Vivek Bhargava, founder Communicate 2 (now iProspect) and CEO DAN Performance Group, has been ahead of his times. In 1997, a year before Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Google, the internet and technology conglomerate that is omnipresent in our lives, Bhargava kickstarted a digital advertising agency that is now a dominant leader in the digital marketing space.
Digital advertising was considered a sunrise sector in 1997. As a 15-year-old, he travelled on business trips to western countries for the family-run music instruments store. Bhargava noticed that marketers were using digital advertising far more effectively there than marketers in India. That's when the seed for iProspect was sown. “When I started Communicate 2 at the age of 23-24, I wanted to help companies in India gain a competitive advantage by using technology for marketing and communication,” he said.
To Infinity and Beyond!
Over the years, digital has taken centre stage by becoming a topic of board room discussions. “Digital is now coming top down, where the CEOs of companies are taking interest and drawing digital roadmaps for companies. People are now using digital for branding, understanding what products they should launch, talent hunting, information dissemination, etc. The use of digital across every single facet of an enterprise is happening very rapidly,” noted Bhargava. Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect, added that it is encouraging that CMOs now spend a disproportionate amount of time on understanding digital and how it can be used.
The next phase of iProspect will be to grow as a company in the intersection of media-content-technology, said Singh. “To remain the dominant player in digital marketing, we are strengthening our core (performance marketing) and moving into other areas. From being a performance marketing agency we want to drive business performance. And business today entails everything, right from creating content, to running media effectively (not just performance media but also display media) and measuring the results of the endeavour,” she added.
iProspect has already begun its diversification process and offers services and products across the spectrum. “As businesses become digital, we have started working with marketing teams as an extended business unit for them. In the next couple of years, we will be far more deeply entrenched in that space,” said Singh.
With 160+ clients including ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Cleartrip, Pepperfry, Raymond, Koovs, Aegon Life Insurance, Thomas Cook, Apollo Hospitals, Wildcraft, iProspect has grown from strength to strength over the last 20 years. “The average time-span for which clients partner with us has been five years. In a competitive market it's a huge sense of achievement to retain clients for five years and more. And as our clients have grown in this digital journey, we have grown with them,” said Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect.
She believes that it is the open and transparent culture of iProspect that has made it a reliable partner. She further added that iProspect’s keen eye to anticipate future requirements and thereby developing solutions quickly is a key strength of the company.
iProspect also has large partnerships with the leading internet companies Google and Facebook. “This allows us access to their alpha and beta products much before others and we are able to innovate on them and offer services based on those products much before the rest of the market.”
Speaking about the major milestones in the last 20 years. Bhargava said that selling the company to the Dentsu-Aegis Network five years ago opened many doors. Revisiting the period of acquisition, he said he preferred to sell to DAN because “globally, 70 per cent of entrepreneurs who join DAN stay back after the acquisition and they respect entrepreneurs.” It also helped in attracting talent. “In fact, it was easier to get Rubeena Singh (CEO, iProspect) on board because it was a DAN company,” said Bhargava. The biggest advantages of being part of DAN is having a seat at the table with business leaders who move the needle for the company, he noted.
Singh agreed that the DAN brand name does help and added that being part of a huge network also helps in making investments upfront. “We recently launched a new service called Intelligent Content. This unit was set up a year and a half ago. Had we been a standalone company, we would have had to wait for a year and a half to get results. But as part of a network, we have a competitive edge right now to maintain leadership because we had a head start,” she said. The acquisition also helped iProspect move from being a Search oriented agency to now SEO, Analytics, Organic Search, Display, etc. oriented agency, expanding its capabilities and reach by a great extent.