Meet Chandni Shah & Rohan Mehta – Cofounders at digital agency Social Kinnect

In a candid conversation with Lighthouse Insights - cofounders Chandni Shah & Rohan Mehta discuss present set of work, building Social Kinnect in the last five years and the road ahead for the digital agency


After spending a good number of hours understanding the work and people at Social Kinnect (SK), it was time for me to get talking with the co-founders – CEO Rohan Mehta and COO Chandni Shah.

To give you a flashback, in an earlier article (Inside the Mumbai based digital agency Social Kinnect), I had reported on how the agency works, about its employees, how they are being groomed and what is the culture like. These stories are a part of the agency feature content series in association with digital agency Social Kinnect.

Taher and Srinivas, who made sure that I had a comfortable time at SK, escorted me to Rohan’s minimalist cabin. One quick look and you are acquainted with the choices of the CEO – a book case right behind his big chair, followed by a massive solid table good enough for a five-member startup team. The room also sported some bean bags and it wouldn’t be surprising to have team meetings taking place here. Easily the room can hold more than 20-25 people in one stretch.

I made myself comfortable sipping half a glass of water, and started off with a simple question – What’s in the name ‘Social Kinnect’? Rohan, sitting right in front of me explained that Social Kinnect is all about connecting with your kin.

“Social media has always been a way to connect with like-minded people, someone who thinks like you. It is also about the kinetic energy, which is the pace that we want to grow along with the market.”

Meanwhile Chandni who had been chasing back-to-back meetings with clients also joined the conversation. With her managing the entire client servicing team at SK, I requested her to share a couple of interesting campaigns executed in H1 2016. Rohan shared about one of their recent work which he thought delivered more business results for the brand Lodha Group. “It is a performance buy campaign where our only aim for the brand was to generate sales. And I am happy to share that we have already generated 50 crores of sales in the last two months, simply by the virtue of digital marketing.”

“We want to go closer to business metrics, rather than digital metrics.”

Chandni talked about another brand Durian that has been working with SK from the last three years. In the earlier days the agency would only manage the social media pages of the brand but very recently the agency worked with the brand in launching and managing its end-to-end ecommerce portal. “It’s another brand that we have been successful in driving sales from digital and make it a profitable one.”

On the creative side, the co-founders were quick to highlight the work they did with Zee TV for the reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Along with creating social profiles for the show contestants, the agency ran a Facebook Live jamming session. Fans were requested songs in the form of comments and the contestants performed them live on the social network.

Early days at Social Kinnect

Before we could speak more about work, Rohan took us through the early days of the agency that was set up five years ago in 2011. An engineer by profession, Rohan started as a sales guy in an IT firm. While his MBA dreams got squashed, lady luck smiled on the young man when on one of his trips to Mumbai, he met Chandni. The two met, cupid struck and they got engaged in the next 15 days.

The itch to start up was always there with Rohan. So in 2011, he decided to jump in and test the waters. Quitting his job in the US, he came back to India and began studying the Indian market. However, the IT market, a cluttered space already, failed to create any interest in him. So he decided to focus on a space that he thought was about to grow out of control – Social Media Marketing.

While Rohan had no connection with advertising or digital when he decided to start up, Chandni always loved and wanted to be in advertising. With an advanced diploma in advertising, she started her digital journey in 2009 with Trinetra Focus, Percept H and finally was working in JWT India when Social Kinnect happened. In fact, as a kid she modeled for more than 90 ad shoots. “I come from a business family. Percept H gave a good exposure and working for JWT was a dream. This is where my client servicing skills got harnessed.”

She further added: “Working at JWT, I could easily see that digital was growing drastically. So when we met and Rohan started up Social Kinnect, I was really excited to be a part of the journey and build it from scratch.”

Thus began the journey of SK. Rohan looked after the business side and Chandni focused on the creative and client servicing side. The days were not easy, since in 2011 client spends on social media were negligible. The challenge for the fresh agency was to convince people on why they should take the medium seriously. “And even when we convinced them, we got paid peanuts. The first two years of our time and pitch focused mainly on educating our clients. In fact most of the brands stood with us for our effort,” Rohan informed.


