The carpenters are everywhere. One has to hop over bags of cement and paint splatters to get to the reception - now housed in a conference room. It's renovation time at Trikaya Grey's Delhi office. In fact, it's been renovation time here for over three years now.
Which, incidentally, happens to be the case with the agency as a whole. Times were when Trikaya was the custodian of Indian creativity. In fact, Freddy Birdy once admitted to this scribe that it was "those witty lines that came out of Trikaya" that inspired him to embrace advertising.
Then the drool-worthy ads dropped in number. Trikaya's presence at the award ceremonies dimmed. Soon, the agency stopped figuring in the advertising community's memory, save as a bitter question mark - what has Trikaya done to itself?
"Trikaya was very focused on creative excellence," explains Prathap Suthan, associate vice-president, Trikaya Grey, Delhi. "But post-liberalization, the truly big clients came into India, and that changed everything." The multinationals had set templates and successfully tested formulas across varied markets. "More importantly, winning awards is not on the agenda of these big brands," explains Suthan. "They're here to win markets."
In this context, Trikaya had a decision to make - how to navigate the future? In 1995, Grey stepped in to help make the choice. The agency opted to take the strategy-driven approach. True, the awards are few in number, but business is rolling in nice and fine.
Take the Delhi branch, for instance. When Prathap was relocated to Delhi from Calcutta in 1997, the Delhi branch had billings of Rs 12 crore. "The buzz actually had it that we were closing shop," recounts Prathap. Delhi hopes to close this year (September 2000) with billings of Rs 70 crore.
There are other concrete examples of how successful the Delhi branch has been. "Take the case of Aquafresh," says Naresh Gupta, account planning director, Trikaya Grey, Delhi. "Here we have a toothpaste that was launched just 14 months ago, in a market dominated by the global leader Colgate. Yet we've managed getting a 6-per cent market share."
In the case of Aquafresh toothbrushes too, the agency can claim credit. "What Aquafresh has managed doing is opening a new price point," insists Naresh. When the most expensive toothbrush in a market is priced at Rs 12, launching a toothbrush priced at Rs 25 and selling it successfully is no mean achievement. Aquafresh has a 10-per cent share in the toothbrush market.
The SBI card is another Trikaya Grey Delhi success story. The credit card market is dominated by the MNC banks, Citibank being at pole position. All these banks have gone in for top-bracket segmentation, forcing SBI to position its card for the mid-segment. "There was no question of SBI poaching from the other players as the premium market is too small," explains Prathap.
But targeting a credit card at the entry-level customer isn't an easy job. While a credit card is aspirational, there are too many myths attached to it in the consumer's perception. "People think it's going to be expensive," explains Prathap. "They think the bank is going to run away with the money. They aren't comfortable about using the card." Attached to this was the SBI factor - a slow, governmental bank.
"What we did was try to convert all the minuses of SBI into pluses," says Prathap. "We played on the trust people have bestowed on SBI… after all, it's the bank our grandparents used. We played up the SBI tradition, the network. The advertising was plain and simple. No twists. We were talking to cautious people, people who needed to be told about credit cards."
The ads were pretty bland, contributing to the 'what's Trikaya doing' question. "People told me yeh kya ad banaaya hai," says Prathap. "I say we managed capturing the simplicity of SBI and extending it to the card." Data seems to vindicate Trikaya. "The latest IMRB brand track shows that the SBI Card is the most preferred card, even over Citibank," smiles Naresh.
The Delhi branch has won a lot of other big-ticket accounts as well. Apart from Aquafresh, it has Maltova from SmithKline Beecham. Then there is Oracle (a result of a global realignment), Apollo Tyres (all business apart from the passenger car tyre account), go4i.com (and all its channels), Tillsbury, Domino's Pizza and the newly won Dainik Jagran account. And, of course, Opel Astra.
"India is the only market in the world where a General Motor account has shifted to an agency other than McCann," Prathap says proudly.
He also gives full credit to Ashutosh Khanna, Delhi branch head. "When we started in 1997, people in Bombay used to ask us, 'What do you do in Delhi?' Today, we've reached a point where we are in the pink of health," says Prathap. And that doesn't stand for Delhi alone. Should all the projections come true, the agency is likely to cross the Rs 200-crore mark comfortably, claims Naresh.
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