“The toughest companies come out stronger when they go through the furnace”

In conversation with Adgully, Vijay Subramaniam, Co-founder and Leader of The Collective Artists Network, speaks about the strategy and objective behind restructuring Kwan, how Content, Commerce and Social Media will be the drivers of pop culture as an economy and much more.

What is the strategy and objective behind restructuring Kwan as The Collective Artists Network? What acted as a catalyst to this move?

The journey of this started more than two years ago, we restructured our management team in 2018, where we brought in new partners into the company. The idea of Kwan has always been to build a sustainable company that outlives and out dives the lifecycle of its promoters and founders. The only way that one can achieve that is when you build an organisation which is strong in terms of its capacity and its future looking business. While we have been the largest players in the talent management space, when I see the future of the company, there is growth for us where we are investing heavily keeping talent at its core – especially on the digital business, on the content packaging business and from the commerce business.

It has been a complete reshuffle in the management, where there were 4 co-founders earlier, now we have 8 people in the company as partners. We have moved slightly aggressively, charting out our future strategy for the company.  We just thought that it was a classic case of us in a new avatar. Many companies have done this across the world. They have changed their branding, the way they look, there’s a tuning in line that company feels at that point of time.

With this restructure, how are you positioning yourself and your business operations and goals?

Kwan has always been the largest market place for popular culture. We have never been uni-dimensional in our business. We’ve always kept up with the times. We got into the music business when nobody else in the Bollywood Talent management business got into it. We got into a structured business in the South, where still nobody else is thinking about. We created a music label when no other company was thinking about that the independent music scene is coming back. Going forward, endorsement business has always been Kwan’s focus in terms of the being the largest endorsement player.

I think what has happened in the last 4-5 years is a fair chunk of endorsement has now stared shifting towards influencer marketing.

We have always believed in keeping one eye on the future and see what trends are emerging, and that is how the company has evolved over the years.

Last year, when 60% of my business was down, the new business that we invested in, like digital marketing business, grew that 40-50%. That wouldn’t have happened had we not invested in that two and a half years ago. Going forward, the 3 pillars – Content, Commerce and Social Media – will be the drivers of the pop culture as an economy and we are gearing for that.

How challenging is talent management in the current scenario? What are the key issues that you are facing?

The biggest key issue that all of us are facing is the fear of unknown. When we are looking at times like these, it is not just about what the talent needs, it is also about ensuring that the entire ecosystem around you is being spoken too. One thing that we are being very clear about is to keep our clients abreast of what is happening and what we know. But in the current scenario, it is definitely challenging. Office spaces are shut down, we have been told to work from home. We’ve not had theatrical releases of any high value films for an entire year, we’ve not had a live show – everything has come to a halt.

I believe that when things return to some normalcy, we will have more trends that will emerge and that is where our advice will come into the picture. Our job is to ensure that in tough times we scout out every opportunity that the market is willing to throw up and present it to our client and then strategise it.

You also have several influencers in your client roster. With the new ASCI guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media, how are you managing that talent base?

We are getting up with whatever the best policies are. If the law states certain things, then we have no choice but to follow it. But these things take time.

After some tough times in the recent past, what does the road ahead look like for The Collective Artists Network? What is your vision for the future and what are your focus areas?

The Collective Artists Network is nothing but an integrated community that is powering dreams – that’s our vision statement. We are an integrated collective community, we power dreams. If you have the ability to say the story deep and wide, The Creative Artists Network will take you to the masses and enable those dreams.

As far as the difficult times go, the toughest companies come out stronger when they go through the furnace and I think we’ve come out stronger, and every year, the company is becoming stronger. As far as the future is concerned, I am very clear on it – I have to build a company that’s an industry, I have to build up a company that has a very definitive point of management of popular culture in this country.


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