Shreyas Kulkarni

“We expect to grow by 40 per cent in 2022”: Rohan Mehta, CEO, Kinnect

He says they’ve achieved everything they’d put on their “dream board” except a Cannes Lions trophy.

Digital reached a near zenith in the past few years and decade-old Kinnect, a digital creative agency, reaped the most benefits from it.

The digital creative agency, when the world was finding its way through the pandemic and its induced lockdowns, saw FCB India Group pick up a stake in it. Kinnect, the independent agency founded in 2011, was now part of the agency holding network.

Kinnect, today, boasts of offices in Bangalore and Delhi and of a clientele which includes names such as TVS Group, Intel, Van Heusen, Peter England, Allen Solly, Louis Phillippe, Forever 21, Geojit, Zoya Diamonds, WeWork, Pepperfry, Polycab, MX Player, PhableCare, ASUS.

From having little to no impact from the pandemic and all its woes to visualising a Cannes Lions through a dream board, here’s what CEO Rohan Mehta said in a chat.

Edited Excerpts:

Are you back to 2020 levels from a business standpoint?

We were back to pre-Covid levels by June 2020 courtesy of a bunch of our old clients like Asian Paints and HDFC Bank who invested a lot of money in their digital business.

In 2020, we grew about 20 per cent and our bottom line rose by about 45 per cent because our costs went up. In 2021, we grew by 53 per cent and on top of that and our bottom line grew by 73 per cent.

2021 saw people step on the accelerator in terms of digital and this was not just the big brands, a lot of our other clients came on board and started spending more. The spending was more towards mid-funnel and bottom-funnel campaigns, they were still significant and that is why you saw so much growth last year.

We expect to grow 40 per cent this year (2022). Business is coming in fast and thick, we are not able to say yes to many clients knocking on the door. Today, we’re 100 per cent bigger than what we were before the pandemic.

Project of full-service, what kind of work do you see clients offer these days?

We have two in-roads into clients: 60-65 per cent of our time, we enter as a digital creative agency and about 30-35 per cent of our time, we enter as a media agency. What we are known for is creative work but you will be shocked that media is a very large portion of our revenue.

As an agency, we’ve been wary of projects. 90-95 per cent of work happens for clients on retainer. We take up project work only for clients who are on retainer or clients who want to do a project but basis the project will award us the retainer.

The rest of our services like SEO, influencer, video production, and all our studio support services are add-ons to our core offerings. A client has to be engaged in one of these to take advantage of the rest. It has to be a long-term engagement either as a digital media partner or a digital creative partner.

You have an influencer management arm; how do brands approach them?

We started our influencer wing in 2017-2018 and at that time, people were focused on the larger influencers and their follower base. The conversation over the last few years has matured quite a bit.

Forward-thinking clients know what are the kinds of engagement they want on their posts and what kind of content is relevant to their TG (Target Group) because they want to make sure their TG will vibe with the content.

We are doing performance-based tie-ups with influencers where a part of their payment is fixed and a part of their payment is based on the kind of results they get for the client.

We have large-scale celebrities who now act as influencers, then we have the bigger influencers and then the extremely localised, nuanced influencers and those who might not have a big audience of more than 20-30,000 people. We employ all these different influencers depending on what we want to do.

Are you concerned about the lack of third-party measurement for digital now that more and more traditional companies are spending on digital?

Before we even come to third party measurement, the biggest concern with digital is that the metrics keep changing every few months; what a view meant a year back doesn't mean the same thing this year.

The biggest challenge is trying to find universal metrics that have the same meaning over time, which is always something that all clients and agencies are chasing. I think with digital, this is always going to be a moving target because the platforms are constantly changing.

We, for instance, now have connected TV, that will have another way of measurement because it's not a single person viewing it, you have a household or multiple people watching… the golden question out here is how do we find universal metrics that help us consistently gauge the effectiveness of a campaign.

What do you make of adland’s heavy attrition levels?

Digital agencies have a decent churn and we were churning at 30 per cent in normal times and then in 2021, it was the spillover of 2020 and, the opportunities in the market, especially in digital, went up. Brand side opportunities went up because everyone in their marketing wanted a digital team.

Also, people were reconsidering what kind of environment they will be willing to be part of. I think when there are world-changing events like this, it always has an impact on people's psychologies. And last, there was money coming in by the tonnes to the startups and most of it was spent on digital.

What’s with that ‘Waiting for Cannes Lions’ barricade tape?

We (Mehta and co-founder and COO Chandini Shah) created this dream board that was a small PPT with a bunch of pictures, which said “Hey if this happened, wouldn't it be cool?

We did put a timeline on making it happen and it was printed everywhere be it our desk or next to our beds, on our table… In 2018, we had a company offsite called Kinnection and two months before it, I saw this paper and everything on it had come true.

At Kinnection, we put together a dream board, which the company crowdsourced from all 200 of us and we put up different things on that board. One of the things on that board was a Cannes Lions trophy and right now that's the only thing that's left on that dream board.

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