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Video content will be the game changer in 2019: Shrenik Gandhi, White Rivers Media

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MUMBAI: A young professional just graduated from an MBA college would be thrilled to join a reputed company like Future Group. But Shrenik Gandhi?s entrepreneur blood wouldn?t allow him to work under someone else.

Within a year, he quit and started his own digital marketing agency White Rivers Media and propitiously the agency?s first client was Future Group who handed over the signing amount cheque during Gandhi?s exit interview at the company.

Gandhi began his entrepreneurial journey in 2012 with his MBA batchmate Mitesh Kothari, who was then working for another digital agency WATConsult. What started off as a two-man operation today has a team size of over 75 people in its HQ in Mumbai. With the new office in DLF Cyber City, White Rivers Media is looking to localise all the digital, video and AI-driven e-commerce solutions for its NCR-based clients and more.

With a strong hand over national and international clients from more than eight countries, it has worked with some of the top-valued brands in the country, executing many of their flagship campaigns and grabbing eyeballs internationally. The agency has worked across a range of industries and verticals, including brands like OnePlus, Viacom18, TATA Cliq, Zivame amongst others.

Indiantelevision.com caught up with White Rivers Media CEO and co-founder Shrenik Gandhi to discuss the company?s initial struggles, progress and how things are panning out today.

Excerpts:

What was your initial capital like when you started off White Rivers Media?

Our initial capital was just a laptop and our collective brains and I think that is the good and bad thing about digital that there is zero inventory/investment. Today, anyone with a good laptop and internet connection and some brain can start a digital company. 

How was the opening year for you? Was it hard for you to recover money from clients since you were a new agency?

Yes, it was difficult to recover money but, luckily, acquiring clients was never a challenge for us because we made sure that the effort and passion we put in was 100 per cent. Our numbers grew only because of word of mouth. We hired a professional business development team only eight months back which only shows that our work spoke about the company for nearly four years. Today, we have 100 per cent growth year-on-year in terms of revenue. 

Who were your initial clients? And do you think your clients have evolved over the time?

Our first five clients are still with us. In the first year, we had less than 10 clients but today, we have on board 50+ clients. Most of our business comes from retainer clients and 60 per cent of our clients are retainers. Our clients have also evolved with us and gone are the days when people said that digital is the future. Digital is not the future. The future is now! Most of our clients have accepted that and give us the required freedom to come up with the best possible campaign for them. 

You recently expanded your reach and opened an office in Delhi. What?s your team size there and was this the right time to expand?

In Delhi, we currently have a team of four people but we are actively recruiting people to expand the team. Delhi is a big market and it only made sense to scale up and cater to our clients there, by physically being present.

So is Bangalore the next step for you?

Possibly!

You are traditionally a digital marketing agency, but today agencies are looking at expanding their reach and getting more clients to have a diverse portfolio. Will you also be looking at doing traditional medium anytime soon or are you only going to focus on digital marketing?

To be honest, going forward, I don't see any offline campaign which will not be supported by digital. It will just not make sense. Yes, a newspaper article is very important but how do we measure it? The campaigns in future will have to be more integrated and digital by itself will not be always enough. As for us, we will do traditional stuff but the core will always be digital. If the offline campaign augments to digital we will definitely do it. 

Will you be open to getting acquired at any time if a larger network approaches you?

It is a difficult question to answer, but if it makes return on investment (ROI), we will but only if the ROI makes sense today, after a year and five years down the line. Being a part of something bigger will only make sense when whoever we talk to makes strategic sense and the acquisition helps us in getting a seat next to bigger brands to pitch better with the agency?s larger network. 

Is it safe to say that India has become digitally evolved with the advent of Jio, free data and cheaper mobile phones?

People in rural areas today are also using voice search, Google maps and internet. Kids as young as 10-12 years have their own YouTube channel. The younger generation has skipped the laptop and they have gone straight to using mobile phones.  If we look at the data, India consumed roughly 25 crore GB of data per month before Jio was launched. Just after six months of launch, data consumption has grown up to 6X. With over 125 crore GB data consumption in India, we are today the highest data consuming nation in the world. 

Every brand today wants to be present on digital as that seems to be the latest trend. Do you think digital investment will go up in future?

It will have to increase because brands will eventually realise that the amount they are putting in on hoardings is not yielding them with enough revenue. Clients might want to cut on the cost of two hoardings to invest on digital. Even if they see the same revenue coming in for the company, it is an ROI for them. You will see a lot of budget being shifted to digital. A lot of campaigns being devised for digital first. Gone are the days when people would say that lets create a digital strategy but the world today has become digital and agencies will have to create strategies which will ultimately be digital. 

Which category do you think will make the most of digital for advertising?

I think FMCG and automobile will invest majorly on digital. FMCGs have traditionally been pathbreakers in the use of digital and they will continue to bet big on the medium. Smaller brands, however, will have to scale up and divide their advertising budget accordingly. 

On a parting note, what do you foresee to be the game changer next year (2019)?

Without a second thought, it has to be videos. The video consumption in India has gone up rapidly. The consumption of short format six-second, 10-second and15-second videos is increasing. The micro video content consumption has become crazy because people have a lot of free data. Today, four out of 10 posts on your Facebook newsfeed will be videos. One would wonder what is the benefit for the social network in this? Well, it would result in better stickiness on the app and more chances of having videos with free data and better revenue for the social platform.

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