Ashok Jain, Ganga team up to launch Octane Communications

By , agencyfaqs! | In | December 04, 2003
The former CEO of Cadbury Schweppes and the ad veteran from chlorophyll are partnering an agency that uses 'verticalization' as a key agency differentiator

Coming to think of it, the use of the word 'launch' in our headline is inappropriate. For 'launch' imparts an element of immediacy to the development, whereas the advertising agency set up by Ashok Jain (ex-CEO, Cadbury Schweppes) and Gangadharan Menon (better known as Ganga to the industry) has been around for roughly four months now. Making it one of the industry's better-kept secrets, may we add. However, it can equally be argued that 'Octane Communications' is just over a week old, so a 'launch' it is.

All this sounds terribly confusing, we know. So let's just begin at the beginning. And for the sake of convenience, let's assume the point when Jain quit Cadbury Schweppes in end 1999 (after Coca-Cola's global acquisition of Cadbury Schweppes) to be the beginning. Having quit Cadbury, Jain started a much-publicized Internet company and Net-based consultancy, ideasnyou - which, to quote Jain, was a dotcom and VC fund rolled into one. "The idea was to propagate ideas and we looked at verticals in the dotcom space," Jain recalls. The result was a spate of 'vertical' ideas such as,,… Some of these verticals saw the light of day. Some didn't. However, with the dotcom boom quickly giving way to the bust, ideasnyou more or less folded up.

But one of the verticals, goodhealthnyou, was making a fair bit of money, and Jain saw an opportunity. In 2001, together with Cherie Tandon Saldanha (vice-president - marketing, goodhealthnyou), he started converting goodhealthnyou into a healthcare communications agency (for the record, the website continues to exist). "goodhealthnyou recorded rapid growth and by end of 2001, it was the single largest healthcare communications agency in the country," says Jain. He adds that as of today, goodhealthnyou has 30 clients, a capitalized billing of Rs 20 crore and has launched 40 brands, including "all the largest healthcare launches in India in the recent past". With goodhealthnyou doing well, the desire to explore more possibilities in communication business took root. "Having captured the healthcare space, one wanted a wider canvas," says Jain.

It was in June this year that fate set up a chance meeting between Jain and Ganga (who had quit chlorophyll in November 2002). The two met for the first time at the launch party of Jain's brother Jeetendra Jain's new book (Ganga, Jeetendra Jain and Cherie Saldanha had been colleagues at O&M). "Ashok and I exchanged ideas, and there was a meeting of minds," says Ganga. "Ashok was clearly looking for a creative partner, and I was looking to work with someone with a sound marketing and strategy background. The new agency happened within a week of Jeetu's book launch, and I joined Ashok in July."

The new agency - it was initially called Oxygen Communications, but was rebranded Octane Communications last week, after the partners discovered that a Delhi-based agency named Oxygen Communications already exists - borrows its 'verticalization' thinking from ideasnyou. "Instead of being the seventy-third agency around, we decided that we will split categories along 'verticals' and find a category champion for each vertical," says Jain. "With my background, I shall champion FMCG. Ganga shall champion high-value segments, while Jeetu (who was with Thomas Cook and GE Countrywide, and has now joined his brother) will champion the service industry." Ganga elaborates that the verticals "will serve as the key differentiator in the way we approach business. Verticals like Lifestyle, which will handle jewellery et cetera; verticals like Services, which will handle couriers, insurance et cetera; verticals like Gifting, which will handle premium glassware et cetera."

With the agency out to establish a bigger footprint in the communication industry, goodhealthnyou has ceased to exist as an entity. Rather, the healthcare communications business has been spun off into a second agency - Oxygen Healthcare, which will specialize in both ethical pharma and OTC - with an independent P&L. Jain reveals that Oxygen Healthcare has just added up a couple of significantly big healthcare accounts to its portfolio. He adds that the company is recruiting people from a variety of backgrounds, with a "good blend" of advertising, marketing and creative. "We have our own CRM cell, media department, film department and multimedia studio. Nothing is outsourced, and we provide truly integrated solutions," he avers.

Speaking of agency targets, Jain reveals that Octane has picked up "some good clients in just four months of operation". These include Borosil glassware and a jewellery account. A few more are in different stages of finalization, he says. "For Octane, we are looking at a capitalized billing of Rs 10 crore by March 2004. And for Oxygen Healthcare, we are expecting to close this financial year with a billing of Rs 25 crore." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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