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Revival & Survival: "This could be a ‘leap’ year for digital agency business"

Prepared or not, India has to gear up for an exit strategy for the lockdown period. It is definitely a changed world that India is entering now, and we will have to learn to live with the Coronavirus in our midst.

A lot has been written, debated and discussed over how much the economy and business operations have been hit. We, at Adgully, aim to look at the revival story. What does it take to jumpstart an economy? That is the great narrative that we are following up as part of our ‘Revival and Survival’ series.

Chaaya Baradhwaaj, Founder & MD, BC Web Wise, takes stock of the current unpredictable situation and the measures that the Bigital & Media industry needs to take for speedy business revival.  

What does the new normal look like? How much has the COVID-19 crisis disrupted business operations?

The new normal is to understand that anything can happen, nothing is predictable. For those who live in cyclone-prone areas for instance, this may have been the philosophy of life. I think now many more will realise this. What we take for granted, we will now value, we will now appreciate.

The pandemic of course has affected all of us. It has put pressure on our operations with the WFH not being very conducive for team collaborations, plus challenges of bandwidth, quarantine-related matters, that affected productivity.

Also, some of our clients have had negligible sales. Cash flows got affected. Costs had to be cut. Some clients requested reduced retainers till the situation settled. On the other end, for a digital agency like us, there has also been a spurt in opportunity with digital becoming a core medium, and businesses realising that digital is going to be a definite present and future medium. 

What should be the blueprint for a post-COVID-19 economy?

Conserve and optimise resources. Create more job opportunities as individual businesses which can also translate into business growth. As individuals ensure you are identifying what value you can bring to the table and keep adding to it so you can maximise your ROI whether as independent professionals or employees. Keep learning new skills and be open to trying radically new things.

Invest in one-self more intensely in terms. of physical, mental as well as spiritual wellbeing, as this will help you face anything that can come ahead in life.  

Considering all that we humans have done to the ecology, the economies of the world, the manipulation and control being wielded by powers with vested-interests, and the fact that the majority of us can only opine and complain about but not actually do anything significant that can impact these, the worst may be yet to come. 

What are the 5 key measures needed to ensure a speedy business revival for the Digital and Media industry?

  1. Bring digital expertise & showcase ROI: Handhold clients in their increased focus on digital with intensity, clearly defining how their goals can be met Present data, insights that are being published by media, large publishers, consultancies about digital trends in India. 
  2. Highlight opportunities: There is a bunched up demand for example. You can see this with search volumes or website traffic that did not translate into sales. Share these data points on the same and build the urgency and highlight the opportunity loss if this bunched up demand is not addressed quickly, and as the lockdown eases.
  3. Protect and Nurture Your Most Important Asset, Your People: Isolation has had its challenges. We introduced a strict work-hour  timeline from 10.30 am till 7.30 pm, with a 1 hour lunch break, and 30 minute tea-break fitted in, within about 2 weeks of lockdown one, as we noticed a higher level of stress through a survey that we did to check how people were coping with the lockdown. We also communicated this to all our clients, and urged them to be supportive and ensure that the personal time during the 5-day workdays and the weekends needed to be left for the employee’s well-being in more ways than one. Do we work beyond these hours, yes, but in bits and pieces, and it is much fewer and far apart. It has helped very much to everyone. We have also created a list for outsourcing work with freelancers or smaller agencies to cope with anything that can intrude into this space. In addition we do some fun-stuff to meet and greet, there is a birthday that is celebrated every week or two, we have also had karaoke and dumb-charades sessions. Work-related, fun workshops have also happened where teams have huddled together in smaller groups online and participated in the ‘Ideas Marathon’ an activity we would at workplace or offsite. So there has been a concentrated effort in keeping the engagement going too, as best possible. 
  4. Gear Up Team Skills: Digital demand is going to surge, get the team ready for it. Build up skills that will be needed to address client needs as digital for many businesses will now become the primary medium and will have to play the role of ATL and BTL. 
  5. Improve Cost Efficiencies: Check all the cost heads, including man-power. Optimise these so that more value can be derived from each, or some things can be done without or replaced if the value is not enough.

How are you strategising for the remaining quarters of this Financial Year 2021?

Above 5 measures are some of the key things we are doing. We are very bullish about this year. We have focused on refining our product offering, have been working on areas where we can improve the value we bring to the table for our clients, optimise our efficiencies. Fortunately in January this year we became the first agency to sign up with SalesForce. The set up has been almost completed and we should be implementing it in June. This is going to have an impact on our sales, client management as well as project management.

We are also hiring resources across several functions primarily account management and creative strategy at this point in time. 

How do you see businesses and the Government working together to undo the lockdown disruption and address the market uncertainties?

To be honest, I don’t see this happening. Possibly the GOI restricts to working with large organisations. For instance I tweeted to the CMO of Maharashtra offering help to create a digital communication channel, there was no response. Maybe if I had contacts I could have reached out better. So there are no forums where businesses can submit ideas for collaboration, support, and do appeals. What is happening right now is only appeals that are being addressed by bodies that represent certain communities of businesses like the MSME sector, which we also belong to. So, at this time, I don’t see any collaborative effort except for supporting initiatives like the PM fund. 

How do you visualise the economy and your sector a year later? How much would it have recovered by then?

To be honest, I am unable to predict how bad the impact is going to be. For our sector, specifically digital agency business, I think this could be a `leap’ year, digital spends are going to jump up, is what I foresee.

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