After 4 years of existence and running a profitable business, one of India's leading Social Media agencies Media Redefined has decided to call it a day. We caught up with Praval Singh, Co-Founder Media Redefined, to know more about their decision.
Can you take us through your journey with Media Redefined? How old is it and how did it come into existence?
I started Media Redefined along with my partners – Gaurav Mishra & Honey Singh in January 2009. While I was a final year student at an engineering college, I worked as an author / editor with a few blogs in India, South-east Asia and Europe. That was the time I met my partners who were running a web design and development studio. Honey also had a tech blog which happened to be the reason we connected for the first time. We could sense some good vibes and a complimenting combination of skills to start a venture.
When I look back, it seems to be a magical journey of meeting some great people, working with best of brands, taking on challenging projects, building a good work culture and relationship with the team and a proud feeling of running a profitable business for nearly 4 years.
And the background of the 3 partners?
The 3 of us are from small towns in the country and we moved to Delhi between 2002-2004 for higher education. While Honey graduated as an Electronics and Communication engineer, both me and Gaurav completed our engineering in Computer Science.
When did you take the decision and what developments made you to take the decision of closing down Media Redefined?
Can you take us through the closing down process? Were the clients and employees informed well in advance? Have you also suggested new agency to the clients to take over the work?
After a month long discussion and evalutation of the case, we decided to make this move. The first ones to know were our team mates, clients and families. We held an open forum at work with the team to discuss (and debate) on the subject, the day we decided. Later on, helped some of them to find their new employer. Most of them found one, almost immediately. We still have a social media community manager with us who is currently looking out to work with an agency.
We are in the process of helping our clients transition. A few of them have already moved on.
Was Media Redefined a profit making company from its inception?
We started with negligible investment out of a garage-like office. Within a few months, we were profitable. That’s when we decided to hire more people and relocate to a larger office.
Given a chance for you to go back 5 years in life, would you still have preferred starting Media Redefined?
Definitely! However, with some tweaks. ;-)
What are your plans after Media Redefined? Will you still be in Social Media?
Well, Social Media doesn’t seem to be keen at leaving me so soon! However, I am keen at working on a product and not with an agency. After a month long evaluation of opportunities and discussions with some of the prospective employers, I can say that my new hat is just around the corner.
What are the plans of your partners?
While Gaurav is also closing on his new role with a technology company, Honey is kickstarting a new venture which shall deal with more than just social media. A few clients shall move with him to continue the services.
As a social media agency, what challenges did you face?
While we were profitable from the start, there were challenges of all kinds and it was fun to battle them out. But that’s what running a business is all about!
One of the key challenge is that Social Media has largely become - Facebook / Twitter updates & sweepstakes platform, and there are a lot of business who’re doing it effectively.
We were more inclined towards measurement and impact of social media / technology and we believe it’s about time before that goes mainstream. It was this very reason that we built a social media analytics tool called Dokito. Though we have been using it for our clients for a while, we could not launch it for public due to infrastructure and scalability challenges.
We were maintaining a perfect imbalance of running a service agency in India and building a web product. ;)
Let us bring up the age old debate of Agency vs In-house. What are the pros and cons of both of them?
With the limited experience and exposure of working with brands in India, I believe each of them have their own merits and demirits. While social media isn’t necessarily a tool but a process, design and culture, very few brands have a good social quotient and this is one of the biggest challenges most agencies (which want to do more than just FB updates and contests) face. Those who get it are setting the bar high.
I have known community managers at some of the brands which ‘get’ social media and I believe that they’re doing a great job. In their case, they probably need an agency to run a campaign, create apps, drive advertising, etc. but not on the strategic front – because they understand the brand as well as the medium.
However, with most brands, the picture is very different. They need to hire agencies which have expertise with the medium. At the same time, the agency shouldn’t be decided basis the awards, clientele´ or number of offices but basis their understanding of the brand. Companies should host a session for agencies to understand the brand and it’s requirement before they pitch. I believe this would make more sense to both parties.
While agencies can execute a lot more than an inhouse team, the brand psyche is best known to those who work a lot more closely.
Were you planning to sell the company? Were there any buyers?
There have been 2 global PR companies and a few individuals who had shown interest and we have had discussions with them. But for some reason of the other – we could not reach a consensus to make this happen. Personally, I do not think I want to work with an agency after running one for nearly 4 years. The idea was to do something ‘different’.
A bunch of social media agencies are spurring up. What piece of advice would you want to give them? Should they be discouraged from starting it?
I am sure we were one of them 4 years ago! Hence, I do not discourage somone who intends to take a plunge and do something of his / her own. I am sure new agencies shall come up with newer ideas and engagement models. There are already a bunch of them doing some good work! We all shall stick around to observe the the trend. At the same time, I hope the brands would widen the scope of social media initiatives and its integration with other activities.
What would you suggest to those young professionals and fresh graduates who looking for a career in Social Media?
At the face of it, this appears to be the way BPO industry started in India, more than a decade ago, although much smaller. Social Media Managers, Community Ninjas, Evangelists, etc. need to be smart, talented and hard working executives with excellent communication skills and acquaintance to the social media channels. Some of the best community managers I have interacted with are very savvy with emerging networks, applications, customer engageement and mobile internet. Best of the lot are the ones who read and write a LOT. I guess you get the picture.
In the coming years how do you see Social Media shaping up in India?
I know I am at the risk of sounding a Guru! With a ray of hope that the client-agency model for social media services shall evolve, I believe that things will change for good. More brands would differentiate between ‘doing’ social media and ‘being’ social. They would invest in relationship building rather than doing short stints. At the same time, brands would hire people with prior exposure to social media to plan and drive their social strategy across functions like Sales, Marketing, Human Resource, Public Relations and more.