Set up on August 15, 1995, Candid Marketing was one of the few agencies in the business in the mid-'90s when there was no real industry to speak of. Atul Nath, co-founder and managing director, Candid Marketing talks to afaqs! on the agency's 15th anniversary on how Candid Marketing has evolved through the years.
afaqs!: How did Candid Marketing come into being?
We decided we didn't want to do general advertising or PR but we were pretty much open to doing anything else that our clients wanted us to do. That is how we came to define our business in the space of events, promotions and direct marketing.
afaqs!: Wasn't advertising lucrative enough?
Nath: In the '70-'80s, advertising had already grown quite a bit in India and there were a lot of large advertising companies already in business. We didn't see that as an opportunity. We saw events as an opportunity where not too many people were present and as a result, there was also a scope for growth.
afaqs!: What were the problems you faced initially and what has changed since then?
Nath: When we first spoke to clients, they did not even understand what we did. So the problems we faced then were as basic as understanding what the industry could or could not do. Today, those problems do not exist.
Now it is more about being able to differentiate yourself against competition, creating campaigns differently to break through the clutter. So, to that extent, things have changed. Clients' understanding is more and far more clear.
Almost all the clients we approached initially were sceptical about what we were going to do - except for a few. For instance, our very first client, PepsiCo, had always been an adventurous client. It was willing to take a chance and try new things. For those who were more sceptical, we found ways to help them understand our business or try out a small promotion to show the advantages and the results.
In the early 2000's, the tables turned and clients started approaching us. We were five year old then and had built up enough reputation for the word to spread.
afaqs!: How did the agency keep up with the changing times?
Nath: As the times were changing, we had to evolve ourselves. So, from simply doing on ground activities, we now use digital marketing for activation; we use mass media for activation, too. We carry out activations across all media. Now, the challenge is to get our clients to try different activations.
We did a lot of things differently - we tried a separate events business which did not work out. We tried a separate trade business - which has worked out. We have now evolved into a 360 degree brand activation company - which has been in last one year only.
From mere three people, the agency has now grown to more than 160 people.
afaqs!: What does the future look like for Candid Marketing?
Nath: At Candid Marketing, now we have two divisions. One is, of course, the brand activation business, which is consumer focused and helps clients activate their consumers to get them to buy more, sample more and get engaged with the brand.
The second is UBIQ Trade Marketing, which is basically to help our clients engage in long term, strong relationships within the trade, such as distributors, dealers and retailers.
Now our immediate ambition is two-fold. The immediate growth area on Candid Marketing - the brand activation business - is to grow overall in different media and create a holistic activation offering to our client. Secondly, UBIQ is a very new business. We started that business only a year and a half ago and I feel it has tremendous potential. So I believe it will become our second growth engine. This is what we plan to focus on in the next three-five years.
We have been consistently growing at 20-25 per cent over the past three years. I can see us easily growing at 25-35 per cent in the next three-five years, which is what we plan to achieve. In the next five years, we can easily be double or two-and-a-half times the size we are today. For UBIQ, I see us growing double or triple every year for the next five years.
afaqs!: What held back the growth of the agency?
Nath:My biggest disappointment in these 15 years has been that the industry has not been able to grow as fast and as quickly as possible. As an industry, we have not been able to develop as quickly and as well as we should have in the past 15 years.
15 years ago, I would have had a more optimistic view of the industry. The biggest disappointment is that agencies have not been able to come together to create a much better industry. Although it has started now, I wish we had done that about a decade ago because then, today it could have been a much stronger force.