Adgully recently spoke to Karthik Kumar, Director, Rage Communications on the business perspective of the company and the future of digital & web-based marketing in India.
A strategy expert with over 35 years of experience Karthik Kumar has worked with some of India’s best known market research and advertising agencies such as IMRB a WPP Company, MARG, now re-christened as AC Nielsen India and Rediffusion DY&R. During his tenure at these organizations Kumar has worked closely with many multinational brands such as Levi’s, Citi, Henkel, Ericson and Colgate Palmolive.
Following is the excerpt of the interview.
Adgully AG: How old is Rage Communications and can you describe the company’s journey and the growth so far?
Karthik Kumar (KK): Rage Communications was established in 1996 with a promise i.e. ‘we will make the Web Work for you’. At Rage we harness leading edge web technologies with sharp brand thinking so that our clients profit from the web. Our aim is to provide our clients with a one-stop-solution across the landscape of strategy-design-execution, within the Internet domain. Starting off as a web design company, we have put together a multi-disciplinary team of nearly 200 professionals comprising Business Analysts, Creatives and Technologists who are able to deliver solutions that can be demonstrated to have a business impact. Primarily a services company, we have over the years built multi-faceted capability built on our core foundation of web design. Thus, today we have the ability to provide complete marketing solutions covering digital display advertising, search optimization, paid search, content marketing, social media, database marketing, etc. The Internet environment changes rapidly. At Rage we keep pace with the change and build capabilities across the multiple platforms that the Internet operates on – technologies, devices, content distribution vehicles and so on. This expertise has formed the cornerstone of our durability to deliver best-of-class services to over 150 clients world-wide across the spectrum of web design, online marketing, digital agency services, e-commerce, work-flow management, application development. Starting with one office in Chennai, we today have two development centres in Chennai and offices, Mumbai, Sydney and Singapore.
AG: Who are your main clients? Can you mention a couple of notable assignments done for the client? How did that make a difference to the client?
KK: Some of our key clients are Airtel Money, Citibank, Slack Jack, National Geographic, HDFC Bank, Duvet & Pillow Warehouse, Cholamandalam Insurance, myinsuranceclub.com, Sydney Opera House. We recently completed a project for Citibank Australia where the web presence for Citibank Australia was unified so that the look and feel of the website was consistent across all access platforms – computers, smart phones, tablets. From a creative perspective the key issues were to be able to give the same feel across multiple screen sizes and at the same time enhance user experience using the native functionalities of different devices and operating systems. From a technology perspective the challenge was to ensure these could be rendered from a single content management system and present the content across different technology frameworks. In another recent case we improved the lead generation ability at a lower cost for a medical services company that traditionally sourced leads through off-line methods. The company’s services were aimed at a specific sub-segment of the population. To identify candidates, the company was dependent on doctors providing them the leads, which was proving to be very difficult owing to the busy schedules of doctors. Since this sub-segment was likely to use the Internet to seek more information about their condition, we used a combination of search, social media, paid search and display advertising to reach out to the specific sub-segment. Using insightful media planning, targeted delivery, we were able to increase the volume of leads by a factor of 14.6 over off-line methods and reduce the unit cost per lead by 85 per cent. Duvet & Pillow Warehouse DAPW a leading eRetailer of bed and bath linen has been a client of Rage for nearly 10 years. DAPW recently decided to switch platforms. Rage managed the entire transition. One of the aspects of the transition was integrating the new DAPW platform with some of its retail partners. One such partner of DAPW’s found the quality of our integration so high, that it is now directing its other partners to come to Rage for their resolving their web integration issues.
AG: How is the industry you are in expected to grow in the 2-3 years? What new trends do you see happening?
KK: The Internet had triggered the concept of exponential growth that spawned global behemoths like Amazon, Google, Yahoo, etc. Along the line there have been spectacular failures too, Netscape, myspace.com being some notable examples. The exponential growth will continue, but not in the same direction. Thus far the exponential growth has been in the penetration of the Internet and its artifacts, whether Google or Facebook. Penetration has now reached a level where additional penetration will likely be only incremental. However, consumption is set to increase significantly, fuelled principally by greater availability of band-width, lowered costs of consumption of band-width and the anywhere access of Internet without being tethered to a computer or a phone. Within India, though, there might be slight difference, since the penetration itself is not that high. So possibly in India we will see penetration and consumption growing in tandem, despite the lack of local language content. A second trend is the increasing hegemony of one or two players on the Internet. While these have significant policy issues, the commercial implications are also profound since these players can change the rules of engagement at will, with nobody having any recourse. Whether this will be beneficial or inimical is something that is to be watched very closely. A third trend is the relative ease with which identity can be compromised on the web. So far this identity capture have been benign and have had relatively little backlash. Without getting into the policy issues involved, at a commercial level, the ease of compromised identity could lead to a situation like the pesky telephone calls and SMSes that bring a bad name to direct marketers.
AG:What are the hurdles to growth that the industry faces? How can they be overcome?
KK: With particular reference to India the biggest hurdle the industry faces is the perception that anything on the Internet is ‘cheap’, and therefore, the reluctance to pay for quality. To a large extent this perception has been fuelled by the technology companies, giving the impression that anybody with desktop computer and a word-processing programme can design a web-site. This is like saying that anybody who has a matchbox and matchsticks can design a car or anybody with two cans and a string can make a telecommunication network. The question marketers should be asking is not how cheaply can they get an internet solution but how well can the person offering the solution meet the business needs. Unfortunately this question is invariably never asked and the results are sub-optimal. To be sure unit costs on the Internet are lower than unit costs off-line. However, marketers should get over the mind-set of Internet is cheap to Internet is cost-effective. The number of cases where marketers have had to abort projects because of poor delivery is legion. Yet marketers persist on chasing the chimera of ‘cheap’ solutions. A second issue is that marketers continue to view the Internet as a medium, analogous to television or print. The failure to see Internet as a channel results in missed opportunities. Native functionalities of the Internet provide opportunities in building brand engagement and consumer loyalty beyond prime time.
AG: What are your businesses plans going forward – in terms of expansion, new practices etc?
KK: Obviously we are focused on growing our core strengths. We have a foot hold across many geographies. We have made a beginning in using these foot-holds to climb up the ladder in Asia and Australia. We will be focused on consolidating there and hopefully, make a beginning in other geographies. In terms of services we would be working towards integrating our services more thoroughly so that our clients benefit from a unified presence in a very fragmented landscape. A third area we will be focusing on is developing products based on our extensive experience in eCommerce, digital advertising and social media management. We expect to be rolling these out during 2014.