Mr V. Ramani is the co-founder and the Vice Chairman of Ignitee; India's oldest Digital Marketing Agency. Here is a small tete-a-tete on the rise of the Digital Media industry, Ignitee's professional programs and expansion plans.
To begin with, we shall like to hear from you about the rapid rise of digital media industry in India and its implications?
The audience most impacted by the rapid rise of the digital industry is the 15 to 35 age group. This is a large consuming group for many marketers. This group is paying increasingly scant attention to traditional media like print, TV and radio. News and information seek both in the text and the a/v form has moved to the digital domain and so has music. This is one audience group which prefers a convergent state for all its requirements which include connecting with people, sharing, e-commerce, gaming and many other everyday needs, over and above what I mentioned earlier. Traditional media targeting this group has been badly affected and will be furthermore affected in the near future. We will witness many more efforts from these traditional bastions to integrate a key digital component to drive their traditional form consumption patterns. Yet, I feel that this will be a lost cause and they would be much better off guarding and driving new initiatives with the 35+ age group, so that they stay in business.
What according to you is the future growth projection for Internet advertising and the kind of opportunities it presents?
Growth will continue to burgeon. However, having said that the shares of various digital platforms will see rapid shifts, we are already seeing some significant shifts as we speak. I also hear talks of quite a few new orders being planned which could have their own impacts on the spread of the growing digital dollar.
The opportunities have now started to take a holistic shape wherein, there is a digital engagement solution for every marketing category out there.
Known to be one of the country's oldest digital marketing agencies, how has Ignitee tuned itself to the dynamic landscape of digital advertsing? What is your USP or core strengths?
Being the 1st and the pioneers, we had only one way to remain relevant and desirable. That is to stay a step ahead. We have had a bunch of Firsts to prove this. These first happened because we spotted an opportunity (or a gap), which we felt could be a cutting edge solution in the medium and long term. So while others were content to put all their energies into the existing market potential to drive dollars, we had single mindedly invested in a team whose only focus was, what next. Nearly everything that we created as a first had to be sold to the market and some of them took their time to sell through; but once sold they quickly found a fair number of interest from clients and to finally prove the point, there were other competitors who too got into a development mode and were out in the market peddling the same.
The other point of differentiation was prioritization. But if you looked at an example like Social Media Marketing, the world and it's fellow Indians are spouting gigabytes of knowhow today. Ignite began it's journey in this space, way before anyone else even blinked and the first thing we did was to invest in a core SMM team, a team which had no market to chase, no business to develop, little idea of its potential. After a few months of researching, testing and beginning with baby steps, we managed to reach a stage of 30 long term clients across the country, before the others got wind of what was happening. Today, we are distant leaders in the space of SMM, delivering solutions and results which others are struggling to keep pace with.
Imagine a situation (just one case in point) where we managed to convince a Entertainment industry client to allow us to prove what we could bring to the party for a paltry fee. The case was a huge success, the client gave us 2 more assignments, which too turned out to be large successes. So today, instead of a weekly review which the core team used to do at the client's office, we have a situation where the client has requested for 2 desks at our office on a permanent basis. Such success, make us proud and makes us desire to scale the next peaks.
You have led Ignitee's growth initiatives over the years. How has your scope of work and responsibilities expanded with the evolution of digital media? What are the challenges or hurdles that are commonly faced?
Change as they say is a constant, more in the digital field than in any other that we have witnessed. But, let us talk of what has not changed and not likely to change. Invest in talent and entrust them with entrepreneurial roles. Make them know that you trust them. Never operate in a traditional world of ‘experience and age counts'. We have always had a tradition of decorated youngsters through this process and we ensure that they feel that way.
I have also been fortunate to have Atul initially partnering me in running the company to now nearly running its whole operation with some outstanding support from Shankar, thus liberating me to focus on a new initiative.
The challenge that we and the rest of the industry face today is trained talent. Gone are the days where we had the luxury of getting in bright novices and then go through a 3 to 6 month training on and outside their jobs. With the growth of business and the number of demanding clientele, along with the need for quicker turnaround times with quality results, this is the one gap which needed addressing.
A quick market dipstick revealed that there were no exhaustive digital media courses out there in the market. What existed was the quick and dirty, 2 to 3 weekend certificate courses, which did not yield the quality of personnel which was needed. This then became our next initiative Ignition, which is what I focus on these days along with Harminder, Chief Knowledge Officer for the Ignitee Group.
Ignition has been a good start with the first batch of students starting Phase II of their course and should complete the same and be employed by the end of Q1 2011.
Can you shed light on Ignitee viz. Ignition, a unique program for cultivating Digital Media Professionals? What are its features and how does it help the young media professionals?
Ignition is a 9 month exhaustive course. We also have a tie-up with ITM, India's leading management training institute, wherein one could do their Ignition course during the weekdays for 9 months and do their ITM executive management program in parallel over the weekends for 24 months. Even fresh graduates are allowed to join this program.
The 1st half of the Ignition program is classroom training (from 10am to 5pm) where you get to learn across various digital media functions including Research and strategy, Media planning and buying, Client servicing, Search engine optimization, Search engine marketing and Social media marketing. The classroom training includes a string of assignments, the scores in which decide what you specialize in the 2nd half of the course.
The 2nd half of the course is on the job training at Ignitee in the area of your specialization. We have nearly 20 of the most esteemed companies comprising of digital agencies, agency networks, publishers and clients as part of our ‘recruitment partners'.
Ignition was fortunate that it did not have to follow any benchmarks, thus once again allowing us to create as went ahead. For example, we learnt that certain soft skills should be added to the course content if we wanted the students to really shine in their first jobs. We are delighted with the results that we have seen in our first batch and are on track to begin our second batch in early January.
What is your advice for aspiring digital media marketers? What are the qualities they need to develop and imbibe to succeed?
Immerse yourself completely in the world of the digital consumer. Be curious. Be hungry to learn. Be passionate.
Nothing that ain't true for very many other fields, just that the degree of commitment needed is just that little more given that your peers are that much more agile and aware.