Deep tech and gig economy have yet to transform the services industry: Rajiv Dingra
Serial entrepreneur and erstwhile Founder and CEO of WATConsult, Rajiv Dingra, who recently stepped down from an active role in his company has launched his new venture RD&X Network. Dingra calls his venture a deep tech network powered by the gig economy that will offer business transformation solutions to large clients globally. While hesitant to make a comparison, Dingra says his business model is best represented by giants like WPP and Accenture, where the differentiation will be brought by cutting edge technology.
RD&X Network plans to acquire early stage martech and adtech companies that offer transformative business services or create disruption through unique technologies. In another 6 months, he vouches that there will be a more concrete offering of services and products that he can demo for clients.
In conversation with Adgully, Rajiv Dingra speaks about ending his 13-year association with his previous company and starting a fresh entrepreneurial journey.
Did the idea for RD&X Network come during the months of the lockdown?
No. I stepped down from my role as Founder and CEO of WATConsult in January this year. My last working day was January 31. I took up a pro bono mentoring role because of my love for the company. The mentoring role was very hands off for the next two three months, so I was pretty much free. I had a lot of time on my hands from February onwards and in the middle of February before the pandemic started, I thought of RD&X Network. It was more of a vision presentation and after speaking to several people in the market, I knew it would take another 12-14 months, maybe next year in 2021 to launch this new venture completely. I had just exited a 13-year entrepreneurship journey, so I wanted to take my time on this new venture. That was my thinking.
By mid-March, by the time the lockdown came, I had a concrete vision after speaking to a lot of people. The pandemic gave me the view that what I was thinking in terms of deep tech, transformation and gig economy is going to get fast forwarded and I accelerated my plans to launch this network. I genuinely believe that this is the best time to launch such a venture and I am 100% committed to RD&X Network and our plans for it.
This confluence of deep tech and gig economy is already happening with companies like Uber and Swiggy. Where do you want to create disruption with this model?
It is happening in product companies and brick and mortar companies like the hotel industry. I think it is about time it happens in the services industry, whether it is technology services, like MarTech, AdTech or creative services. We call ourselves geo-agnostic, because our outlook is global. While this company has been founded in India, our markets are the more mature markets of the world, like the US, Europe, and South East Asia. Our front-end offices are going to be in these countries while India will play the role of a technology hub and a shared services hub.
What would you call your company if not an agency?
We are building a bouquet of services by bringing into our fold early stage companies that bring solutions in marketing, advertising and business consulting in a new age format for the more mature markets. Our solutions are going to be about transformation across different aspects of the business. When companies talk about business transformation it is not just about marketing. It is about how companies are digitising assets, processes and updating themselves through technology to create a new business model itself.
We have an offering around data transformation, because we believe data is going to be at the heart of every business in the future. Where is your data? How are you going to centralise it? How are you going to get insights from it? These are big questions that are not just marketing related. Yes, marketing will benefit from it, but is it a myopic marketing view? Not at all.
We have an offering for media transformation. This will address how clients are currently buying media and how they will buy it in the future. That’s a really interesting question to answer. We are looking at technology players who are disrupting this space and those are the kind of players we want to bring on board our network. When I say deep tech, I’m talking about AI, Blockchain and other technologies playing a very deep role in all of our offerings, whether it is media services, business consulting services, or data transformation services.
You clients would be both the marketing agencies and brands?
No, we will work with only direct clients. Yes, at this point I would not want to label RD&X as a creative agency, media agency or a business consultancy, because it is all of those and none of those.
Why aren’t you going after the SMBs with your offering?
More than SMBs, I think the ones who want to maintain growth scale and bring in agility are the large companies. Our focus is large enterprises that are looking for a new age agile partner. The reason they would pick us is because we will bring a tech mindset which is missing among the larger players and an agile model unlike the current fixed model of working with agencies, which is holding back these companies from creating rapid transformation. More than start-ups, these large companies need a start-up mindset.
How will you go batting for these companies?
As we announce in the coming 6 months, our service offering will become more crystal and clear. We are in the building phase and want to bring early stage companies to partner with us. We are already in talks with several early stage companies across the world. As we roll out, we will have a detailed offering on our websites. We are not just offering services, but also products, that is, we will have a technology product offering targeted at clients. Our positioning will become clearer and we will go to markets demonstrating our products and services. We are looking at a timeline until Q2 2021 to be operational with all our offering in our go-to markets.
What is the business model for RD&X Network?
A lot of the large business networks over the world have grown big by acquiring other companies. What these large companies acquire for is scale and acquiring a young company, which may be five people building something in a garage, is a big risk for them because it won’t add anything to their bottom line and they can’t go back to the market and say this is what we’ve acquired. It doesn’t add anything today to them.
We are looking at investing and partnering in companies which are very early stage. That is not to say that they don’t have revenues or established technology, but rather the strategy is to acquire skill not scale. It is to bring into the network an entity which has a proven business model that others are not able to create or replicate, or a proven IP which is a technology that has been tested in the market and is seeing early traction from clients.
Being a part of our network allows them to scale globally. It doesn’t matter where the company has started, whether it is India, US, China or Ukraine, we are looking for companies that we truly believe in, who give us the leverage to scale up drastically with large clients globally. The investment angle is the core engine of our network and we are investing, acquiring and in some cases doing 100% buyouts of technology, unique business models and of talent.
In revenue terms, what is the potential of this market?
In India, I will not be going after the classic digital marketing services. I think in India the greater opportunity is in data and business transformation. While we are not looking at running after the media in India, internationally, we are looking at the opportunity where global clients are looking to take media in house in markets like the US. In those markets, we will offer solutions that may venture into marketing. The reason we are not going after such clients in India is very simple. I don’t believe that the market is mature enough of the kind of solutions we are building. Our solutions are better suited for the mature markets.