"The web site brandquiver.com is not integral to any of our offerings. It is just a visiting card for us," said Ranjyoti Barooah, CEO of the much touted " world's first marketing and advertising portal". Ten months after he took charge of the Suhel Seth-promoted portal, brandquiver wears a new look - complete with a new management team and a fresh business plan.
The task was awesome when Barooah took charge in June last year. "'Show me the money?' I'd asked. I simply did not see advertising on the brandquiver.com as a sustainable revenue-generating model," said Barooah. The problem was simple. Like hordes of other dotcoms, brandquiver too was charting the 'newspaper route'.
Elaborating on the issues plaguing brandquiver's growth, he said, "You buy a newspaper for Rs 1 or Rs 2 or, may be, Rs 5. But that does not cover the cost of producing the newspaper. The cost is borne by advertising and that's what generates the surplus revenue. The dotcom was boogying on the same logic. That is, expecting advertising to support the cost of maintaining the portal. Moreover, people didn't have a clear fix on the advertising revenue; they were projecting it on the basis of surrogates for advertising revenues - that is, eyeballs. They were saying that the site will get so many visitors and therefore they will sell so much advertising and therefore make so much money. To me it sounded too farfetched. It was a three-step removal from actual revenues. Therefore, we decided to look at other activities where we could get direct revenue."
Barooah was quick to spot an opportunity. "We saw a big opportunity in using the Internet for the purpose of brand building. And that's what we are doing now. We disseminate information on net marketing, net research, understanding of net-based design and architecture to the advertising and marketing fraternity." Sounds simple; but executing the new gameplan proved a daunting task.
The biggest challenge for Barooah was "the re-alignment of the existing staff'. Quite obviously there was a difference in the aptitude required to execute research-based activities from the one required to run a portal. The first step was breaking up the existing hierarchy. "For staffers to find out for themselves whether they were willing to give it a shot and for those willing to receive training, the brandquiver staff were broken up into project teams. Each team was assigned the task of developing a product. This exercise was carried out for six weeks."
Barooah is happy that the company did not sack a single employee. At the end of the exercise, around eight to 10 people called it quits. "If anyone left it was more of a personal choice. Thankfully, no one from the senior management level resigned," Barooah said.
Simultaneously, the company was working on its new product offerings. It took the company brass around three to four months to crystallise the three offerings. The first is Measure, which is brandquiver's proprietary Net research product. The second is Meet, which Barooah describes as "the increasing interaction point between the audience and the core value-promotions, mail serving, loyalty programmes and virtual launches". And third is Manifest, which is a pure consultancy and implementation function to help create web entities, micro sites, or newsletters - basically anything that helps a brand to target specific audiences.
In a matter of six months, brandquiver has acquired clients like Philips, Sony, General Motors, Hyatt, Timex, TVS Suzuki, Tata Tea, Barista coffee parlour, though Barooah confessed, "it takes a bit time to convince the clients about Internet being a potent tool for serious work".
Considering that 70-80 per cent of the surfers use the Net for mail, brandquiver surely has a long way to go. However, Barooah is optimistic. "brandquiver will break-even by 2003," he said with the confidence of a man in control.
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