Ashwini Gangal

"It's about helping agencies prepare better pitches": Shiv Sethuraman on his new firm

Called 'The New Business', the firm is positioned as a business acquisition service for communication agencies.

Shiv Sethuraman, former Group President, Cheil, South West Asia, has launched a business acquisition service for communication agencies of all disciplines and sizes. He has named his firm 'The New Business' (TNB). In a nutshell, the service includes end-to-end handling of an agency's pitch.

"It's about helping agencies prepare better pitches": Shiv Sethuraman on his new firm

Shiv SethuramanOperations in Delhi and Mumbai have begun. "As of now, we have three people," Sethuraman tells afaqs!, "I don't see us ever becoming more than 10..."

"Delhi," he goes on, "is a far more buoyant new business market, with many more pitches happening at any given point in time." Mumbai, of course, is where many agencies are head-quartered and is the "traditional home of advertising."

According to Sethuraman, the reasons an agency may need this sort of service include "resource bandwidth issues, insufficient pitch experience, lack of rigorous project management and poor ownership within the agency teams," among others.

Firms like Spatial Access and AT Kearney offer similar services. What makes The New Business different? Answers Sethuraman, "Firms like that work on managing the pitch process and derive their mandates from clients. TNB is meant to be an agency partner. It's about helping agencies prepare better pitches and create a culture of winning."

As he goes to market with this service, what is his biggest apprehension? Isn't he expecting initial resistance? "Hand on heart, back when you were at TBWA and Cheil," we ask, "wouldn't you have approached the idea of a service like this with some amount of hostility? It's almost like conceding that one's agency team can't handle things on its own."

He responds, "There aren't that many agencies that win on a regular basis and have the necessary infrastructure and spare bandwidth. For many agencies new business acquisition can become an expensive distraction from the day-to-day business of client management. And if they don't win regularly then new business can become very painful, both in terms of revenue and agency morale."

While agencies do have the option of outsourcing part of the workload when it gets heavy, as it typically does during pitches, freelancers have little or no stake in the outcome, Sethuraman points out.

Now, for the most important question: Does pitch outcome have any bearing on his fee? "Yes," he tells us. It does.

Before joining Cheil in January 2015, Sethuraman was Group CEO, TBWA India, for six years. He had a very short stint at Percept One in-between. Over the last two decades he has led agencies and teams that have won several global (Louis Vuitton, Abbott) and local pitches (adidas, Nissan, Jet Airways).

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