At a time when marketers are on the lookout for ground-breaking ideas to woo consumers, WATConsult, now a part of Dentsu Aegis Network India, has launched its own innovation lab, INNOWAT.
The lab is designed to use new-age technology, invent and craft innovative products to transform brand experiences and engagement. AdAge India caught up with Rajiv Dingra, Founder and CEO, WATConsult, to know more about INNOWAT and understand the vision and mission of this one-of-a-kind innovation lab. Excerpts-
Q. What is INNOWAT and what pushed you to start something so different like a technological innovation lab?
Let’s begin with the beginning. So we became a part of Dentsu Aegis Network in January 2015 and I got a chance to travel to their global offices and seeing some amazing technological innovations through the innovation labs they have globally. There I felt like a third-world country advertising professional.
So I felt like there’s sort of nothing in India that can match up with that technology. Then in September 2015, we were moving to a larger office and I had the luxury of carving out the 400sqft space for this purpose.
Q. It has been more than a year since you started working on the lab set-up. How has been the one year journey?
Over the last year we actually invested a lot in talent and technology in creating a holistic innovation lab. Now what is innovation? Innovation is the creating edge of technology. So many innovators are working on Robotics, AI (Artificial Intelligence), augmented reality, VR (virtual reality), drones and a lot of things. People are working on various fusions of technology and other stuff. And we do the same.
So in our Bombay office we have a mixed reality application where you can get into AR and through that application you can get into virtual reality. Similarly, we now have a lot of technologies in our lab.
Q. What all technologies you have developed so far in your lab?
We have created a tweet-to-vend coffee machine. So here we look at it in a way that how this machine can be enabled at the retail level or otherwise and how else can we engage more and more consumers.
Another thing on which the teams are working is the social barcode, which basically connects social profiles to barcodes. So, barcode is a retail standard but what if you get loyalty points on signing-up using your social profile.
So these are all new-age ideas. It takes time to narrate the ideas to clients and then clients take time to think about it. But the core idea is to have innovation and technology at the heart of the agency.
Q. How are all these technologies going to help WATConsult?
There are three things.
1. The idea of having an innovation lab is to have an R&D centre where the boundaries of technology, internet of things, augmented reality and other new-age stuff are pushed.
2. Because the lab is very much accessible from the office, it plays really important role in encouraging people to think innovative.
3. Some of these innovations actually translate into actual client usage.
Q. How many clients you are working with as of now?
We’ve done some 360-degreee VR work for one of the banking brands. As I speak there is an AR campaign for one of our Auto clients where we are making the app. And for this we’ve done a lot of shoots using drones. We’ve also done one drone exercise for an educational brand and we are currently pitching to an auto brand on the mixed reality.
So as of now, 4-5 projects is what we have. 2 of them have been executed and other 2-3 are in process. The AR one, also the first massive campaign is expected to come out by November end.
Q. Coming on to the figures, how big INNOWAT is in terms of investment and how do you look at it from revenue generation point of view?
So 10-15% of our profit is invested in INNOWAT on a quarterly basis. Now that we have 4-5 projects, the initial lab cost has been recovered. There may not be immediate commercial benefit to the agency because there won’t be plenty client lined-up.
It’s more out of a passion for innovation and technology. As an agency, I want to make WatConsult a globally renowned agency and hence innovation lab because I believe at the global stage, people have a very technological and innovative mindset. We are at amateur level, but we also have a team that can take it up to the pro level.
Q. In the Indian market, where digital is what brands are looking at, how do you think something like innovative solutions would catch the attention of brands?
India follows the west and Indian consumers are very well connected and aware. There are enough people who know how to use Google cardboard and all that stuff. So it’s growing but it’s not at the peak.
I really believe that having an innovation lab in-house, early in the market is very much like picking up an early trend. We at WATConsult, started out with social media in 2007. Back then in 2007 there was no social media. Given that we started early, we were able to own our talent in that area and scale-up our social media practice and then eventually become a full service digital agency, keeping social media at its core.
It all happened because we focused on an area that wasn’t niche but fast growing. In the same way I see technology, innovations as a fast growing disruption area over the next 5 years, and it’s a bet!