Gautam Reghunath – the people developer at Dentsu Webchutney Bangalore

How Gautam Reghunath, EVP and branch head has been building the Webchutney Bangalore office from scratch in the last two years

Gautam Reghunath

At 24, Gautam Reghunath joined Webchutney now known as Dentsu Webchutney, right after completing his marketing degree at Manchester Business School. His friends decided to join the lucrative financial world but the Bangalore lad decided to go back to the advertising world in Bombay.

“Before Webchutney, I interviewed at two-three places but those didn’t go too well. This role was from a friend’s reference. I still remember it was a Tuesday when I joined in 2010,” recollects the dapper Gautam. Meanwhile sitting with me in his see-through cabin (inspired by a brilliant minimalist design) he offers me a cup of the legendary Bangalore coffee brought from a shop right next to the Dentsu Webchutney Bangalore office on Richmond road (trust me the local ones beat the retail coffee stores any day!)

Dressed in smart formals and a warm smile, Gautam reveals his early days of being the business development guy. “I tried business development for a certain period but it didn’t work out. Traditional way of business development isn’t the right way to go in advertising. Then I was offered a servicing role and I grabbed it with both hands. I joined as a junior serving guy in digital.”

“For a long period of time, I was scared since it was a whole new world. Digital was not just about getting things done but required domain knowledge. It was definitely different from Advertising”

In a very short span of time, Gautam was at pace with the market and he credits a lot of this to the agency. “I didn’t realize it at that point in time but looking back now I know that Webchutney has always been a place built on camaraderie and a sense of loyalty between the agency and employees.” This phase also happened to be the most pivotal phase of his professional career. “Instrumental time in my career. Next two years we did some amazing work for quite a few brands,” he adds.

LIFE WASN’T BAD but after two years, he started becoming restless and anxiety creeped in. “I was not sure where I was heading. I wanted to try new things. I thought a new city might help and I discussed the same with my bosses. And so I was back in Bangalore, my city.”

Moving back to Bangalore in 2014 was a good move for both Webchutney and Gautam. At that point the agency had a small shop with just one person managing it. But in the next few months, he too quit leaving Gautam to build it from scratch. “Our decision was to treat Bangalore as a new business development unit. We signed clients from here and ran from Bombay. Next two years worked on the same model.”

These two years were mostly business development from his couch at home. The topline grew during this time, work was great and now the team expanded to three people. “We were a big agency in Bangalore of three people.”Gautam laughs his heart out while sharing other few pivotal moments. One of them was his team of three signing up Indian eCommerce giant Flipkart, till date it remains as one of the largest clients. “The bond that we built during this time was very interesting and fruitful for us. After the initial phase of five month testing, the brand signed up for a long-term contract. This gave us the impetus to grow and the team of three was now 20 only serving Flipkart.”

“We were not pitching to anyone. We were building an office for Flipkart and that was the foundation of the Webchutney Bangalore office”

For the next year and half, the Bangalore office kept growing. Key people joined in to support Gautam – Prashant Gopalakrishnan joined in 2015, now heads the client servicing division; P.G. Aditiya moved from the Bombay team is now the Creative Director and finally there is Ashwin Palkar who is a colleague and good friend of Gautam for over a decade now. “These are the guys who I know very well and trust them. This team has helped to acquire more exciting brands such as Quikr, TI Cycles, Swiggy, among others. Today the Webchutney Bangalore office is 50 people strong.”

SPEAKING ABOUT BRAND WORK, Flipkart remains to be the largest and the most awarded brand for the agency. Big Billion Day every year is an exciting phase for the brand and the agency as well. Last year Flipkart sold 15.5 million units and raked in sales of about Rs 3,000 crore. According to Flipkart three things worked wonders for the brand and one of them was the use of Facebook 360 (developed by Webchutney Bangalore). The other two being a large scale eCommerce awareness campaigns and exclusive tie-ups with top smartphone and apparel brands.

With the help of Facebook 360, for the first time people got access to Flipkart’s office to find out offers. It worked brilliantly. Gautam thinks that it could possibly be the word’s first Facebook 360 degree video contest.

