The Grey-Autumn acquisition story: A match made in heaven!

Sneha Yadav
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Yashaswini Samat, Chairman and MD, Grey Group India and Anusha Shetty, Founder, Autumn in this candid conversation narrate the tale behind Grey-Autumn integration and map the future of the partnership.

“I say this to a lot of people right now that I feel like I am getting married again,” exclaimed Anusha Shetty, Founder, Autumn as she sits back to narrate the Grey-Autumn acquisition story. In October 2018, Grey Group, a WPP company,  agreed to acquire a majority stake in Autumn Worldwide, an independent social media, and digital marketing agency, based in India.

With Autumn’s headquarters in Bangalore and offices in Mumbai and (Gurgaon) Delhi, they have over 165 employees across their offices. Their client roster includes blue-chip and local clients such as PepsiCo (all 26 brands such as Mountain Dew, Quaker Oats, and others), Reckitt Benckiser Group (Mortein, Durex, Dettol, Moov and more), Samsonite, PVR Cinemas, Exide Life Insurance, Tata Salt, Raymond, Luminous and Freecharge, to name just a few. Grey Group's clients from across the globe will benefit from the social media and digital marketing expertise provided by Autumn.

While Yashaswini Samat, Chairman and MD, Grey Group India claimed that she happened to come into the acquisition process a bit later, Shetty goes onto share that a chance meeting, an introduction by a common friend is how it all started. “It’s not an overnight thing, it just evolved. We had to make a big decision and know that we are the right partners and we are truly there to create the right value for clients. Initially, it all started slowly but later accelerated really fast... reached a point where it seemed like ‘marriage on sleeves’. Just like in a  marriage you meet, talk, get to know - it comes with time. Then there was no looking back,” she adds.

On parameters to evaluate agencies for acquisition

Grey is very confident about having a great future ahead of it with this partnership. There are a whole lot of financial considerations that WPP entails when it comes to acquisition. “But for us the real thing that we look is that they must really be the expertise in the area they are functioning in, the value that they bring to the client in the whole digital space- whether it be social media, data insights, influencer management, online reputation management, we look at the real capability that the agency has built, the clients they are handling and how do client evaluate them, the kind of brand building they are doing,” quips Samat.

Secondly, she also thinks that the most important is the culture and chemistry. For Grey, it’ a partnership, more than an acquisition. Samat sees each one learning from the other, accommodating and taking best practices from each other as in two cultures merging to create a world overall.

Agency talks

Giving us a brief insight behind the strategic partnership Shetty quipped that today’s consumer has converged.

He/she is not looking at digital differently or print as something different, so marketing teams in organizations have started converging too and they are no longer a digital or traditional Marketing Manager.

She adds, “For us, Grey gave us that perfect platform and scale to integrate and deliver this converged world of services to our clients. As long as the leadership teams of both sides are in sync everything falls into place because the intentions of both the leaders are very clear.”  

Leveraging the partnership    

The acquisition will bring additional benefits to clients of Autumn, including access to Grey Group's extensive international network as well as to offerings such as RC&M, one of India’s largest rural communications & experiential marketing service providers. They provide services such as brand launches, sales channel development, product seeding & sampling, and new market development, amongst others.

According to Shetty, the beauty of Autumn right now is the culture it belongs. It’s important to keep that spirit alive while at the same time integrating into same practices. What Shetty likes about this relationship is that it is giving the agency the freedom to operate in the agile format of the industry. “The change is only good and to become better with all the right properties and practices coming into the place.”

Role of GREY in Autumn’s smooth functioning

Post the acquisition, the process requires a lot of planning and strategic evaluation of things and similarly Grey has been doing it internally. It is ensuring that the leaders of the two companies are in sync and are able to talk to each other transparently. In terms of how to do the duo work on current clients, co-locate, etc. “There will still be issues- but we will talk and discuss. We have been working together on this since last six months already. I am not expecting it to be a problem- less but at the end of the day we will be able to resolve,” informs Samat.

Also Read: Grey Group set to acquire majority stake in Autumn Worldwide

Impact on the ‘Founder’ post-acquisition

Autumn Worldwide was founded in 2005 by Anusha Shetty and Abhay Rajankar as a brand consulting and advertising company. CEO Shetty soon saw the opportunity and proceeded to expand Autumn into a 360° social media and digital agency which provides a multitude of services, including digital & social media campaigns, influencer & blogger marketing, online reputation management, content marketing, marketing big data & insights and Command Center Management Services (CCMS).

The question that arises here is that is it okay for Shetty to be still about Autumn, is it okay for the founders to let it go? Not being resistant but instead extremely happy, Shetty sterns that her team has been given a larger base to climb in this larger world with this partnership. higher.

What’s the future for the founder? For Shetty, Autumn helped her in reinventing herself as a Marketing persona and she owes it to her team. She is also looking forward to growing at a much larger scale with Grey now.

Here Samat too added that they are not seeing any relinquishment. "Grey very much needs Anusha on this business. The aim is to survive as a 360 degree integrated services for a brand and add value across all such points to help brands to truly impact consumers and that's where the capability of Autumn and Grey is coming together."

Grey’s expectations from Autumn

“We have very high expectations, not just from Autumn but from ourselves too,” observed Samat. The core expectation, however, remains that the agency adds value to the clients Grey handles, create a new narrative that will give this Autumn-Grey combination a better play for services.

Is being a part of the bigger network is the only way to survive?

Off late many independent agencies have come under a bigger umbrella on demands of sustainability and gaining an extra edge. While the acquisitions come with their own pros and cons, Shetty believes that it really depends on where your vision is. One can definitely grow independently.

“As Autumn we have grown to a large scale. Can growth happen on its own? Yes, it can. That’s not the issue is. The issue is where do we really want to be. I don't see a reason why marketing organisations or the brand etam on the client side should work as multiple agencies while the consumer is the same and the thinking behind the brand is the same. It’s just that to manage differently on TV, digital and other mediums. There's a lot more technology at play, consumer behaviour is very different on the digital side.”  

Autumn’s vision is to create great value for this ecosystem and thinks that within the converged world it sees an opportunity to do that better. “Every agency has to make a choice what they want to be and the vision has to be clear,” clears Shetty.

Both the teams believe that the integration will drive immense value as the dream is very big as “We will do everything right to make this happen and we truly believe that we are going to make a huge difference to the Indian market.”

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