Along with building the market, hiring the right minds for any startup is always a challenge, SK went through the same cycle. Starting with hiring a bunch of interns, the agency now has grown in hiring individuals with specialized skill sets. “I have always given weightage to attitude and today the thought process flows in most of my senior managers,” he added.

Hardships and challenges make the dream sweeter for any startup. In the last five years, the agency did face them but the goal of survival has been quite bigger. Looking back the biggest learning for Rohan has been managing people and scale. For Chandni it has always been about evolution, finding the next thing and keep growing.

Today the agency, working from a new setup, has become more organized. Along with the design team, the agency has two client servicing teams managed by her. Over the years the job role has evolved, most of the times she isn’t there for pitches but for client onboarding. In the last five years digital has evolved, from integrated campaigns today videos are driving the entire brand objective.

Chandni agrees to the trend change, today it is more about the brand rather than the social networks. “Today brands are more interested in brand solutions from digital agencies. Earlier it was about utilizing platforms but over time it is now about brand thought.” The agency has recently hired an experienced traditional agency guy who is helping with this branding knowledge.

On the business part, Rohan thinks that business side spends have definitely increased. However, it largely depends on sectors and products with an urban focus target such as the automobile, retail and technology driven consumer products. “It depends on categories and how much of your audience is present on digital. In categories like BFSI the spends over last year has not increased by 2-3% but it is drastically increasing 25-30%.”

Media Kinnect – digital media buying arm

In addition to managing the business and the agency, Rohan is now looking after Media Kinnect, an independent media arm solely set up with the primary focus on online media planning, buying, and creative strategy.

Launched in the month of June, Media Kinnect’s goal is to provide the best ROI-driven results through the team’s expertise, along with a state-of-the-art media command center equipped with real-time analytics tools to provide a statistical edge for optimal performance. He added, “Every one has been shying away from the ROI answer, there is a lot of haziness and my aim is to remove it. We want to go beyond an excel sheet of a media plan and a click report to see how one can measure the real value for the brand.”

Sharing more about his vision for Media Kinnect, the CEO said that there is much effort being put in the creative but there is more money spent on the media business. “ I feel there is a big gap in understanding how digital media business works. The industry by and large uses a lens, which is quite old and focuses on CPM and CPC. Additionally, we also want to be closer and closer to business results.”

“The vision is to use digital as a sales platform rather than just being a web platform.”

The agency has hired creative guys who understand media and they work along with the media team. “The aim is to figure out the entire funnel, all the way from awareness, intent, to sales and re-targeting.”

The agency has also invested in programmatic buying but Rohan believes it is just a buzzword as of now. “The market is too young and it is not ready for it. We have invested for couple of brands and the results are decent. But overall the expectation setting is difficult as we have just understood how digital media works, so it is too early to adopt for majority of the clients.”

Road ahead for Social Kinnect

Going forward the agency wants to focus on two clear goals: a) Brand, and b) Performance.

For brand the agency is hiring more and more experienced folks from the traditional agencies. On the performance side, the Media Kinnect team of more than 20 people is already working on it. Additionally, the agency also wants to be specialists for some sectors and build deep solutions for them.

Quality work always stands out in the long run and this has been the case with SK. After five years in the business, the agency is still thriving to create nifty work. “The agency today is the natural expression to who we are as a person. There is a sense of honesty, camaraderie, and very quick growth in the agency. These are things which are very core to our culture. When we say get shit done, we really mean it,” Rohan said.

“We don’t believe great culture means free food, booze and flashy offices. Great culture is a great place to learn. That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate and party but it is also an opportunity to work hard, learn and shape up.”

Work defines you and great work also defines an agency and its culture. Over the years, Social Kinnect has evolved from a very small social media agency team to a 100-member staff providing brand solutions to clients. And for culture this thought pasted in bold letters sums it up:

Social_Kinnect agency

I then moved on to have a word with the people working at the agency but for that you need to watch out for the next story. Meanwhile Social Kinnect is hiring, if you think it’s the agency for you then don’t wait. Be a Kinnector and grow in the industry.