MUMBAI: For colleagues at the then Saatchi & Saatchi who saw them fighting with each other, it came as a surprise when Ramanuj Shastry and Nisha Singhania quit within days of each other, to start an enterprise of their own.
Singhania makes no bones about it. “We still have a lot of fights. Of course, it’s all related to work, but we aren’t the kinds who will just nod our heads to what the other person has to say,” she admits. How do they resolve these conflicts? “We try and convince the other. At the end of the day, it is all about logic and creativity,” she answers.
What began as an association when the duo first met in Rediffusion Y&R blossomed into an up-and-coming agency christened ‘Infectious’. Ask them why such a title and Singhania says it has to do with their belief that their work should be infectious. “We wanted to solve clients’ business problems, rather than focus only on creating communication like large agencies. Our work is to engage people and for that to happen, the work had to be communicable. We wanted to start an epidemic of good with ideas that spread,” she adds.
The freedom to do the kind of work the two of them wanted to was the mainstay of this self-funded agency. “We wanted to ‘do’ as well as ‘say’. For instance, when Camlin asked us to create a print ad for Children's Day, we ‘did’ an activity instead. We created a 'join the dots' ad, which kids had to colour and parents were urged to upload on their Facebook page. It was a very successful engagement and within 24 hours, took the likes on the Kokuyo Camlin FB page from 150 to 15,000,” says Shastry. The activity went on to be nominated by Facebook Studio for best use of the social networking website by any brand.
According to Singhania and Shastry, what sets their agency apart is the quality of ideas, lesser turnaround time, and personal involvement in every business. The client list is a mixed bag of biggies like HCL, DNA and Camlin and start-ups like Pied Piper and Braces & Smiles. For some clients, the agency handles all their marketing requirements while for others, it looks after specific projects.
For an organic set up, Infectious was lucky to have bagged two clients even before it launched. However, Singhania and Shastry are candid about the fact that clients are usually more comfortable giving business to larger agencies. Besides, it did take them a while before winning the confidence of heavyweights like HCL and DNA.
Infectious is headquartered out of Mumbai with a presence in Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata and has a young, energetic, hand-picked team of 15 running it. “We have worked in various agencies, so when people heard that we were starting something of our own; we got a lot of calls, especially from the youngsters. And since we have worked with them, so we knew what we could expect from them. We are blessed to have hand-picked talent,” says Singhania.
In addition to having a young team, the agency saw no harm in advertising itself. “Very few advertising agencies ever advertise about themselves. What is the harm in doing so? The logo adaption is our way of having fun. Digitally, one can do so much to engage with people, let alone clients,” says Shastry. Though he quickly adds that at its core, the business is still about ideas and digital is only a medium. Speaking of elections, he says that most political parties engaged and optimized their reach via the digital medium. Even Infectious created a special campaign along with DNA to urge people to go out and vote.
What do the next five years look like for Infectious? “Five years is a very long time. We are a ‘work in progress’ agency, with plans for the next 100 days,” say Shastry and Singhania at once.
What about network agencies snapping up independent agencies? The duo feels that in most cases, it is a win-win situation where network agencies bring in resources and scale while independent agencies bring in local expertise.
And with Goafest coming up, the agency which is all for awards as long as they are for real work, the future holds only great promises.
One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that like Monday mornings and coffee (chai, in some cases), Singhania and Shastry are a perfect combo.