Jaideep Shergill, former CEO, MSL Group and Sunil Gautam, MSL Group India founder and chairman emeritus have set up a 'new-age' consulting firm called Pitchfork Partners.
Pitchfork Partners will offer advisory services, agnostic solutions for marketing and communication needs, talent pool and search needs, research, content and insights, diagnostics and planning.
The USP for this venture is 'telling the truth, even if it is brutal'.
Speaking with Campaign India, Gautam said, “This idea was conceived about four years ago. We started this venture on 1 January. We’ve worked together across three different companies in the past 18 years. Since the economy is good and there’s a feel good factor right now in this country it was time to launch this boutique.”
On the venture, Shergill said, "We're not a PR, advertising or media firm. It's a strategy-consulting boutique. We are working with companies across marketing strategies and more. We have a philosophy of speaking the truth. We are trying to cut the jargon and this explains our name too. Here, the USP is telling the truth, even if it is brutal because as strategy consultants and aggregators, we have to put our money where our mouth is. The business is very serious, more serious than anything we’ve done before.”
Pitchfork Partners offer services that includes strategy consulting, aggregation and disintermediation and start-up consulting in the marketing services domain (in seeking funding and investments).
The duo left the Publicis Groupe after a long stint and their current office is in the same building, where their former company has some of its offices. Asked whether that would mean they’d continue to be associated with the company, Gautam said, “In some way, we’ll end up working with Publicis Groupe. The model we are involved in comes at an earlier stage in a client cycle.”
Shergill explained, “Typically, what will happen is that clients will come in at the implementation stage. They might have creative, digital, PR agencies. But we come in before that stage as well. One example of this is a client which is doing a large re-branding campaign. We’ve come in before the rebranding has begun and we are working with the CEO of the company and put the basic framework in place in terms of the branding campaign. We wrote the RFP ourselves and have called branding agencies for a pitch. We’re representing the company for the pitch. Once, we identify the branding company, we’ll probably be looking for PR and internet companies. That way the relationship will continue. The model is that, we come in at the top of the food chain. In most cases, we’ll be roped in before the other agencies. We’ll not be competing with ad agencies and PR agencies. So, there will be opportunities for Publicis Groupe and MSL Group to work with us and get revenue for some of these arrangements. We’ll be developing agency relationships, and we won’t be shy to put forward those agencies with which we have these relations (Publicis Groupe agencies). At the same time, when it comes to something specific like say market research, we’ll have to look outside the Publicis Groupe, because the Group doesn’t have a market research firm.”
The two-member team (Gautam and Shergill) maintains that they’ll be looking to work with senior level partners rather than ‘just looking to expand’. Shergill said, “We’ll like to call ourselves the McKinsey and the Bain of this industry. We’ll work on a senior level consulting model, so we’ll be looking to hire senior partners. They’ll be from different backgrounds. All of them will be running their own P&L account and managing their own relationships. That means, we can’t scale up and become another MSLGroup, but that’s not our ambition. We’ll call ourselves a strategy consulting boutique and remain very sharp.”
Gautam added, “ Our senior consultants or strategy advisors we bring in will come in two formats. A select group of them will be hired, while the second will be an arrangement with them to work on projects. We won’t need to have them on board, but will have them as partners. So, we’ll create an eco system of 15-20 partnerships. Clients will look to us for our expertise. We’ll look for our partners first to solve the needs of a client, or else will look outside of our ecosystem.”
Shergill further touched upon the integration (of agencies) and how this venture will help with that cause. “We’re making it simpler for agencies and clients. Our biggest challenge in this case is that we meet clients who don’t know what they expect out of their agencies. We’ll be able to advice the client better. A lot of clients have many agencies representing them and they find it difficult to coordinate with them. We can help sort this issue too. Another service we’re offering is a search component. There are very few search firms that specialise in marketing jobs. Very few people are placed in an advertising agency, digital agency etc. Search firms help people find CEOs etc, but they can’t usually help with digital heads etc. Since we understand this market, we’ll be able to help out in this regard as well.”