Last week’s been pretty busy in Indian ad-land. WPP’s Ogilvy launched a new agency called 82.5, to “meet a key need in the creative services market for an agency that is tailored to help realise the aspirations of emerging Indian companies, entrepreneurs and brands as well as MNCs who want to ‘Indianise’ their brands and forge a connect with Indian audiences”. Interesting. But even more interesting (and intriguing) is the name of the agency. 82.5? Well, 82.5 is the longitude that defines Indian Standard Time. So, the new agency will be a creative agency that specifically caters to the Indian entrepreneurship landscape.
I don’t know how much to read into this much-hyped announcement because it seems more like the re-branding of Soho Square, a second agency that Ogilvy has had for some years and which has remained a kind of laggard, a distant country cousin to the parent brand. But if 82.5 has really been set-up to address Indian entrepreneurs and Indian start-ups, then it surely is a step in the right direction.
A similar agency, The Dining Table, was launched by Creativeland Asia’s Sajan Raj Kurup and ad film-maker Prahlad Kakkar about a year ago to cater to SMEs and FOBs (Family-Owned Businesses). Both Kurup and Kakkar got themselves a lot of media coverage at launch saying all the right things about partnering entrepreneurs and families, but I really haven’t heard of or seen much of The Dining Table in the last few months. No showcase clients, no great marketing successes, no real case studies.
Which brings me back to 82.5. ‘Positioning’ an agency is one thing; delivering value to small businesses is something else. It demands a different DNA, a different mindset, which most ad executives in large multinational agencies find very difficult to do. Small budgets, nascent businesses, insufficient resources, too much of family interference, lack of size and scale —SMEs are tough customers to have. So, it will be interesting to watch how 82.5 rises to the challenge, evolves and delivers. If it does.
Last week also saw the launch of a new identity by Bajaj Auto — edging out the three decades old Hamara Bajaj positioning, and now proclaiming itself as ‘The world’s favourite Indian’. Through a film shot across half a dozen countries or more, a new campaign conceptualised by Leo Burnett tries to convey how Bajaj is now sold in 70 countries around the world. To be honest, I didn’t know (and frankly didn’t care). But the film made me sit up. For one, it is well shot and slickly edited. Two, the journey from the Himalayas to Mount Killiminjaro, from Moscow to Mexico, and many more geographies is kind of pacey, yet seamless. Three, it is the music that is the biggest turn-on. Especially the haunting return of yeh zameen yeh aasmaan. The connect to the past. The bridge to the future.
In a strange kind of way, the Bajaj film reminded me of an old Majrooh Sutanpuri couplet, main akela hi chala tha janib-e-manzil magar, Log saath aate gaye aur karwaan banta gaya. Conquering overseas markets is not easy. Country by country, city by city. Tough, demanding, exacting. When Indian brands do retail worldwide, we just never grant them their due recognition. If Bajaj actually is sold in 70 countries, then it really is a stellar achievement, worthy of both admiration and praise. Congratulations guys!
But yes, I am not sure if Bajaj really is the world’s favourite Indian. That claim may be a bit of an exaggeration. Well, PM Narendra Modi could well lay claim to that descriptor, so could Captain Virat Kohli! Bajaj may have market presence in a large part of the globe; but it still has miles to go on many fronts. There is still much to be achieved on building brand recognition and brand preference. The company may want to compare itself with famous Japanese and European competitors, but Bajaj’s global brand stature is still work in progress. So, we are happy for Bajaj. But it has still to do much much more before earning itself the epithet.
(The writer is an advertising veteran)