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AgTalk | Advertising business has gone through a complete makeover: Crayons' Kunal Lalani

Independentad agency, Crayons which is headed by Kunal Lalani has successfully survived as India's one of the leading independent agency. As the Managing Director his strength lies in understanding the inside-out of Indian business and providing not only communication solutions but business solutions as well and also delivering what the client wants and has been promised.

Coming froma Marwari business family, Kunal Lalani had an inborn talent of an entrepreneur which however made him a perfect entrant for the right-brained business person for advertising.

Adgully caught up Kunal Lalani, Managing Director, Crayons Advertising to know more about his life journey and his agency's growth...

Adgully(AG): How you stumbled into this business? How you thought that media is the platform for you?

KunalLalani (KL): I belong to a business family and Iactually stumbled into this business. There was a time wherein I didn't want tojoin our family business and my father was not keen of letting me do anythingas I won't fit into the level of our family and this was a kind of compromise. WhileI was working with them I was looking at the sales and market side. I used todeal with agencies and during those interactions I realized that I have apotential and I can get work done. The market was also in its golden era thattime and it was quite easy to get in.

AG: How the industry has progressed from the day you started till now?

KL: Honestly, it has gone through a complete makeover. That time we were notevolved. That time it was very glamorous and very much visible business but nowit is totally a serious business and it has got very much professionalized. Nowwe are internationally capable whereas during that time it was the beginning interms of technology, talent or may be technicality. Earlier there was nocompetition but there is a lot of competition today.

AG: What was your first Impression when you came into this market?

KL: Initially it was Euphoria. I thought it was really easy and like any newbusiness you are not that trained and you immediately go into dump because youalways make the biggest mistakes as you are not really trained for. AfterEuphoria my life went down. It decapitated over into wrong clients, wrongcommitments, didn't know about the perceptions of people. So basically I wentthrough a difficult time and also I was at one moment in a situation wherein myfather said I will bail you out but only at one condition that you have to shutshop. Probably that was the time when I got my determination back.

AG: How have clients perception evolved over the last two decades?

KL: With the evolution of whole industry even theclients were evolving. They were getting more competitive, the license raj wasgetting over, and you were not merely in the market because the governmentpermitted you but because your product had been good. So they have gone througha larger churn. Only the fit would survive. Today some of the brands of that time are not eventhere because when the market opened liberalization took place, only the fitsurvived. So that means the quality of market and sales have completelychanged. I think it has dramatically changed.

AG: During your journey can you name two landmark events that you saw and changedthe industry?

KL: One was the ADAsia that happened in India in Jaipur. That was the biggest gamechanger for the Indian industry because you know how typically India wasconsidered wherein people living on trees, snake charmers etc. People outside never believed that we have acapability or quality. So that one visit to India and who ever came from thefraternity changed their whole perception about India. That was the time whenwhole transformation took place. The investment of every network, everycompany, and every group of the world is now virtually present here. I thinkthat was the big eye opener.

Secondly the explosion of the television industryplayed a very important role. Communicating through television was a new mediumso that took us on a global platform. International brands came in and itworked both sides. Lately I would say the recognition at Cannes, TIMES took theinitiative. The confidence obviously came after going there and believing in youthat yes in some years we can also achieve that.

AG: While on your way to success does anybodymentored you or left an impression on you?

KL: In that we have been very lucky. After the initial struggle we always treatedourselves as effective communication partners for our clients. We wanted to doanything outstanding and to deliver what they need and which leads to hissuccess. So we always treated ourselves as the partners of the whole process.That strategy worked out so well that there are few of our clients that we havelost or may be somebody else took it. Most of them stayed with us. Andrelationship itself speaks for the respect. That time we respected them andtoday they give us so much respect. From industry side no direct interactionbut we really admire some people and their capabilities. When I started fromthat time one was Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and Creative Director,Ogilvy and Mather India, he is a legend for me and then Sam Balsara,. And from the client side we haveour very first client with whom we worked was Baba ( chewing tobacco) and thatgroup which now has many products like catch mineral water, Rajnigandha PanMasala, some spices etc. that group was very instrumental to give us a completefree hand or rather believing in us.

AG: What challenges have you faced in this whole journey?

KL: The first challenge would be as we grow from a small agency to a medium one andthen to a large you don't have a support and it is not treated as an industryin India. There is more biasness towards MNCs as they come with a legacy, theyare complete in terms of corporate etc but we as an Indian Industry we have tolearn in and out. Here the government does not treat us as a differentindustry, we are saturated with taxes and there are so many pressures. Havinggone through all this I believe it has totally loaded towards the largeagencies, medium agencies and smaller agencies don't have a chance in it.

Secondly retaining the talent in the advertisingagency is a very big challenge.

AG: What growth paths have you set for your business?

KL: We sat together, structured the divisions, we have placed right people, getting in some new and absolutely fresh talent either in the middle or for senior management. So basically we sat down and structured the business strategy not in terms of money but in terms of being visible in the market. We wanted people should know what we are doing, as in, such a loud era you cannot sit quietly. Now I think that the time has come, may be my way of leading is not correct and the younger generation should take over and may bring in different dimensiomn. There are commercial targets but for that the quality will not be compromised.

AG: What would you advise or caution the new entrants?

KL: It is a very difficult market with the legislations that have come in for the industries, some time that becomes a detterent factor and most of the problems are being faced by small industries which are mostly cash strapped.

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