Success depends on conviction and perseverance, not gender: WATConsult CEO Heeru Dingra

The company expects a growth rate of 40% next year.

MUMBAI: Businesses are no longer male-centered. Women entrepreneurs are attempting to break the glass ceiling and some of them have. Heeru Dingra, CEO of WATConsult, the digital agency from the house Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), is a strong believer in gender equality and strives to provide equal platforms to everyone for growth and success. WATConsult, which started as a blogging site in 2007, now boasts of 400 people and showed a whopping 60 per cent growth in net revenue and a 54 per cent growth in bottom-line making it the profitable digital agency within DAN.

“Despite 2019 being a challenging year for the industry, we have registered a growth of 35-40 per cent. We aim to project a similar growth rate or more in the next two years. The share of digital in India’s advertising space is increasing rapidly and soon digital will become the second-largest medium in India, overtaking print as a medium. While we are already a sizable entity as a digital agency, we will continue to build scale on scale, keeping creativity and people at the heart of the business,” said WATConsult CEO Heeru Dingra.

In a candid interview with Heeru Dingra spoke at length about her journey, challenges and much more.

Edited excerpts:

Tell us about WATConsult's journey from a blogging site to one of India's prominent digital agencies. 

WATBlog’s instant success led to the birth of WATConsult. A brainchild of Rajiv Dingra, currently the chief mentor and advisor, the agency has had a roller-coaster journey since its inception in 2007. From thereon, the agency grew in leaps and bounds thanks to the constant support of friends, family and benevolent WATizens. In the very first year, we bagged big names like HSBC, Lay's and Mahindra. We not only survived the 2008 Lehmann Brothers crash, which pretty much put a pause on all marketing spends but also scaled up the agency during very competitive times from 2012-2015 before being acquired by DAN. In 2015 a majority stake of WATConsult was sold to DAN and in just three years it not only became the fastest-growing agency within the network but also the most internationally awarded agency within the network.

Post Dentsu how has the scenario changed in the digital agency space?

Specifically, for WATConsult, a lot has changed and yet, nothing has changed. We became a part of the network in 2015 but we still feel as independent as ever, in our thinking, creativity and the manner in which we serve our clients. There has been no dilution of culture or working style. If at all, we have only got better with time. What has changed though is more collaborations with group agencies and integrated pitches. 18 per cent of our business comes from DAN clients. By cross-leveraging the strengths of group agencies, we are able to build deeper integration with current clientele and become a one-stop-shop across domains.

What are your marketing and brand strategy activites for 2020 and the future?

Our strategy for 2020 and ahead, is to live by our company philosophy, coined collectively by the people of WATConsult - ‘Impact what matters, create what lasts’, six powerful words we truly believe in. A philosophy that comes alive in every interaction one would have with WATConsult, as a client and a partner.

Did you experience failures? If so, what did you learn from them?

Like everyone else, I have also experienced failures and here is what I have learnt from it.

I firmly believe that success is overrated, and failure is unacceptable in our society. According to me, failure should be our teacher rather than our undertaker. It is nothing but a temporary detour that pushes a person to strike back again with more effort and passion. We as a company failed in 2008. During the recession period, we had to shut shop. However, it taught us many valuable lessons. We realised our mistakes and made sure it was never repeated. Today, we are what we are, thanks to our failures. I must mention, to showcase our value for failure, at WATConsult, we have put in action an HR initiative called ‘FAIL-First Attempt in Learning’.

We have boards put up in the office for this initiative. Everyone, from the top bosses to the juniors are encouraged to write what they have failed at.

What has been your most successful marketing campaign? And why?

·  The ‘Powerless Queen’ campaign created for Project Nanhi Kali has certainly been our most successful marketing campaign. It broke down the myth that digital agencies cannot produce outstanding and effective creative work. The campaign struck a chord nationally and internationally. We received awards and accolades from everywhere.

· The ‘Mind Your Language’ campaign was the first-ever e-commerce campaign that turned misspelled searches into sales. The campaign won around 15 awards out of which nine were Gold medals. It also won a Grand Emvie.

·   ‘Thanks A Dot’ which was launched on Women's Day for SBI Life Insurance, was a step to spread awareness about breast cancer and inculcate the habit of self-examination among women. The campaign won around 10 awards including four Golds at national and international award shows. 

·     With ‘Beat the Crave’ campaign created for Safola Fittify, we created the first-ever audio-driven digital initiative that aimed to distract the audience from unhealthy food cravings. It also won the title of Best Use of Platform (Whatsapp) at campaign India digital crest awards. 

What are the latest trends in the digital marketing segment that you have witnessed?

The 3Vs of digital media – voice, video and vernacular will continue to dominate at scale in 2020. Businesses will continue to adjust to new ways of doing things, most of which are related to the digital transformation that the world has experienced in recent years. From artificial intelligence, marketing technology, and the internet of things, new digital technologies will continue to have a major impact on business in 2020.

How easy or difficult it is to be a woman entrepreneur? Major challenges you have faced while being a women entrepreneur? And how did you overcome them?

Nothing comes easy as an entrepreneur or otherwise, regardless of your gender. Both genders face challenges and when it comes to achieving success. It is about one’s conviction, self-belief and perseverance, than one’s capability or gender. What irks me is the constant comparison when there is actually none. Both genders are wired differently, physically and psychologically. Both come with their traditional and unique skill sets and strengths. In this day and age, the responsibilities of both men and women are ever-changing and interchangeable. Rather than competing with each other, we should work as a team and balance the skills of one with the complementary abilities of others.

Do you have a message to aspiring women entrepreneurs?

My message is -

·   Celebrate yourself. You are brilliant and unique just the way you are. I don't think you need to compare yourself with anyone. Have confidence, conquer your fears and respect your point of view. If you find yourself in a room full of men, remember you are there for a reason and the reason is YOU - your talent and your ability brought you here. Love yourself and be a catalyst for change.
·  Build a network. I’ve seen that women are extremely shy of networking. Networking is one of the strongest forces at all stages of the career. What stops us is that we overthink, we judge ourselves before we are judged. Stop doing this. Go forth confidently and get your work done. 

 Speak up fearlessly, express your opinion, it is far more valuable than you think!

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