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The Disrupters: #ARM Worldwide - Placing analytics at the core

Surviving and thriving amid the presence of large agency networks are the smaller, independent agencies, often referred to as ‘boutique agencies’. Quite often created by former employees of larger networks venturing out on their own, and sometimes by people from different professional backgrounds, these independent agencies are being increasingly recognised for their brilliant campaigns and benchmark-setting innovative thinking.  

Adgully presents its latest feature offering – The Disrupters – which puts the spotlight on such small independent agencies that have been setting a blazing trail in the advertising industry with their work, their new way of operating and ideation, which have been creating disruption in the way the advertising business is done in India.  

Quartet in arms 

Manas Gulati, Co-Founder & CEO, #ARM Worldwide: He leads the marketing business at #ARM Worldwide, which was co-founded after his 9-year stint in the industry. A communications graduate from the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, Gulati has played pivotal roles in international organisations and a critical part of the Indian success stories of leading media houses. He was adjudged as the ‘Most influential digital marketing leader’ by The World Marketing Congress. He is also a guest faculty at eminent communication schools of the country. Gulati is analytical, meticulous and pertinently is able to overlay business over media objectives. A demonstration of his impeccable work is seen in an array of global and national clients. 

Ritesh Singh, Co-founder and MD, #ARM Worldwide: He has been in the communications and media industry for over 15 years across digital & activation, during which he spearheaded business for noteworthy national and multinational brands. In the current avatar, as Co-founder and MD of #ARM Worldwide, Ritesh Singh has worked with a diverse list of clients across technology, education, e-commerce, and the BFSI sector. His ideology is crafted on a strong belief that with the convergence of various media, digital is headed towards an experience where conventional and digital resources will be used hand in glove to give the best outputs. In his previous role as National Director at MEC Interaction, Singh had actively led many campaigns that were momentous in setting new benchmarks within the organisation, and globally. He had also held several key positions at Starcom MediaVest Group, where he was a part of the global leadership programme, Global Impact Circle – a group of 25 people working to design and deploy tactics in about 80 countries with global organisation goals at core. 

Honey Singh, Co-founder and CEO, #ARM Worldwide: As CEO of #ARM Worldwide, Singh is at the helm of business with a clear focus on driving the company’s overall business and operational growth in India and abroad. He started his professional journey as an entrepreneur back in 2004 from a technology startup before foraying into the industry as a consultant. Under his leadership, #ARM Worldwide has won multiple accolades, including ‘Most Creative PR Stunt - South East Asia’ in PR Awards 2017 by Marketing Interactive. Singh has been awarded and acknowledged for his leadership skills & strategic business decisions. The testimonials range from ‘Business Excellence Award’ 2016 from Sunil Bharti Mittal to being awarded as one of top social media professionals in India by CMO Asia. Quora recently mentioned him as one of most viewed writers under public relations & viral marketing globally. He has also appeared as a thought leader in EY Social Media Marketing India Trends Study 2014. 

Abhishek Punia, Co-founder and COO - #ARM Worldwide: He is a Digital Marketing practitioner with a passion for innovation and has pioneered the Digital Marketing space in last 11 years, and the journey is a proven record of his success. In his current role as Operations Head at #ARM Worldwide, Punia works with service leads across factions to deliver world class solutions to customers. With core understanding of both strategy and delivery, Punia’s role has been to make sure that processes are streamlined both internally and externally, so that both brand and business objectives for the client are met. 

In an exclusive interaction with Adgully, Manas Gulati, Co-Founder and CEO, #ARM Worldwide, narrates the story of the agency’s creation, how it ideates on client briefs, how its thinking and agency culture is different from its contemporaries and above all – how it has been disrupting the advertising industry. 

The Arm Worldwide Story – How it all began  

We have been operational for the last 5 years and moving towards being one of the biggest independent houses of digital marketing & communications in India. In July 2013, we started as a digital marketing consultancy, but over the years have further forayed into PR & Content Marketing, Technology, Data Analytics and Inbound Marketing as well. We have extensively strengthened our workforce with a team strength of 130 and growing with operations in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, and Singapore as our South East Asia business station. 

The objective & vision  

It was clear in our minds right from the start, when I, Ritesh, Abhishek, and Honey decided to kickstart ARM Digital. We started with a vision and sole objective to ensure the business growth of our customers and offer them unique solutions with a consulting approach at the centre, and not behave like the traditional cliché of an agency. Our business consulting approach and integrated planning methodology continues to help in doing data-driven, creative & measurable work for our customers that’s efficient & scalable across earned, owned and paid media. 

We closely work on our ideologies based on - transparency, belongingness, and freedom to learn and teach. The company’s commitment towards work ethics and workplace diversity has further contributed to the company’s overall growth in terms of clientele, employees and its global presence. We believe we have just scratched the surface and there’s a lot to achieve. Our global expansion plan has already kicked off with an office in Singapore, we further plan to mark our presence in Western markets. 

