On the occasion of their completion of 25 years in the business, Crayons Advertising announced the launch of four new specialised units, in addition to the existing creative agency – Melon Media, Amber Out-Of-Home, Ultraviolet Digital and Jade Events. We caught up with Kunal Lalani to ask him for the reasoning behind the launch and his plans for the future.
CI: With talk about integration these days, what was the reasoning behind the further specialisation of Crayons?
Kunal Lalani (KL): Essentially the market has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Virtually every network or agency, whichever has been acquired, has had to create specialised units because of the needs of the client. It’s not that these activities weren’t there within us, but we were specifically a 360-degree or full service agency, providing these services only to our clients. We were not pursuing them as independent business ventures. The second reason, is that public sector businesses are a very large component of the business, and a lot of banks, PSUs and government departments have started looking at media and creative separately. Therefore, the split is more or less formalised now. Like you, I hear about integration, but the entities will always be separate; integration means the top client interface will be similar, so the client doesn’t have to deal with too many people.
We’ve had a good path till now and 25 years gave us an excuse to relook at everything, review the situation and think about, “What next?” As part of that strategy, we had no choice but to find new ways to increase our presence in the market, to create better value for the clients and that is what led us to create these new SBUs. To grow the business share, we’ve brought in special people who will head the verticals and pitch for business independently – Gopinath Menon will join as head of Melon Media and Gurjit Singh will handle Out Of Home. Digital is being driven out of our existing team at the moment, we’ll be regrouping the whole thing soon. Jade Events is only being launched from our Jaipur operations at the moment, which is headed by Shailesh Kakkar. Then it goes to Mumbai, and we’ll see how to take it forward after that.
CI: 25 years is quite a milestone. What do you think has worked in Crayons’ favour?
KL: We’ve evolved. When you’re on a road, and you’ve a destination to reach, you take different decisions and turns. As time passed, we kept reviewing our strategies and kept moving. Largely, one thing is very clear though – we focussed on the Indian entrepreneur or the Indian industrialist. We realised that the multinational businesses were in any case aligned globally, so we didn’t even try to go there. The businesses that weren’t MNCs were looking for comfortable relationships – they’re owner-owned businesses and the nuances are different, we function like their marketing arms rather than separate entities. Along with that, 8-9 years ago, we realised one of the most profitable businesses there would be down the road is the public sector business. We’ve been proved right – for ourselves, as well as looking at the Top 5 who are also dependent on these businesses for their revenue. The public sector business is sensible, safe and has the most respectable margin, in today’s time (you make almost 10% if it’s a large client).
CI: Which have been the key clients who’ve stayed with you?
KL: The endorsement of our success is that we’ve lost very few clients, except in the case of the public sector where an empanelment gets reviewed every few years, and they have to take new people. In the private sector, we handle Fortis, Kohinoor – Basmati and the food brand, The DS Group, Khyber Cement, B&O Music, SKC in South India, and A1 cycles, and in the public sector, we’re empanelled for Incredible India, Air India, MTNL and BSNL, Rajasthan Tourism, Indian Oil, and the Industrial Development Board.
CI: Are other new independent agencies changing the business for you?
KL: Not really. They’re giving a lot of grief to the top 5, because they’re attacking the domain they would normally be pitching for. But down the line, as they keep looking for additional business, that’s when the competition will get tough.
CI: What are your plans for the future?
KL: We’ve put in a lot of new initiatives within the agency as part of our strategy. One, was the launch of the specialised units. Two, we’ve been very shy – our visibility must increase. People consider us more public sector, but we’re a 50:50 business. For the visibility part, we’ll put in new reward schemes and programmes in the agency so the team gets energised. It’s not about winning awards, it’s about participating.