“You know a campaign has worked, when you don’t get comments on that post related to eCommerce delivery problems”

‘Every one on Flipkart’ is another piece that Gautam talks about very proudly. “We did four films for Flipkart, produced by Code Red films and backed by some fantastic acting and script, all executed by us. It actually showed me the real strengths of my team.”

Another interesting campaign the agency did this year was with Nokia, when the brand was trying to make a come back. Nokia definitely brings back a lot of memories from times when smartphones were yet to be born. It was the age of the unbreakable Nokia phones, catchy tunes and the favorite time pass – the snake game. Taking the snake game and layering it with the Harlem Shake, the agency asked people to make similar snake patterns. To create buzz around it, a few promotional videos were launched.

This was a different kind of user generated content that the agency was playing with and making people work on social media isn’t easy. However it turned out to be the best user generated campaign along the lines of Big Billion Hunt, according to Gautam. “The kind of entries that we people were sending in were mind-blowing – they were making snake patterns out of chilies, plants, their own kids even. One guy made his building façade a snake pattern with lights on. Not sure that was legit but solid effort nevertheless. Definitely it is one of my favorite campaigns from the recent past.”

ALONG WITH THE CREATIVE BRAND WORK, the agency has started focusing on building other services. One of them is an attempt to re-look the entire influencer marketing piece with a different lens.

Last year eMarketer said, “Globally marketers spend $570 million on influencer marketing on Instagram.” In 2017 influencer marketing has picked up pace but it is also dealing with issues like credibility and fakery around influencer marketing, another challenge for brands has been measurement. To solve the current problems and owning it as a business opportunity, Dentsu Webchutney launched ‘Webchutney Influence (WI)’ (Read: How Webchutney Influence is trying to relook influencer marketing from a micro lens)

WI is trying to relook the entire piece with a micro lens. It is identifying and handpicking micro-influencers across Instagram and Twitter to collaborate and create content. Secondly, it is trying to amplify content in the most relevant and cost effective manner through various channels. “We are not just working with influencers but we are collaborating and jamming with them on various brand projects. Influence is more about a necessity than a business led approach.”

“As a creative agency, we have to accept that creativity is no longer our domain of service. Everyone today is creative and agencies have to accept and work with others”

Over the last few months, the Influence team, which is led by Siddharth Sikchi, has already executed campaigns with brands such as Flipkart, Mach City, Quikr, Canon India, Rentomojo and Reliance AJIO across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. “The influence team is spending a lot of time handpicking all the influencers. It was a pet project of Siddharth which we backed and he has delivered.”

Dentsu Webchutney Bangalore
Dentsu Webchutney Bangalore team

The agency now has in-built video production house known as Webchutney Films and it also has a full-fledged media team. Going forward for the rest of the year clients and people will  be the main focus for Gautam. “Both are related to each other. My priority right now is to get the right mix of people in the agency. We are trying to find people with an interesting bent of mind whom we can nurture and support. We are already doing it and as a result we have seen some brilliant work over the last two years.”

“My focus is to do right to the company and to the brands by getting only the best people inside our organization; I think that will produce great work”

A second wish that Gautam shared before I wrapped up my conversation – “I want to go back to the DNA of Webchutney – of creating interesting creative work with bit of technology bent. It will be interesting to see if our unit produces some of the very legacy sort of Webchutney tech innovation work.”

Over the years Webchutney has been known in the industry for its creative work backed by tech innovations. Gautam’s very first boss Nishi Kant who is now the Chief Operating Officer (West and South) thinks that he is on the right path and he will get what he wants. “Webchutney Bangalore has been his baby and he has built the entire unit from scratch. From his early days at the agency he has always been an avid learner, focused and go-getter kind of guy,” adds Nishi over a phone call.

Further he said that the Bangalore team has some of the best of minds in the entire Dentsu Webchutney family and the retention rate has been fabulous. “Thanks to the people management skills of Gautam!”

Definitely, Gautam is a people developer – the torchbearer at Webchutney Bangalore. Just similar to how he defines his job:

“Today my work is 50% HR, 30% Finance and 20% Advertising”