Genesis of the agency name  

So, our (the four founders) idea was to be the “digital arm” of our customers. Over a series of discussions, name coining and domain availability checks, we decided to go with the simple yet powerful “ARM Digital”. Over our evolution and expanding foot-printings in terms of global outreach and services in our cradle, we renamed ourselves to “ARM Worldwide” as we weren’t limited to ‘digital only’ as our area of expertise any more. 

Giving creative ideation an edge  

At #ARM Worldwide, we provide digital marketing and communications solutions for customers operating in both B2B & B2C space. Our integrated planning methodology which contributes to doing data-driven, creative & measurable work with a consulting approach makes us different rather unique from the larger network agency structure. This integrated planning methodology enables us to stitch different delivery tools of digital marketing, content marketing & analytics together and thrives in ushering continuous innovations for our customers' growth. 

Tackling the client brief   

Our relationship with our customers is more of a partner than an agency; working in sync with their business growth objectives. So, whenever we receive a brief from their end, it goes through our linear methodology and from there we are able to harness unique ideas and business-first strategies for desired growth. This has helped us bring business efficiencies for our customers, along with few Tier 1 awards in different spaces over the years. 

Creating disruption  

Our methodology is pretty linear, where we place analytics at the core of it. We are data-hungry, and we slice & dice every bit of it for all our business spectrums - be it, media planning, social media, ORM, SEO, inbound marketing or influencer outreach. 

The real disruption comes at the stage when the execution starts. With every step point mapped already with expected output to each of our action, measurement becomes the driver of disruption. 

Running an independent operation  

All four co-founders believe that founding ARM is one of the best decision that we have made in our lives. It seems every single day we are living our dream. In a short span of 5 years, we have been able to build a strong team 130+ professionals from various cultural backgrounds who are passionate, committed towards work ethics and unconventional in their approach. We strongly believe in transparency, belongingness, and freedom to learn and teach. One of the most important advantages of running your own independent operation is you have the flexibility to introduce new creative and innovative ideas in work culture to keep your team motivated. We hire young talent and closely work with them on delivering unique ideas with a distinctive approach. Be it our stakeholders, customers or employees, we are learning new lessons from them which further enables us to grow. The last five years have been thrilling, yet enlightening. 

But having said that, at the same time it is very challenging to start an independent venture in this competitive era where every day the key agencies are bringing new strategies and services to their customers. Initially, it was difficult for us to gain the trust of the customers being a small organization but gradually over a short span of time we have been able to bag several key industry players from different spaces as our customers like – OPPO Mobiles, Sodexo, Bajaj Finserv, Future Brands, Pearl Academy, and many more. 

Key Clients 

Few names in our clientele are Bajaj Finserv, Sodexo, OPPO Mobiles, Pearl Academy, Pearson, Jack Daniels, Future Brands, Zee Learn, Spectra, Hindustan Times, Harman, etc. 

The challenges & opportunities  

Industry’s perception regarding the agency’s ability plays a significant role while counting on challenges and opportunities for small independent agencies. We were lucky enough as we started ARM when the start-up culture was booming. In fact, the scenario is still the same rather I would say the start-up culture is flourishing at a great momentum. Today even key industry players are showing trust in start-ups and are giving an opportunity to the young talent to work for them and strategize unique campaigns for them. However, initially, it was challenging for us- we didn’t source funding rather we bootstrapped it. In the beginning, it was indeed tough to make customers believe us on our capabilities and at the same time, it was crucial for us to hire an intellectual and passionate workforce. 

Are Specialist Agencies in a stronger position now? 

Yes, of course, I believe that independent agencies are in a stronger position today. The market is expanding exponentially and every month more than 500,000 businesses are entering the market. Today in this competitive era, every organisation – be it small or big – are working towards exploring new and advanced technologies to bring work efficiency. Millennials are open to experimentation and have an appetite to take risks when comes to the company’s growth and development.  Therefore, it is an opportunity for young independent agencies to come up with unique and advanced technologies/ innovations further creating a niche for themselves in the ecosystem. 

How can small independent agencies compete in an era of disruption? 

Small agencies can compete in an era of disruption by aligning their mission and objective with the objective of their customers. It is important to have a differentiated mindset, belief structure and unique method of planning and delivery. A small independent organization can survive in this competitive era only if they have exceptional and unconventional ideas and strategies for their clientele. 

Was it worth all the trouble? 

Yes, all four of us take pride with the way we started and have positioned ARM as one of the leading independent agency. We saw a huge potential in the digital space and we knew that in future digital will supersede the traditional forms of marketing. We had our expertise, zeal towards this space, therefore we didn’t give it a second thought while stepping into it. We did an extensive research and identified the gap in the market. We analysed that it was saturated with traditional agencies and there were a handful of companies who were catering to the overall need of the customers in the digital marketing space. 

The 5-year plan  

The new age media is witnessing a great boom and is expected to grow massively in the coming years. We follow a healthy work culture and have great faith in our workforce and customers. In the next 5 years we want to set a benchmark for ourselves and aim to be India’s one of the leading independent marketing and communication consultancy. We look forward to expanding internationally by adding notable global customers in our portfolio.

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