afaqs! profiles Ninad Umargekar. Who is he? Read on.
This picture is of a wall in Mumbai's Bandra Court that was painted under the guidance of Ninad Umargekar, former head of strategic planning at Taproot Dentsu. "The project," says Ninad, present day chief strategy officer of Fountainhead MKTG, an experiential marketing company from the stable of Dentsu Aegis Network, and co-founder of Onewall Monkey, an art/design/space design company, "involved painting the kids' room in the court - the room where parents involved in custody cases meet their kids.
That room had a very morose and depressing look. The idea was to make the room livelier. Mickey Mouse - that's what we were asked to paint first - wouldn't work, as it belongs to Disney. So we created something original. The idea we cracked was - divorces do not happen in the animal kingdom. Hence, animals..." The theme was 'Be more animal'.
Ninad co-founded Onewall Monkey, along with Swapneel Thakoor and Aditya Jayawant. In conversation with afaqs! about mainstream strategic planning, Ninad, who holds a B.Sc. degree in Mathematics from Mumbai University and an MBA in Marketing from Welingkars, says, "I quit Taproot Dentsu to give Onewall my full attention..."
Then why did he join Fountainhead MKTG at all? It all started with Ninad helping Fountainhead MKTG with a pitch. He says, "Fountainhead won the pitch. They then asked me to come on-board full-time."
Ninad has 15 years of industry experience, of which a decade was spent within the agency setting (including Famous Innovations where he worked on Raymond's Complete Man 2015 campaign and Lowe, where he worked on brands like Finolex, Bookmyshow, Nilon's Masala and Lifebuoy) before which he was a researcher at IMRB, a research firm. At Taproot Dentsu, he spent a year and a half, as head, strategic planning, helping the agency create a 'strategic planning tool kit' and worked on campaigns for brands like Future Consumer, Myntra, Fiama and Protinex.
When it comes to enumerating the campaigns a planner has helped create, we wonder whether creative executives take away the planners' share of the credit as well. "Of course, with the advertising industry, that's the thing... the planners are themselves to be blamed. I don't think creative guys are doing them any injustice or hogging the limelight. There are a lot of planners who only research; they don't come up with inspiring ideas... I think planners do lack a lot of self-confidence in the way they go about their stuff. Planners need to reinvent themselves..."
Part of the change, he believes, ought to come from the industry. "The industry has to get more creative people into planning," he says, "I will always end my brief with an idea. Creativity only helps you get attention but at the heart of it, it is all about strategy. Many times, creativity takes precedence over strategy and the campaign gets noticed, but it really doesn't benefit the client."
About his move to Fountainhead, he goes on, "Fountainhead did not have a strategic planning unit. That in itself was a big attraction for me; I felt I would be able to sow the seeds for something new - bring strategic planning to experiential marketing. The big agenda is - IPs. That is, creating intellectual properties in the domain. It is something that's lacking in the domain of consumer experiences in India. I felt, 'why should my skills be used to just create one ad film?' It just felt like it was the right time to add a lot of structure to what is happening here.... For me, just making ads is too small. I don't think my creativity is should be restricted. In fact, only when I left the creative agency (system) did I realise how big the world is. There is so much to explore..."
Has he raised any funds for his startup yet? "I did the initial rounds of meeting with the investors," answers Ninad, "but then realised that my startup has a vision and I don't want any investor to kill that vision and make me sell anything and everything..."
Around 40-50 artists work with Onewall on a freelance basis. "As much as we are an art company, we are also an ideas company and that comes from my training in advertising..."
At the recently held GoaFest 2017, Onewall did a project for Fountainhead MKTG. Isn't there a conflict of interest between Onewall and Fountainhead?
"There is no conflict of interest. Right now, Onewall is doing its own thing and I am not so actively involved because my partners are running it. But what happens here is different..." says Ninad. Fountainhead he reminds us is not "into art."
Among Onewall's projects so far are; a cafe, a spa and the office of Outdoor Advertising Professionals (OAP), including others. The OAP office has been made to look like the high street. "The thought was - since they're into outdoor advertising, that is, a business that thrives only because people spend time outside, we decided to make the inside of their office look like the outdoors."
At GoaFest 2017, Onewall did a colouring board activity (see image).
Dentsu Aegis Network is known for its frequent acquisitions. Is making Onewall part of the DAN his long term agenda? "No. Right now it is too early to say anything. We are still in the process of building our fundamentals... there is a long way to go. We don't even know whether we want to go down to that path."
What next for Onewall Monkey? Ninad says, "We want to put up our own (offline) store," where people can come purchase the art. "In the next three months, we should be out with it and it is not going to be in Mumbai," he says with a grin.