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AgTalk | Digital is the future in all ways: Magnon\TBWA's Vineet Bajpai

Vineet Bajpai, is a first-generation entrepreneur who founded and built Magnon (now known as Magnon / TBWA), one of the largest digital media companies in Asia, and now part of the Fortune 500 US multinational Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC). He leads the company worldwide as CEO & Managing Director.

Apart from being an entrepreneur par-excellence, Vineet is also a management and inspirational author. His first book ‘The Street to the Highway’ was a national bestseller. He has now authored his second title ‘Build From Scratch – Strategies and Proven Methods to Build Start-up Businesses’ published by Jaico. This book is a powerful and street-smart guide for aspiring entrepreneurs and promises to touch the careers and lives of thousands of people.

Adgully caught up with Vineet Bajpai, Founder and CEO, Magnon\TBWA, to know more about his life and career.

Adgully (AG): To begin with, tell us a bit about your entry in to the media and marketing space.

Vineet Bajpai (VB): I was one of the young Indians who were bitten by the early ‘dotcom’ bug, only to also witness the mammoth crumbling later. This was circa 1999 when I was a young 22 year old new MBA working with GE Capital. At that time almost the fantasy success-stories of dotcom companies started hitting headlines. Being someone who always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, I decided to take the plunge into the world of the Internet and digital business. The rest is an exciting roller-coaster ride of the creation of Magnon/TBWA – one of India’s largest digital media companies now.    

AG: It may not be wrong to say that the 'entrepreneurial bug' bit you quite early in your career. You found Magnon right after a year of being 'an employee'. What were those 3 factors that drove you to the road to entrepreneurship?

VB: Like they say, heroes’ tales travel far. I was deeply impressed by luminaries like Jeff Bezos of and even the team that started in India. I was working for one of the largest corporations in the world, which was extremely enriching and educative, but I felt like a ball-bearing in a massive steel plant! So you can say that the desire to be an entrepreneur, the exciting new global environment for Web-based businesses and the need to be part of real value-creation were the three key drivers for me to jump on to the entrepreneurial bandwagon. 

AG: Tell us at length, about the Magnon and then the separate arm of Magnon International which were both acquired by TBWA early this year.

VB: Magnon was started in the year 2000 as a pure guts and glory start-up, with two rented computers in a refurbished generator-room! I started the company with a few thousand rupees that I had saved up from my first job. Today Magnon Group is among the largest digital players in India with over 200 employees and full-service offices in Delhi and Mumbai. We work with some of the most respected brands in the world including Suzuki, Hilton, Michelin, Haier, HCL, Hyundai and Sony. We have won several awards including the ‘Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award 2011’ and the ‘CNBC TV Mercedes Benz Award 2012’. Our international arm works with clients across five continents. Both our companies were acquired by TBWA in the year 2012 and that has been the most rewarding milestone in our growth journey. Magnon/TBWA and Magnon E-Graphics are full-spectrum digital agencies that offer interactive media solutions across the creative, technology, digital marketing, mobile and social media domains. 

AG: Shed some light on the kind of projects have been come in the kitty post the acquisition. Also, if you could share the kind of business model that is currently held by the company.

VB: We have always been digital partners to some of the largest brands in the world. This has been further strengthened after our acquisition by TBWA, and we are now working with TBWA’s global clients like Nissan, Datsun and Standard Chartered Bank. The unique model that Magnon/TBWA and Magnon E-Graphics together offer is our ability to not only offer digital solutions in India, but also to play the role of a single-window international digital outsourcing agency. So the partnership between TBWA and Magnon now allows us to offer world-class digital value to our international clients at competitive Asian costs.  

AG: You also have a strong inclination towards writing. You have authored two books - “Build from Scratch" in 2004 and “The Street to the Highway” 2011. Tell us about the thought and ideology behind the two.

VB: Build From Scratch has been released in an all-new avatar in 2013, and for all practical purposes it is a new book – new content, new packaging and an exciting new approach. The book is a powerful guide for aspiring entrepreneurs and handholds the reader through various steps and tactics of building an organization from an idea. It tells the reader that a company is created out of one dominant ingredient – the human will! The book discusses critical topics of idea-generation, fund-raising, venture capital, go-to-market strategies and leadership. My other book The Street to the Highway uncovers the secrets behind transforming small businesses into large companies. Both books are aimed at helping entrepreneurs at all stages.

AG: Both your books talk about how a simple idea can turn into a business and the strategies and tactics to nurture a successful business. Do you see this as a message of guide to smaller town and cities filled with talent and ideas?

VB: Absolutely correct. While there is ample technical education in our country, there is still an evident absence of entrepreneurial training – both socially and technically. India is a powder-keg of entrepreneurial talent waiting to uncoil and explode, like it did in Silicon Valley and the dotcom era – the only thing needed is to propagate knowledge and confidence into thousands and lacs of aspiring entrepreneurs. My books offer practical and street-smart guidance around all aspects of starting a new venture and I am sure people will find them very useful. 

AG: Though the financial environment is currently a little turbulent, do you see more small agencies emerging in the market? How do you as a part of the industry view the scene?

VB: Since it is now an established belief that the future is digital in almost every way, there will be continued entrepreneurial activity in this space. However, it will get increasingly difficult to establish an agency in an already packed market. So I see the emergence of more vertically specialized agencies rather than full-service ones. Whether or not these vertical specialists will succeed is yet to be seen, since most clients prefer single-window agencies. 
AG: How do you project the year ahead for Magnon/TBWA and the industry as a whole?

VB: The year ahead promises to be a winning one for Magnon\TBWA, with a lot of exciting new opportunities in both India as well as international markets. There are also a bunch of brilliant new initiatives we have in the pipeline, which could propel the agency to new heights – new talent, new offices, new capabilities and lots of fun! As for the digital industry, I can say we are only in the second gear of growth…and each new year will only bring in more and more nitro into digital. The digital e-nvasion is inevitable! (Laughs)

AG: Share the kind of projects you are currently working on and the ones in the pipeline.

VB: We are witnessing an encouraging trend in the kind of work we do, both in depth and in width. On one end the complexity of say technology solutions is increasing, and on the other end we are developing new capabilities in the mobile and social space. To be honest, we are shifting from being a digital ‘agency’, to being a full-spectrum digital ‘company’. In fact I would like to state that we are moving away from projects, and are becoming an integral part of clients’ ongoing marketing, communications, engagement and advertising strategy.

AG: Where do you see yourself 2 - 3 years from now on?

VB: By the end of 2015 we see ourselves as among the largest digital agencies in all of Asia. We have the strong fundamentals, the global fabric and network, as well as the infrastructure and clientele. We would need to continue our growth trajectory and if we are able to do that, there is nothing that can stop us from being one of the most respected agencies in the continent.

Vineet Bajpai has won several awards including the ‘Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award 2011’ and the ‘CNBC TV Mercedes Benz Young Turks Award 2012’. He has been dubbed as the ‘self-propelled neo-tycoon…’ by the Times of India and ‘The Spiderman of the Web browser…’ by the Forbes magazines. A Google search on him generates 1, 56,000 results. He is only 35 years of age!


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