a work of art'. So, they're all tackling the same problem, but in different ways. But if somebody has already decided that he's going to use either an advertising agency or the technology guy, he's missing the other options. That's the big gap in the market today."
The firm will be up and running by the end of July, but Avasthi claims that there's a high level of interest already. "We have projects on the table from all kinds of people -- FMCGs, e-commerce players, durables, start-ups, etc. There are a fair share of people who are up for something like this and the onus is on us to deliver interesting solutions. We're hoping to apply this philosophy in the core team I'm building. We'll also be collaborating with different partners across different domains. I'm also keen on mentoring and supporting start-ups and young entrepreneurs. Thirdly, I have a pretty strong focus on the social sector. God has been kind to us and given us some skills and unfortunately India has its fair share of problems, so I'd love to collaborate with the government or a NGO or other people to tackle problems in a creative way. If the solution for any of these needs are advertising, then we'll do it." 
Avasthi said that the firm will start of with about 10 people when it launches officially. On the team, he said, "I don't want to share too much information about these people as of now, as some of them are serving their notice period at their company. We'll be covering advertising, technology, engineering, designers, writers etc. I'm looking at people who'd love to be with a creative outfit such as this." 
He also informed that Sideways is currently working with actor Aamir Khan, who is working with the government of Maharashtra, to get villages in Maharashtra to adopt smart water solutions. He said, "It's a long-term programme and is almost like creating a movement."
Campaign India

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