Alokananda Chakraborty

How big can you get before going bad?

Creative hot shops like Mumbai’s By Design are lean and mean, but in a competitive market, is there any way but growth?

When clients look for an agency to handle their affairs, they want personalised service. And then, if they were to have everything - from the design of their direct mailers, to the 30-second television spot - done at one place, they don't want to look any further, especially in these trying times.

It is this opportunity that small creative hot shops like the Mumbai-based By Design are looking at. The small creative shop, tucked away in a quiet corner of the bustling city, has won major accounts like the Standard Chartered Bank direct mailing account, which it gained from HTA, and the Regent Mumbai account, which it won from Ambience D'Arcy. Yogesh Dhawan, vice-president and general manager, The Regent, explains why the hotel decided to go in for By Design though major ad agencies pitched for the account, "The By Design pitch was exactly in sync with what we wanted. In a big agency, the talent is diverted, while in a firm like By Design, the client is given personal attention."

Among the services that By Design - which describes itself as a cross-media communication specialist - offers are media planning, advertising, identity management, brand building - offline and online, TV commercials, film making, and even public relations. And the firm tries to add the personal touch too. As Rahul Gupta, founder and managing director, and an ex-Trikaya man puts it, "What we try to do is provide better solutions, solutions that are faster, diverse and more holistic."

For example, for the launch of Mikano's, the S. Kumars-owned discotheque in Mumbai's Landmark Citi, the invitation came with a jar of chillies. "What we wanted to communicate was that Mikano's was the hottest night spot. And, to do this, we took the most creative way," says Stuti Jalan, communications executive, By Design.

A similar strategy was followed to enliven the dreary direct mailers of Standard Chartered. Instead of sending bulky envelopes, that more often than not ended in the dustbin, By Design sent a small pillow attached to a leaflet. The idea was to drive home the point that one could open an account from one's bedroom. The message was sharp, short and quick to the point.

Going to a one-stop shop can also work out cheaper, though for several clients this is not the key issue. Says Pervez Damania, CEO, Landmark Citi, "Saving costs is not the main motive. More personalised attention is." By Design has also bagged some prestigious accounts like the Kellogg's packet promotion, the ad campaign for Binani Cements, in both print and television, and the Just Jane series of bags, launched by Jane Shilton.

However, ironically, the very qualities that creative shops like By Design have -flexibility, creativity, and individuality - are those that are lost when a company grows. On the other hand, in a shrinking market the only way to minimise risk is to spread it, and that means getting more and more clients. To put it graphically, how big can an agency get before it goes bad?

It is a challenge that creative hot shops like By Design will have to face. If not now, then in the future.

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