Suraj Ramnath

"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor

Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor, founding partners, The Womb, are confident, fearless, outspoken and a touch mischievous. The duo boasts a 'combined Ogilvy experience' of 40 years (Navin - 18, Kawal - 22).

Navin, former president, Ogilvy Mumbai and Kolkata, and Kawal, former national planning director, Ogilvy India, launched The Womb around six months back.

The agency has a staff-strength of 21, of which around seven comprise the creative team. Interestingly, employees of The Womb have around ten years of work experience, each. "We don't have junior staff," says the duo. And no creative work is outsourced.

The Womb has three components: Brand advertising, entertainment (say, a travel show, hinged on branded content) and serial ideation (the business of 'selling ideas'). Today, around 80 per cent of their revenue comes from the advertising business. In five years, they hope, 80 per cent of their revenue will come from non-advertising work.

Such as? "We are open to anything," says Talreja, "Kawal has a great idea for a movie; I have been forcing him to put it down on paper."

Among other things, the duo is keen to work with startups and get them to "stop blowing up VC money."

And oh, they have vowed never to work on a tobacco account, no matter how lucrative.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

When we interviewed Kunal Jeswani, CEO, Ogilvy, recently, he said one of his major focus areas is talent retention. What prompted your decision to move out?

Kawal: We have had the time of our lives working at Ogilvy. We have no complaints about the way the organisation is.

Every large organisation goes this problem where people have different ambitions, bigger ambitions... they want to work in smaller groups. For us, that's been the case. We want deep engagement with clients. Given the width of Ogilvy, we were being spread out very thin, across so many clients.

"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
Our first six months (at The Womb), have vindicated our decision to move out of Ogilvy. We've already broken even and will be profitable by the end of our first year.

Navin: I think it's about reaching the point of saturation.

There is absolutely no problem in the system of Ogilvy. They are very good. But it is a 'top heavy' organisation - there aren't enough challenges being offered to good professionals. So, they want to seek opportunities outside.

This systemic issue exists not only at Ogilvy but at most large agencies that are structured in a way that requires people to work in a certain manner, especially because they're part of large holding companies that have to deliver top and bottom line targets.

We have no such issues. We're not funded by anybody. There's no investor or holding company to answer to. That is exactly why we left.

After so many years of being in a large agency, we're now enjoying our lives. Now, the only people we're answerable to are our wives!

Kawal: Also, personally, I now enjoy the power to say 'No' to prospective clients. We have already said that three or four times.


Navin: Yes, we should have been at least Rs 3-4 crore up in our revenue, by now.

There are many creative startups today. What differentiates The Womb?

Kawal: Look at the agencies launched in the last ten years. I don't remember seeing a planner and an account head starting an agency. The norm is for people from the creative department to start out... So, our origin itself provides the differentiation.

Also, having cut our teeth on so many campaigns at Ogilvy, we know that a great strategy is useless if you cannot convert it into wonderful advertising.

Navin: Anybody who wants personal attention, deep engagement, and wants to ensure that the business does well, will come to us. Our reputation speaks for itself.

We have told clients, 'You will have uncomfortable meetings with us because we will be very candid about what we think is right for the brand.'

"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
For instance, we had a very strong point of view on the media strategy for Indian Trading League or ITL (online share trading platform)....

Navin: ... He (ITL) would have split off Rs 25 crore but only spent Rs 5 crore....

Kawal: ... He's got a rocking business because of the media choices we made...

Navin: We had a sharp strategy... ITL gained over two lakh registrations in about six months...

So you want to help brands spend wisely, yes?

Navin: Why the hell are brands blowing up VC money? We were going to write to Mukesh and Sachin Bansal, saying - 'Flipkart is wasting money'. Amazon still seems to have a plan, but Flipkart is blowing up VC money. is another one....

"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
We see a lot of VC money being spent really irresponsibly. Every time one opens up The Times of India, one gets to the first page after flipping through four pages of ads. How the hell are they going to build the brand with this kind of work? People are becoming lazy; they don't apply their minds... they're applying too much 'free money'.
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
If we work with a start-up, we'll be involved all through the media chain.
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
I am not saying creative people do not understand this, but it comes naturally to a planner.
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
"Flipkart Is Wasting Money!": Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor
Take, for instance, our recent 'Kya chal raha hai? Fogg chal raha hai' campaign. People are creating videos and Whatsapp jokes around it - none of it has been triggered by us. It is not paid for. In eight weeks of advertising the brand grew by 40 per cent.
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