[Interview] Rajiv Dingra on WATConsult’s decade long journey

Rajiv Dingra

After turning a decade old in the digital world, Rajiv Dingra takes us through the journey of his brainchild, WATConsult. Talking about how it all began till today and everything in between. Dingra recalls the glorious journey from the evolution of the social-verse along with the digital marketing agency.

How did it all begin? What was the one instance that motivated you to go ahead and establish WAT?

It all began piece by piece and not altogether. WATConsult was born by the need in the market for a social media specialist agency and I became aware of this need as I was running a blog WATBlog in 2006 and I was invited by brands to help them with their social media strategy.

The motivation was to do something challenging in the digital space. While everyone was looking at Search and banner ads Social seemed a virgin space in 2007. Even Facebook was not launched openly in India. So clearly it seemed something very new and exciting and that was very motivating.

How would you describe WAT’s journey?

I think WAT’s journey has been a true team effort. It has been a roller coaster no doubt but even the people who were involved way back in 2007 till today fondly remember the times we spent at WATConsult. Clearly, I think a happy organization is a successful organization. We worked very hard but people enjoyed the people they worked with and the work they did and hence the success and the longevity for 10 years now.

Looking back, which has been the best and the worst moment of your journey?

I think in hindsight your worst moments are best moments because they teach you so much. So, the crash of 2008 due to Lehmann Brothers’ fiasco also had an impact on WATConsult and it pretty much threatened to destroy our small existence at that point but I think we learnt so much from that is that we have never looked back. If I think of the best moment I feel it’s yet to come, we are just 10 years old and we have just started giving a tough fight to the big boys and I’m sure we can make a mark at the global stage with our work and that to me will be the best moment I am looking forward to.

How has the industry changed over the years and how was WAT changed with it?

There has been a sea change in the Industry. I still remember in the early part of 2007 I had met with a marketer who told me that social media was a fad and a western concept and won’t grow beyond teens in India. Look at where we are today :)

I think WATConsult has always tried to pivot before a trend became a trend and that’s been our key strategic advantage as we grew. For example, we started social media spends for brands way back in 2009 and started offering social media listening in 2010. In 2013 we setup our digital video team which started proving video solutions.

Over the last 2 years we have ventured into 5 new verticals – eCommencify, SocialCRM24*7, InnoWAT, Recogn and Audientise. We know we are investing ahead of time and but this is our way on predicting the future trends.

Which was the one campaign that you really enjoyed working on?

My personal favourite that I personally worked on was an old campaign for Virgin mobile called Indian Panga league for which we did social media. But over the years the team has worked on Nikon Cheatsheet, Bajaj Allianz Boo Boo Campaign, Super Saturday for Bestseller and most recently Flaunt to Feed for Godrej which have won many awards and been recognised as well by media.

What is your favourite memory with the WAT family?

Too many memories to point out a favourite one. But personally, I was touched by the way the team celebrated my 30th birthday. It really felt like one big family to me.

Where is the industry headed in the next few years? How are you prepping for it?

I think effectiveness, creativity and innovation is where Industry is headed. We will see clients demand more effective use of the budgets and as budgets get bigger they will experiment in areas that promise creativity or innovation. At WATConsult we have ensured we have put together an audience buying and planning team which works on audience insights as well, called Audientise, to make sure effectiveness is ensured at every step of the client spends.

We also have a large video and tech team to ensure large creative projects can see the light of the day. Recently we conducted a creative thinking training with a global trainer who had come down first time in India to train an agency. We also have our own innovation lab in InnoWAT and that’s how we are keeping up with where the industry is headed.

What can we expect from WAT in the coming years?

WATConsult is gunning to do work that not just create ripples in India but at the global stage and next 2-3 years we are focused on this mission. You will see truly integrated digital work from our end as we grow to a 300-member team of specialists and generalists and also are able to ideate and more importantly execute effective campaigns.