Enough of the small at Ushak Kaal

By , agencyfaqs! | In | July 21, 2000
Ushak Kaal, an advertising agency with a reputation for fashionable campaigns, seems to be shifting focus. Will the gambit pay off?

Ritujoy Chakraborty
NEW DELHI, July 21

Ushak Kaal is an ad agency that has had a reputation for fashionable campaigns for up-market products. Among its bread-and-butter clients were men's designer brands Study By Janak, Diwan Saheb, Old Street, casual wear manufacturer Blackberrys (which it doesn't handle any longer) and premium bathroom fittings brand Parko. These were brands that Ushak Kaal built up from relative obscurity into brands with high recall. Despite this, it had a fringe existence because of the lack of a high-profile national clientele.
All that would soon be a thing of the past. For starters, there has been a perceptible change in its choice of new clients. Over the last couple of years, Ushak Kaal has been silently working on brands like Amway India (which has moved on since then), Ballarpur Industries, Filmfare (from the ToI stable) and others.
A horde of Government accounts (ONGC, MTNL, Dept of Posts) last year saw its billings jump by 150 per cent, touching a high of Rs 25 crore, thus ensuring it the 29th position in the latest A&M agency rankings. This year, it hopes to grow by another 20 per cent in billings.
Yet working with these clients left a lot to be desired. Sanjay Sarma, director, Ushak Kaal, elaborates, "Nothing much to write home about in terms of 'creative work' in this area. Very few clients are ready to put their money on radical creatives. You go all the way and then finally end up doing things that are acceptable, less risky and safe."
What Sarma is more enthusiastic about is the fact that a dedicated IT team in the agency's creative department has been able to bag and retain high-profile IT accounts like Wipro Technologies, Motorola Semiconductors, Adobe Systems, Synopsys and others. In addition, it also grabbed Summit Data Products that moved from F S Advertising.
Now it is ready to jump on to the dotcom bandwagon, from where it sees a big chunk of its future growth coming. Only recently Ushak Kaal pipped 'bigger' boys TBWA Anthem and iB&W to bag the account of firstandsecond.com - claimed to be India's largest online bookstore.
Is that a conscious effort to move out of its 'fashion' niche and be accepted as a serious player on a national scale?
Sarma explains, "Just like every other agency, we wanted to grow from being a localised player to a national one. The last thing we wanted was to be labelled as a fashion-only agency. With this in mind, we set up a separate division called Ushak Kaal Studios that takes care of all our 'fashionable' clients. This leaves the parent agency free to service the hard-core utility products."
Ushak Kaal has often been appreciated for the creativity and the lustre of its campaigns. However, long-term strategy evolution for non-fashionable but cash-rich clients was never their forte. It seems they have woken up and smelt the coffee.

© 2000 agencyfaqs!