UK-headquartered digital agency AKQA, a part of WPP, has announced the opening of its first office in India, in Gurgaon. As reported by Campaign India in June this year, it has been operational for a while now, building its technology talent base.
The headcount in India is expected to cross 50 by end-2014, said Ben Jones, chief technology officer, AKQA.
Terming this as phase two of expansion in India, he added, “We started off with the technology footprint tapping into the immense talent in the market. We have built the foundation to create a cohesive global story and phase two is very much about bringing in creative talent locally.”
Heading the team in India as client services director is Anurag Bhatnagar, former MD-digital, Havas Media. He reports to Jones, who oversees the output. Vivek Gupta, who was at AKQA Berlin for three years, has been brought in as group technical director for India. He reports to Bhatnagar.
Besides Gupta, there will be cross-pollination of talent with more resources from across offices coming to India. Terming AKQA as a ‘mini-network’, Jones noted that talent could be moved for various reasons, such as to seed an office or to seed a campaign.
On the creative talent the agency would seek to hire in India, he said, “We haven’t reached out to the talent yet, but we have mapped the talent that we want. Phase two is already afoot.”
Clients and local competition
The agency has in its fold large global clients like Nike, Audi and Google, many of whom have a sizeable presence in India.
Without naming any of them, Jones said, “We’ve done that around the world; we have expanded with our clients globally. Every time we have opened an office, it has been to help a client in a particular market.”
Bhatnagar noted, “We are looking to expand the footprint in India in a variety of ways. There are opportunities at the local level and we are in conversations with clients here at this point in time.”
He added, “Indian companies and brands have significantly transformed themselves in the last two to three years. We’re seeing that wave in industries like auto, hospitality and healthcare, among others. Yes, a lot of it is still traditional mass media, but in the last three years there has been a massive shift in how consumers are using services, communication and social media - digital is going to be a future of everyone’s life and that’s the opportunity.”
On the kind of agencies AKQA will have to compete with in India, Jones said, “Any company in the space of trying to create meaningful applications - products that connect consumers with brands in the digital space - would be competition. We’re not so keen to look at what agencies are doing; the key thing is to take organisations and make them digitally stand out by building ‘phenomenal things’.”