When two mavericks decide to tango about techno creativity, Confiance happens
A stone's throw away from Salt Lake Sector V-the IT hub of Kolkata-lives an old couple in a two-storey house in a leafy neighbourhood. When in 2014 they rented out the ground floor of their house to AnimeshGoswami, little did they know what he was up to.
Prima facie, it has been turned into a cold but buzzing office of a tech company where some fifteen young men and women stay glued to their computer screens all through the day, talking and living languages, designs, PHP and all other stuff totally alien to the lingo of the neighbourhood.
But, this bunch doesn't fit the mould-they are neither the typical geeks of the tech world nor the conventional creative geniuses of an ad agency. They are not at ease with the word archetypal, and yet, at the same time, they aren't looking for the next big disruption.
They are just 'different', but would prefer to be regarded as creative than as geeks if the choice were between these binaries. And through the day they kick up quite a storm, fed by the messy energy of an IIT-Kharagpur alumnus and founder, AnimeshGoswami.
If Animesh is the core energy, then his partner, Suparna Pathak, a veteran journalist nearly 14 years his senior, is the eye of the storm gently trying to nudge the energy towards the intended direction. That is what that makes the combination unique.
When he started out as an entrepreneur, Animesh was looking to develop a mobile app-based solution for the elderly which would help them look after themselves better. When the solution was almost ready, Animesh decided to outsource the branding strategy to a well-known agency in Kolkata.
Sitting through the presentation of prospective names, Animesh was amazed to find that none of the ones proposed had the dot com domain available. Most of them even had an app by the same name. But the agency did not care much.
And from this Animesh derived the idea of what his Confiance Mobility should offer.
"Even in this world, when everything is geared to be delivered through digital channels, traditional creative agencies still do not have the bandwidth to recommend strategies for enterprises like ours," says Animesh. "The IT industry is no less deficient," quips Suparna. "Just because they know the tools, they feel that the art of communication can be ignored".
Entering a business teeming with IT developers and traditional advertising agencies was not easy despite there being deep pockets of deficiencies offering major opportunities.
The first task strangely for them was to decide how the enterprise wanted it to be seen from outside. Not a question that a fledgling bootstrap startup generally asks. However, "We did not want to get tagged as digital marketing agency, but did we have any choice?" asks Animesh.
Trashing the normal practice of template operation they feel no IT developer should sign off on a website with dummy content, asking the customer to replace LoremIpsum with actual text. "You can't browbeat with jargons," says Suparna. "Even the giants in the trade can't." But on the other hand, an advertising agency would create a beautiful website but with its usability totally outweighed by grand aesthetics.
So it was either a grandiose daunting tech play or an imposing design worth its salt in museum with little ease of use. In the market, even now it's not an easy choice for customers.
Taking a different position Confiance typically engages with its customers from an early stage of the contract. Digital media productions are very different from conventional ones. It becomes extremely difficult to make a campaign successful if the creative production is done with traditional mindset. At the same time, minor tweaks can make a campaign go viral on the internet. The challenge lies here. And stepping up to the plate is the USP of Confiance, claims Animesh.
Then there were companies who have already spent their budgets trying the make their digital communication plan work. It is not easy telling the customer that if its digital communication didn't work, the agency didn't do it right. Normally, if your communication campaign fails, you revisit the strategy, but in digital communication, the medium takes the blame.
For Confiance to be accepted in a market teeming with companies, the organisation made sure that it provided solutions that matched the profile of the customer and even took a stake in outcomes. Hence, it would often insist on outcome-based contracts.
"We would love to have 100% outcome oriented contracts, but in many cases the customer does not have the infrastructure to measure returns. As a part of our assignment, we also ensure that these processes are implemented, so that we can gradually transform to outcome based engagements," says Animesh.
Another critical aspect is that of data acquisition. With the rising cost of CRM tools, most customers shy away from such expensive propositions. It has been the forte of Confiance to engage the customer in data acquisition initiatives, by themselves or through cross branding. Their spread of customers across industries gives Confiance the edge in implementing syndicated solutions for data sharing and analytics. "However, at no point, we would allow any compromise on the privacy of the customer," says Suparna.
Regarding start-ups, Animesh feels that most of them are in pursuits far removed from their core competency, and outcomes as a result get negatively impacted. When bootstrapping, start-ups are hesitant to outsource much. "Not many can build their own furniture, but they definitely can do some Facebook boosting. In the process, they end up putting professionals to wrong reasons. A carpenter will not make you succeed, but a good communication partner may," jokes Animesh.
"The huge gap between communication and technology has to be filled," thinks Animesh. Even mature managers shy away from discussions over digital marketing, as if it were the preserve of younger people. The word digital still intimidates people, whereas it should be regarded as only another channel for marketing and communication.
Suparna says technology on its own is a commodity, and communication a creative enabler. "Our job is to share creative skills with our clients to enhance their own bandwidth for effective communication. And when you combine the two, it doesn't remain a commodity anymore," he says, adding that it also important that solutions are affordable.
So what lies ahead?
This year, Confiance is looking to launch some innovative solutions for social enterprises. Its multimedia communication solutions have benefitted a large clientele and Confiance continues to advise companies on right communication strategies and how to implement them.
As the growth expands, the question that the partners are asking is whether Confiance itself needs to boost its own bandwidth. Is everyone in the team able to live up to the new standards that Confiance has created for itself? Amid rapidly evolving tools and technology, can the developers keep creating the cutting edge communication solutions that Confiance has been boasting of till now? Are creative professionals still able to tune their messages for the audience even as they look to improve on aesthetics?
"We have been lucky to be able to handpick a team, which believes in our core philosophy. Everyone on the team is nimble and willing to walk the extra mile and many more to realise our dreams. But yes, as we grow, getting hold of similar minded people will be the key challenge," shares Animesh.
If Confiance is to remain ahead of the curve, its people are its key. For the partners, it's not a new thing to look for good people-in their previous pursuits, they have been doing that all their lives. They are confident that they will make all stick to the values.