Industry POV

WATConsult Turns 10: A Look Back into its Decade Old Journey

09 Jan 2017

Advertisers are keen on spending and experimenting with digital like never before and the idea has given birth to several digital agencies. That said, there are several agencies that identified this trend a long time back and are now at the helm of this business. One such agency is WATConsult that was founded in 2007 by Rajiv Dingra.

Today, the agency has turned 10 and is part of a Dentsu Aegis Network. It works with over 100+ brands of which several are global brands (with India specific mandate) and employs over 280 people.

Humble Beginning

WATConsult took its own time to reach where it is today. Dingra founded the company in 2007 from a home like set up. He was 21 years old and did not have any formal training in advertising or digital marketing. “It is good to feel that I have come so far and lasted for a decade especially when I had no experience of working in a global agency,” says Dingra.

Popular Campaigns before Acquisition

The first two years for WATConsult were just like a startup where Dingra had difficulties in getting business, managing cash flow, reaching out to the clients. He began with the services in social including Facebook and YouTube.

However, in the next two years 2010-11, he was able to stabilize the agency a bit and bigger brands started talking to them, giving them decent business. “We then decided to never look back,” remembers Dingra.

In the next few years, WATConsult emerged as one of the bigger independent digital agencies on the block and an agency which was able to keep itself ahead of the curve in the digital marketing business. During 2012-13, the brands started talking to WATConsult and offered them good chunk of business. Interestingly, their campaigns were also doing well all this while which gave the confidence to brands to bet on them.
In the seventh and eighth year of their existence, Dingra believes WATConsult was among the top 3 digital agencies of the country and was part of almost every pitch. The agency had already expanded their offerings from creative to media and was already working on technology. The team strength was big and the agency had its financials, client servicing, accounts, efficiency mechanisms in place.

Acquisition

In 2015, when the news about Dentsu Aegis Network acquiring majority stake in WATConsult broke, people were surprised. It was one of the biggest talking points in the agency circles then. Speaking on it, Dingra mentioned that the acquisition took place at a very right time as the clients were starting to seek more evolved digital services. “Being a part of the larger agency provides a halo effect. It creates a bigger perception, which matters at the end of the day. And we needed that in our fight against the global and domestic agencies,” shares Dingra.

Today, WATConsult offers a wide range of services to its clients including social, CRM, search, video, content, technology, web development, analytics and others. “Today 49% of our revenue come s from media buying and planning, while 51% comes from creative, tech social and videos. It is very difficult to establish such a fine balance between the two sides. Most agencies are tilted on one side either media or creative, which makes delivery for a campaign a challenge. However, we do not face this challenge and during my experience, I have realized that client always wants the media and creative teams to talk to each other,” asserts Dingra.

Popular Campaigns Post Acquisition

Adding to this, Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, Chairman Posterscope and MKTG Asia Pacific, Aegis Group, says, “We had foreseen the trend of social media that was expected to be huge in India in coming years, so the management decided to be cutting edge on this front and prepare for the future. While we were on a lookout for the agencies, we met Rajiv Dingra and there was an instant connect with him. Our values completely synchronized and during the course of time we figured out a right partner in WATConsult owing to his enthusiasm, passion, knowledge for the digital. We believed in him and since then there has not been a moment to regret. He has been driving the business not just in but in the entire range of services. The agency has grown bigger under his leadership and contributed to one P&L of the entire group.”

Dingra mentions that the acquisition has helped WATConsult in gaining a tremendous scale and equal footing in the pitches with other large networks. “We have got great exposure by meeting international agencies and clients. It has helped us in expanding our offerings and starting specialized verticals,” shares Dingra.

The agency has been trying to keep a futuristic approach and is investing in technology and other areas. It has launched a social CRM command centre, chatbot, and innovation lab to give an edge to its work.

Speaking on the reason for aligning with Dentsu Aegis Network, Dingra mentions that DAN is a great marriage between technology, creativity and commercial side. “They have a common P&L model for all agencies that works very efficiently.”

He further adds that the agency despite acquisition gives a lot of free hand to do things. “I still hold equity on WATConsult board, but once you are acquired, many a times things turn very bossy, however, DAN is very liberal. I hardly get a call from Ashish enquiring about the developments. He has given us a lot of freedom and it s a great feeling working in a network like Dentsu Aegis - where you feel that you are not an employee, but an entrepreneur,” shares Dingra.

Read our entire coverage on WATConsult

Road Ahead

The road for WATConsult has just started. The agency might have made its mark in India but it still has a long way to go. “Our challenge is to be nimble and agile. We are forming smaller teams, such that key clients are attended well. But our biggest endeavor is to up our ante and scale up our creativity quotient. We are doing workshops for our teams and bringing in global talent for teaching them. We are investing on tools and technology, and robotics, great talent, and getting right people, to take the agency to the next level,” adds Dingra.

He further mentions that the target for WATConsult in next 4-5 years is to be sizeable be the most recognized agency coming out of India. “We are looking at recognition from a global perspective. We believe in making more revenue and getting more recognition,” shares Dingra.
The agency believes that the brands are looking for partners (agencies) that can understand their business and then advice on the solutions. “One has to look at the brand’s problems from the brand, customer, revenue, engagement and several other different angles,” mentions Dingra.

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