There is a new advertising agency in town. Recently, former senior executives of DDB Mudra, Pallavi Chakravarti, Nishant Saurabh and Anand Murty, joined forces to set up a new ad shop, Fundamental. Chakravarti, Saurabh and Murty will lead the agency as chief creative officer, chief executive officer, and chief strategy officer, respectively.
In an interview with Storyboard18, the trio spoke about the network agencies, keeping good old advertising alive, and more. Chakravarti tells us that before setting up Fundamental, she and her partners spoke to several entrepreneurs in the advertising business. All of them had warned them: “it’s not going to be easy.”
Saurabh agrees there is way too much pressure on people who have just about dipped their toes in the ocean of entrepreneurship. “But the truth is we love advertising way too much and have really enjoyed our journey till now,” he adds. Murty says, “The power of the independent will always be un-fancy truth-telling.”
What urged Anand, Nishant, and you to go independent? What are you trying to solve through your set-up, Fundamental?
Chakravarti: What the three of us discovered as we worked together over the past two years is that we bring the same kind of energies to the table, and we would like to believe it's the good kind. Of course, we also disagree violently while working and argue till one of us drops dead. Or eventually buys into the other's point of view. But, we also agree on the things we feel really matter - the way we approach briefs and business problems, the body of work we want to create, the sort of culture we want to build, the type of people we want to work with.
And I guess when you want to do things your way or in a manner that you collectively believe works for the brands and businesses you work on, the decision to go independent writes itself.
How was the first founders meeting like?
Chakravarti: I don’t think we knew it when we first held one. We talk every day - about work and life and everything in between. So, at some point, in our heads, we probably shifted gears from being colleagues to founders, but it’ll be hard to put a finger on exactly when. But to answer your question, all our meetings are candid, searching, informal and unpretentious. A bit like us.
Did you seek advice from other indie agency founders or your former colleagues? What stood out in those conversations?
Chakravarti: Yes, absolutely. We spoke to some people who have been there and done that, and many who are being it and doing it. Varied perspectives and learnings came our way, all of which were useful to us as fledgling entrepreneurs.
Some key takeaways were, “it’s not going to be easy. You need to be clear about your vision, what sets you apart? What’s the kind of scale you’re looking to achieve? What’s the exact nature of your offering? It’s not going to be easy. You should know that everything is now your problem, including processes and tasks you never knew existed. You need to prepare for having a completely different experience vis-a-vis being an employee. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be the most rewarding event of your professional life, in terms of what you will learn and what you will unlearn.”
We’re grateful to all the people who took time to speak with us and share their experiences and advice.
Are we seeing a resurgence of the indies in India? Why do you think that is the case? And what do your clients or prospective clients want these days?
Murty: The power of the independent will always be un-fancy truth-telling. Whether it is a news network or a creative agency. Not over-complicating matters or glossing over the truth. Not mindlessly chasing awards but gunning for commercial impact. Not foisting a meandering 300-slide deck but focusing on the insights that really matter. Not succumbing to group think or follow the leader but questioning and disagreeing. From numerous conversations over a period of time, this is what we feel our clients, present or prospective, want. And being independent gives us the freedom to do just that and more.
Read more: Former DDB Mudra execs Pallavi Chakravarti, Nishant Saurabh, Anand Murty launch new ad agency, Fundamental
What are network agencies not getting right about modern clients? How can indie shops fix those gaps?
Murty: The client C-Suite and marketing teams are already dealing with many challenges, like making the brand experience ecosystem more responsive to current expectations from people, collaborating with a number of specialists and partners, managing the brand P&L and more.
The last thing they need is an agency (network or not) that adds to these complications or is unresponsive to their needs. More importantly, they need strong directional thinking on brands and businesses and partners who can bring this kind of work to the table.
Indie shops have the advantage of having a flat, tight-knit group of senior leaders who can take on these problems without the noise, the fads or the faff.
What clients are you looking to on-board?
Murty: Clients who want business, brand and creative partners, who are looking for a close-knit team to run with them and lead directional thinking. They are the clients we would love to work with.
Nishant, you mentioned that you guys are here to keep good old advertising alive. Could you explain more on this?
Saurabh: That’s way too much pressure on people who have just about dipped their toes in the ocean of entrepreneurship. The truth is we love advertising way too much and have really enjoyed our journey till now. So it just stands to reason we want to create a place that exudes the same love for the profession. If we manage to bring some of the magic and madness back into the business, it will be an added bonus.
Have you set a target for yourself? What’s on the to-do list for year one?
Saurabh: The idea is to grow slow, yet strong and steady. As independents, we don’t have the revenue pressures that network agencies have, which allows us to be more focussed on the work we do and its impact on clients’ brands/businesses.
Our focus and energies will be going into making our clients and their businesses grow, which, we are sure, will lead us to grow, too. Hopefully, by the end of year one, we will create some kickass work, which we are all very proud of and gets more clients to want to work with us.
Also, in terms of talent, who do you want to work with?
Saurabh: The ones who aren’t afraid to argue and question, to laugh at themselves. The ones who roll up their sleeves in their quest for answers that work the best. And yes, while we all keep hearing that there isn’t much talent left in the industry, we believe the truth is far from it. Advertising is alive and kicking, because there are still people who are extremely passionate about it. We are looking to work with just those people. And we’re hoping that, by building a culture where people are happy with what they’re doing, we’ll be able to attract the right kind of talent as we grow.