Walk into the Grey Worldwide (Trikaya Grey India or TGI till yesterday) office at Sarvapriya Vihar in New Delhi and you will be greeted with executives with hair streaked with grey colour and with grey and orange balloons dangling all around. If you happen to bump into senior vice-president Ashutosh Khanna, who is also the head of the Delhi office, you will be greeted with a wry smile under his grey-toned moustache.
In case you are wondering, it's the same scene that will greet you at all the other Grey offices in India. The occasion: Trikaya Grey has become Grey Worldwide today. "We are now an integral part of Grey's global organisation and ambition. The name change signifies the new kind of company we want to evolve into. We have deliberately dropped the word advertising from our name. The idea is to reflect our mission of becoming a world-class provider of communication services; rather than doing advertising only," said Nirvik Singh, managing director, Grey Worldwide (India), while speaking exclusively to agencyfaqs!.
No wonder the Grey India staff is celebrating. Four years ago, when the founder of the agency Ravi Gupta expired, there was large-scale speculation that Trikaya Grey was about to shut shop. That was because in 1997-98 it took the unusual step of resigning 47 clients. The reason cited was that these clients took up too much of the agency's resources and the returns were insignificant. It also cut down its staff by close to 50 per cent thus increasing its input-output ratio.
Things have changed ever since.
The name change today comes as the culmination of a series of trends that TGI set in motion in the advertising industry. From being the first to focus largely on bottom lines when most agencies talked about billings and top line growth, to closing down loss-making offices at a time when having an all-India network seemed mandatory to be in business - Grey Worldwide (India) has emerged as an agency with tremendous financial savvy. Last year, it out-performed the industry. While the industry grew at 20 per cent, the agency grew at 37 per cent and moved three notches up the Top Agencies ranking done by A&M.
"All this is in line with the vision Ravi Gupta had for the agency and the process he started as early as in 1992," said Singh. "One major factor that contributed to our financial strength was the fact that by 1997 we'd more or less altered the agency's client mix. We wanted to be known as an agency that built brands rather than a creative boutique. With our size, it wasn't possible to remain a boutique any more."
Today, the agency's roster includes large MNCs and FMCG companies, such as Marico, BPL, ITC Procter & Gamble, Novartis, Britannia, Wrigley's, SmithKline Beecham, Mars, to name just a few. "And only 15 per cent of these are aligned clients," reiterates Singh.
However, he refused to admit if his agency is now a 100 per cent subsidiary of its global partner and maintained that "Grey has a majority shareholding in the agency". Darshan Mehta, the official spokesperson of the Lalbhai group, who was earlier the CFO at the agency, confirmed that both Gupta's wife Veena Gupta and the Lalbhai family had sold out their respective stakes in TGI as early as in February-March last year and that "the agency is now a 100 per cent Grey-owned agency". "In fact, after I quit, a whole host of others left the agency and the agency board was reconstituted. If you ask me, there is nothing novel in this … it's just a name change," he said
Still, with the all-round celebration at the agency's offices around the country, the question is: Will this development have a significant effect on the agency's bottom line? Will there be more alignment clients on the client list? Will its billings shoot up? "That was never the idea. But of course, this year we hope to grow by 30 per cent against the overall industry projection of 15 per cent. We will close the year with billings of Rs 285 - 290 crore," said an emphatic Singh.
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