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Rise of independent agencies

Hitesh Nigam and Praneeta Kumar Shringi, Co-founders of DesignAnswers, an up and coming Creative and Design agency in Gurgaon reveal the inside workings of an independent set up

The Indian advertising industry is seeing a sharp rise in the number of independent creative shops these days, and they are slowly challenging the norm of brands heading to big agencies for their advertising mandates.

Hitesh Nigam and Praneeta Kumar Shringi, Co-founders of DesignAnswers, an up and coming Creative and Design agency in Gurgaon reveal the inside workings of an independent set up. Praneeta is the Srishti, and Parsons Design School trained business head, and Hitesh Nigam is the Creative Head who comes with over 10 years of creative leadership experience.

With big brand names like American Express, Wingreens Farms, Halonix Technologies, Kimberly Clark, Taj, and Tata Smartfoodz to name a few, they have quietly managed to make a footprint in the industry by bagging business from some leading multinational brands.

On why brands choose to operate with smaller setups instead of a bigger multinational network agency.

Praneeta: "Brands usually work with multiple agencies to allow for more flexibility and more heads working on different campaigns. What clients love about us is new thinking, innovation, and speed because we have a lot more control in the way we work and structure ourselves. There is an increased level of dedication and enthusiasm that kicks in because we are a start-up."

Hitesh: "A lot of the great client work we do stems from a deep understanding of design but also the fact that we are not afraid to experiment. We are quick to adapt, change, and transform as per a client's requirement. Being small makes us flexible and agile to deliver design solutions by efficiently collaborating with different domain experts. A cohesive, like-minded team is easier to polish and allows us to provide exceptional value to our clients. We have developed strong, trusting relationships by working closely with our clients from start to finish."

Agency employee v/s Owners

Praneeta: "The truth is I always wanted independence in the way I operate. I am also a hustler and can't sit still. My ambition is important to me but I also did this to do right by the clients. The way DesignAnswers operates is very transparent and clear. The primary objective has been to develop and offer solutions that are best suited to our clients' needs. It guarantees some great quality in work, happier clients and that's what brings in repeat business."

Hitesh: "I was doing well as a partner and director in my previous job, but soon realized that I missed getting my hands dirty and really creating something. I wanted to develop more design-oriented projects and not limit myself to any media or genre. I was driven by a spirit of exploration and wanted to play with different things. And that was DesignAnswers for me, a space to build my passion projects with the freedom to try, experiment, and fail.

The challenge of getting new clients.

Praneeta: "A lot of clients still want to work with the biggies. But we also understand that brand matters. That's our whole, raison d'etre. Which is why we put in so much energy into delivering more than what our clients ask for. We are proactive in our ideation and have often discovered and solved problems for our clients, which they didn't even know existed. The hope is definitely to make some name for ourselves. Most of the clients we have right now have come to us via word of mouth appreciation. Something we wish only grows for us."

Hitesh: " More often than not, we have realized that its things like global alignments and some red tape that seems to work as a barrier, and brands are actually keen to work with fresh minds. I think that the trust in independent setups is increasing, and more clients are understanding the benefits of working with new agencies."

The future holds immense possibilities.

Praneeta: "Our dream is to turn DesignAnswers into a powerhouse of ideas. The goal is to become a holistic and adaptive solutions provider by using design interventions to find solutions for the environment or create a shift in consumer behaviour. We aim to be an active voice in the design and advertising world."

Hitesh: "These days, everything starts to look the same very quickly. We want to do bold and expressive work that breaks the clutter and would love to associate with clients who aren't afraid of trying new things that change the paradigm. For us, a considerable part is listening. We really deep-dive in our client's world and figure out how we can solve problems for them."

On working with DesignAnswers.

Mr. Arjun Srivastava, co-founder of Wingreens Farms on their association with them since launch and through the tough lock-down times when the going had gotten rough.

"DesignAnswers has been associated with Wingreens from the very start and have created the design language for the brand. They have been able to stay true to that and yet been able to help extend the brand into multiple categories"

Another word of praise from Mr. Amar Wadhwa, founder of Crystaleyes. Amar has been working with DesignAnswers on various brands like Halonix Technologies, SanFe and Strides Pharma Science.

"I have worked with DesignAnswers on multiple assignments. Every time they have proven that it was the right decision to partner with them. They are masters of their craft, combining great graphic sensibilities with a good understanding of consumer behaviour. Moreover, they are easy to work with and extremely responsive as a team."

Where DesignAnswers goes from here is a wait and watch story. But with a lot of brands transforming how they partner with agencies, especially post Covid19, it looks like the competition for the BIG design and advertising agencies is only going to increase in the years to come.