Sm(all) by GOZOOP Group plans to champion the cause for new-age challenger brands

Gozoop and Sm(all)

In an exclusive conversation with Social Samosa, Gozoop and Sm(all) shed light on their recent collaboration, the relevance of larger and integrated teams, digital trends, and future plans for the agency.

As Gozoop Group acquired Stratton Communications, they rebranded the agency as Sm(all) while positioning it as a challenger agency within the group. With Gozoop forging through, with its fourth acquisition in India, we speak with Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, CEO & Co-founder, Gozoop Group, Siddhanth Valecha, CEO, Sm(all), and Rohan Bhansali, Co-founder, Gozoop Group to understand the nature of the recent partnership, the evolving trends in the industry, and more.

Edited Excerpts:

How did the partnership with Gozoop happen? Please share some BTS information of the conversations that led to the acquisition?

Siddhanth: It was quite serendipitous actually. We were having a casual conversation – entrepreneur to entrepreneur and through it, the synergies were quite evident. I have been following Ahmed’s and Rohan’s stories and love how they have built Gozoop independently and internationally. I see them as mavericks of the industry. There were good chemistries and it was obvious we were eager to do something together.

Rohan: If you know Sid, he is super high energy. And his approach to Brand Building is very bold. This is what struck us the most.

We were anyways looking to acquire a second challenger agency under the Group. In fact, we had shortlisted two agencies before we started conversations with Sid. By the end of our second conversation, we were convinced Sid is the entrepreneur and Stratton is the company we were looking for.

We finalized the terms in February 2021, we rebranded Stratton as Sm(all), and positioned it as a challenger agency within the Gozoop Group.

What was the insight behind the acquisition? Please take us through the data point that led to the decision?

Ahmed: From the first message that Sid sent me on Instagram to introduce himself and the conversation that followed, it was quite evident that Sid is a guy who wants to make things happen. In Sid, we see a disruptor who wants to challenge the status quo and at the same time understands how to build the business and not just brands. Stratton is our fifth acquisition, and we have been more successful where there is a value synergy with the founder/entrepreneur.

From a business standpoint, Gozoop has marque enterprise clients that are leaders in their industry – Bisleri, Dell, Taj Hotels, Tata Steel, etc. Stratton had a strong clientele of challenger brands – Marriot, TVS Group, Opium Eyewear – which fit in well into our ambition of having a challenger agency as part of the Group.

From a creative standpoint, Stratton has built a reputation for some seriously clutter-breaking campaigns that flirted with boundaries. We liked Stratton’s bold and slightly audacious approach to brand building.

How does Sm(all) benefit from Gozoop’s larger presence & vice versa? 

Siddhanth: Gozoop’s global presence and cross-market approach definitely help us cater to a larger set of brands from across multiple industries.

While with Sm(all), at a group level, now we can service such challenger brands that Gozoop earlier couldn’t due to non-compete as well as the size of business reasons.

Additionally, in my opinion, modern-day brands today don’t just need a customer base, they need a cult following that will stand with the brand, its offerings, and also its cause. This is something that Sm(all) is well-equipped to deliver. This is why we feel our partnership will help cater to the modern-day needs of established and challenger brands even at the group level.

To sum it up, this partnership will essentially enable each of us to extend our respective market shares, while also leveraging the positioning that both firms have earned over a period of time.

How does the acquisition impact the daily functioning at Sm(all)? Take us through the logistics part of the deal

Ahmed: Stratton, rebranded Sm(all) to be more in line with its vision of building challenger brands, will continue operating independently within the defined values and business framework of Gozoop Group. 

Sm(all)has its own culture, which is a derivative of Siddhanth’s leadership style. We feel that that’s a prerequisite for this partnership to succeed.

The corporate side of the business – HR, Finance, IT – will be centralized at the Group level. While Sm(all) benefit from the Group’s strong systems, specific sub-systems have been set to better suit Sm(all).

Siddhanth: Stratton’s DNA is what initially attracted Rohan and Ahmed’s attention. Staying authentic to our core was of utmost importance. All three of us agreed on keeping the essence of Sm(all), in sync with what I had initially envisioned it to be.

Also read: For 30 years Wai Wai’s presence in India has been driven by word-of-mouth: Varun Chaudhary

From being an independent agency to being a part of Gozoop Group – what is the one core change you have felt? How would you describe the pros & cons of being a part of a bigger team?

Siddhanth: It’s been great so far, we’ve definitely had to do our share of learning and unlearning through the course of this entire process. Additionally, Rohan and Ahmed have been extremely warm and welcoming, which has made this overwhelming shift a lot simpler. What’s made this even more comforting is that all three of us widely agree on keeping the essence of Stratton, now Sm(All), in sync with what I had initially envisioned it to be.

It’d be difficult to coin a change here since most of it is essentially how it used to be, however, if I had to, I’d say that the centralization of some of our departments such as HR, Finance and IT has definitely simplified things for us.

What in your opinion is the USP of Sm(all)? How will you differentiate the brand in the cluttered digital marketing space? 

Siddhanth: In my opinion, modern-day brands today, are not driven by brand books, but by real personalities that go beyond set guidelines. Engaging and not just Advertising is what I feel Sm(all) is here for. The audience today, more than ever, is aware or even uncomfortable about the fact that with every swipe or scroll there is a product advertisement that’s waiting to occupy their screens. The need for an agency/marketing partner that can help weave a narrative that goes beyond just a seasonal Ad campaign, is the need of the hour. Sm(all) envisions to be the element of change that fills this void in the segment.

Digital marketing trends you see rising in H2 2021

Siddanth: Forming “Dynamic Connections” is one trend that’s here to stay. Building a community will be the prime focus of most brands, this will only help them acquire the customers’ best interest and keep them engaged in the long run.

“Content Experiences” is another thing I feel will be something to pay attention to as well. How you’re interacting with content is just as important as the kind of content that you’re interacting with. That’s why a focus on a consumer’s experience journey is also going to be a key trend, be it in the form of new, interactive content or better UX.

But I must add – Trends will come and go. Whatever the trend, Sm(all) will be at the helm of it!