Curry Nation to consolidate creative biz in 2013

MUMBAI: For Priti Nair and Naggesh Pannaswami, it wasn‘t the best of times to start their entrepreneurial journey. The Indian economic growth story was getting stained by a slowdown and harsh winds were blowing from Europe, the US and other parts of the world.

A contrarian mood was, however, ruling the agency world. Media professionals were chucking their jobs and taking the plunge to become masters of their destinies. Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi had started Taproot while Manish Bhatt, Raghu Bhat and Joy Sengupta had set up their own agency Scarecrow and Raj Kurup had flown solo with Creativeland Asia.

The infection spread to Nair and Pannaswami and they founded Curry Nation in January 2011. “It is always scary when you start on your own. But we knew we had to do it," Nair recalls as we settle for a chat in the conference room of the new office at Mahim.

For the duo, there was no need to get the early frights. They had a founding client in Emami and they were clear that they could tap the small and medium-sized Indian clients.

"Yes, we were fortunate in having Emami right from the start," says Nair.

Then the whole thing was about drawing in talented people. "Fortunately for us, we had a good bunch of people joining us in the first year itself. Even before we went into a formal proper office, we already had three people on board apart from Naggesh and I,” says Nair.

Along the journey, Emami‘s other brands got added and so did other personal care brands. Today, Curry Nation lends its creative services to brands like Borosil, 18 Again, Emami (personal care brands) and Himani.

Having completed two years, the homegrown advertising agency Curry Nation is where its wants to be – in the thick of things, doing the kind of work it always wanted to.

The team at Curry Nation has also grown to 18 people working out of a new office in Mahim. Happy to talk about her team, Nair says "they are a bunch of happy people doing the kind of work they like and believe in".

Curry Nation ended 2012 with one of the most visible and controversial campaigns of 2012 – the ‘18 Again‘ project. The communication about 18 Again, a brand of vaginal tightening cream, attracted a lot of attention and the campaign was pulled out by ASCI following complaints regarding its social effect.

Nair describes ‘18 Again‘ as one of the highlights and challenges of the year. “As a product, there was always going to be a challenge considering the client wanted to market a vaginal tightening cream as just that and not under the veil of anything else. As far as the communication goes, I am very proud of it. It is something that will stay in our show reel for long. I am proud that we did not succumb to clichés while charting out the communication and made the ads about celebration instead of showing the Indian woman as downtrodden and distressed till the product came along,” she explains.

About the controversy that surrounds the ad, Nair believes that even a 10 second placement with the term ‘vaginal tightening cream’ would have evoked the same reaction. “We have been in the business long enough to know that you have to be sensitive with these kind of products. It’s a country that is still hidden under morals and notions like that and it is hypocritical at times. We have gone through the whole process of doing Balbeer Pasha and Liril. Increasingly now the case is that people jump to conclusions and start having issues with everything. If you see the kind of commercials that have been pulled up, even chocolates and sauces commercials are pulled up. All because somebody wakes up and objects because now they have the right to voice their opinion,” she points out.

The year 2012 also saw Curry Nation start its own media division with their first client Weikfield. The agency also handled the media duties for ‘18 Again‘.

Looking ahead at the year 2013, Nair and Pannaswami have their eyes set on two goals – consolidate the creative business and enhance and grow the media division.

Explaining further, Pannaswani says, “It will be a phase of consolidation for us and for organic growth. Most of our growth has been organic. What has happened is that our existing clients have been giving us more business while we have added few clients. We do want to spread ourselves into other categories as well. But, again, there are only so many categories that are opening up in terms of ad spends. So this year, we would like to consolidate the brands that we have and focus on the media division which needs support and growth.”

Looking at Curry Nation’s client roster, one observes two things – most of the clients are from the personal care/ health care category and all the clients are Indian companies.

Nair explains that while neither has been a conscious occurrence, Curry Nation as a creative force lends itself well in both cases. “The DNA of Curry Nation is Indian-ness. We are very clear that we want to create communication that is relevant to contemporary India. India is a bit of a macro country and the people are very dimensional in their emotions. It is not like a single layer, there are multiple nuances to our culture. We always look for an Indian insight to employ in our communication and this is what makes us a good fit with Indian brands which is evident in our roster of clients.”

On the acquisition front, Curry Nation is happy going solo as of now. “We are happy to be in a new and bigger office. It gives a feeling of growing. And it is satisfying. We are where we wanted to be as of now,” signs off Nair.

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