Debashish Chakraborty
Points of View

Digital boot camp for agencies

What 'indoor' tools are digital agencies using to serve their clientele while working from home (WFM)? Here's what four agency heads had to say.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has engulfed the country and its citizens. Indian corporates, however, have ensured that the show must go on.

afaqs! got in touch with four agency heads to understand how digital agencies are functioning during the ongoing lockdown, what 'indoor' tools they're using to serve their clientele, among other things.

Pooja Jauhari, CEO, The Glitch

This is a unique time; a time to be sensitive, informed and agile. As my company and I stay safe, we are fully up and running, thereby, contributing to our clients' businesses by helping them play a meaningful role in the lives of their communities in this time of crisis.

Pooja Jauhari
Pooja Jauhari

We are a content-first company. All forms of content creation is at the heart of what we do... Our talented team of animators, producers, designers and directors are bringing to life the creative team's vision through 3D animation, design, along with shooting on Skype. The teams are still putting out original content and repurposing old content cleverly.

There are the obvious restrictions with the lack of shoots, and not being able to be together to brainstorm and collaborate, but technology is helping... Needless to say, we are hoping that the social distancing effort we all are taking helps flatten the curve and brings life back to some level of normalcy soon.

Ashwini Deshpande, co-founder, Elephant

For a creative team that is used to collaborative work, ideation and brainstorms, it is a mind-bending time. To physically not be in close proximity and yet match the same levels of energy, empathy and continuity is the real challenge. As far as technology is concerned, we had moved to Microsoft Teams a while ago. So we had a very robust, smooth and seamless transition to WFH environment. Our data is secure, and NDAs have always been in place and respected. It is only at such an unforeseen time one realises the value of (doing) all such measures.

Ashwini Deshpande
Ashwini Deshpande

The most affected part of our process is ‘user research’. Design researchers depend a lot on shadowing the users, mystery shopping and ethnographic understanding to be able to provide rich insights to the design team. Retail visits, face-to-face conversations to read between the lines, observations of unmet needs, etc., are almost impossible at this point. As a design consulting practice, our outputs are design and data files like artworks, technical drawings, colour specifications, etc. We are able to deliver all of those without any issue. But before such final outputs, sometimes there is a stage of creating prototypes, physical mock-ups, etc. Since our workshops are closed, we are unable to do that part effectively at the moment.

It is a challenging time for most of our clients, as well. Some have logistics issue, some have their factories closed, and some have had to completely shut all operations. As a stable, leading and experienced agency, we have been extending support in any which way possible. We're hoping this phase will pass soon. Till then, our researchers will draw from the collective network and experience.

Ranjit Raina, CEO, Geometry Encompass

In the past few weeks, everyone has become part of a hyper-intensive tech boot camp. The digital tools available to creators are many, and agencies and independent creators alike are using them like never before.

Ranjit Raina
Ranjit Raina

The smartphone is an indispensable storytelling tool, GarageBand is a great audio tool for podcasts. I know a bunch of people who have innovatively used Zoom to create great content. There are tons of video and photo editing apps and software that are making it possible to create great content on the fly.

Harjot Narang, president, Dentsu One

Operationally, the first challenge that the agency system faced is ensuring connectivity infrastructure at home for everyone. Offices invest a lot into the IT backbone, but connectivity at home with a 4G handset or dongle would just not work. So, the first thing we did in the middle of March is that we got every employee to ensure that they had a minimum of 40 Mbps broadband connection at their residence.

Harjot Narang
Harjot Narang

The big challenge for us was on video tasks - after the complete lockdown hit and all studios and post houses shut down. This took a bit longer to sort out, but our partners pulled out all the stops and started creating offline edits, voice-overs, soundtracks and basic mixing from homes of a whole host of freelance talent, and within a period of seven days, this part, too, started flowing. Some of the high-end post work was shifted to countries like Poland, where post operations were still on.

In fact, recently, one of our production partners created a unique solution here in India. It created an over the net interface to the online servers at a post house, and now the director, editor and online talent are sitting in different locations, working on the same edit... Encouraged by all of this, our creative teams are now working on writing content pieces... that can be assembled through a series of small shots taken from different houses... and not just stock visuals. This way, the brands can continue to connect with their core audiences in the most interactive way.

We are seeing the most innovative sides of all our team members and partners come out at this time. Most of them are now looking forward to WFM becoming a part of their lives, even after the crisis blows over.