Former Grey co-NCD Amit Akali's entrepreneurial venture What's Your Problem (WYP) Brand Solutions completed a year last month. The agency has since roped in several new hands.
Divya Saxena joins as 'founder member', as director – creative and design. She was creative director at Contract Advertising prior, and becomes the fifth member of the core team which includes Amit and Praful Akali, Huzefa Roowala and Hammad Khan. Saxena will partner Roowala and Khan in taking responsibility of the creative product, informed an agency statement.
In other hires, Sameer Murudkur joins as associate creative director and Shihab Kareem as group head – art. Mihir Chitre has also joined as group head.
We caught up with the leadership team in May to find out what had transpired in year one.
Time to scale
Akali informed that WYP bagged 11 accounts and worked on a few more projects in year one. He believes the number could be more had the agency had the bandwidth. The team size has now increased from 10 to around 30, and the stated focus for year two is to get more senior talent on board so that the ‘No’s’ can turn to ‘Yes’’ and more clients can be roped in.
Akali explained, “When we started off, the big thing for us was how to position ourselves. We were very clear and wanted to be media neutral. That’s exactly how we have gone around solving problems. It’s a part of our name. We wanted to be a full-service digital agency first that also offers integration. This makes us the only agency a client needs. We wanted to get the digital part of it right. There were a lot of question marks at the point, about it really paying etc. But, that hasn’t been an issue.”
He added, “This year has gone by on pure adrenaline. We have been saying no to clients and businesses when the deadlines didn’t work. It’s been pretty crazy. Some clients were sweet enough to wait for us. They’ve waited two to three to four weeks for us. We didn’t want to take up anything that we couldn’t do justice to. In the last three months, we have tried to grow our team so as not to say no to our clients. We’ve been getting in senior people from mainline advertising. Art and design is something we are trying to focus on. We wanted an art partner for the three of us."
'Doubling up as a production house'
Clients the agency has worked with include Matrimony Group, Pico Sauces, Cocofly, Kotak Securities, Franklin Templeton, an ITC business (to be announced shortly), MyTee Ninja, Wedding Wishlist, Brinc, Soigne Mode, Indigo Radio and Indigo Live Music Bar.
Hammad Khan, director, client servicing and technology, explained, “Client-wise the year has been amazing. We’ve had Kotak Securities as a big client. We have won a big business for ITC. We’re hoping to launch to launch the product soon. We have the entire Bharatmatrimony.com group. It has 700 different sites. It’s been an incredible journey.”
The agency has shot all its films in-house. Akali said, “The differentiator for us has been video. Huzefa (Roowala) came on board with experience from MTV."
Huzefa Roowala,director, creative and content, noted that shooting the films in-house gives quality and economies that clients want. Noting that WYP "doubles up as a production house,” he explained how this helps 'digital-led integration'.
“We started off with BharatMatrimony as its digital agency. We are doing their mainline TVCs on a project basis now. We even do their billboards. The requirement has changed where clients are asking for digital-led integration. We did this for Kotak. We had 40-odd videos for digital, out of which 10 went onto TV. Every brand manager we talk to wants something like that. That was the big-big policy we stuck to. We make digital presentations with insights. That’s when the client asks us to do TV commercials where other agencies were working with them, but hadn’t cracked it. Going straight for the TV commercials may not have worked,” he observed.
Plans for the year ahead
While WYP Brand Solutions hasn’t entered awards functions, its sister agency Medulla Communications has been in the news on the awards front. The agency bagged third spot on the Healthcare Agency of the Year tally at the Health Lions at Cannes last year. The Akali brothers will also be speaking at the festival this year.
Akali suggested that in its second year, WYP will be ready to enter awards. “Things have been so busy this year. We took a call not to take part in awards as WYP since we didn’t have the bandwidth. Clients of ours have been kind and enthusiastic and they’ve entered some of the entries we created. We won a Golden Mike and had no clue on this. The Flipkart film we created was in the top five most viewed commercials in India on YouTube last year. So, there’s stuff happening on its own. Medulla was in a different lifecycle – so it was taking part and winning. This year, we will participate and start the process. We have no reason not to participate.”
Akali remained tight-lipped about revenues in the first year. He stated, “We thought we’d earn an x-amount, but we’ve gone on to earn 4x. We thought on the other hand we’d need to invest a lot more, but invested only a third since the business has paid for itself. Therefore we have the office space and the expansion to add more people within the first year itself.”