| 9 minutes read

9 minutes read

From To SoCheers, Here’s Why Its Co-Founders Have Held Onto ‘3Ws’ For 11 Years

In an exclusive interaction with Marketing Mind on completing 11 years in business, the Co-founders of SoCheers, Siddharth Devnani and Mehul Gupta, opened up on how the Mumbai-based digital-first creative agency and its DNA has evolved in the past decade, its 3W Core strategy and even busted the myth of SoCheers being skewed on entertainment.

| Published on April 29, 2024

From To SoCheers, Here’s Why Its Co-Founders Have Held Onto ‘3Ws’ For 11 Years
Siddharth Devnani and Mehul Gupta (L-R)

Launched in 2011 as a social networking website and passion project of two college goers, without any substantial savings and set structures but an ambition to incorporate features like video chatting on at the time, SoCheers formally began its journey as an end-to-end digital marketing agency in 2013.

And despite this rudimentary transformation from being a social networking website to an end-to-end digital marketing agency and the mutual decision of its co-founders to take industrial exposure before relaunching SoCheers, what has traversed to today’s time and age is the merit that Mehul Gupta and Siddharth Devnani see in digital and their digital-first thinking.

On the occasion of SoCheers completing 11 years, its Co-founders- Gupta and Devnani gave a sneak peak to Marketing Mind on the past more than one decade has been for the agency, how its DNA has evolved with time, what fundamentals have they held onto since the beginning, the reason why clients choose them over others and even busted the myth of SoCheers being an entertainment skewed agency.

Giving the prelude on how SoCheers came into being as an agency from a social networking website, Gupta mentioned that when he and Devnani had started, the duo had no savings in their bank as it and once they understood that this passion project of theirs needed money to be pumped in continuously for sustenance and be more structured as the features they were trying to incorporate on their website were quite advanced and well ahead of their time, it was only practical to take up a corporate job to resolve the underlying issues.

To this, Devnani added, “When we started working in the corporate space and realised that digital ads were going to be the ‘new cool’, we strategized that if we could crack it for clients who had some budgets to spend on digital marketing and convince them regarding the merits that come with it, as digital leaders we will be able to crack it and that’s how SoCheers was reborn as an agency.”

And while the DNA of the agency has been digital-first thinking since the very beginning, SoCheers has evolved quite a bit in the past more than a decade’s time in the views of Gupta.

“Having the realisation that digital-first itself is not the thought process altogether and that it needs to be weaved in to make a story or narrative and flow through and throughout one’s thought process rather than being limited and structured only to digital in order to scale businesses and be more connected, SoCheers transformed from being a digital agency to a digital-first creative agency,” Gupta emphasised.

To add gravitas to this statement of his, he said, “Everything that we are doing internally right now, be it the campaigns or even the smallest of posts, we make sure that we are thinking backwards from what the brand’s propositions are and what is the insight of the customer that we will reach out to. Because it is until we don’t bridge that gap or build that creative connection, whatever we’ll do, it will just be a random post on the internet or a random hoarding on the road.”

Delving further into the agency’s evolution, Devnani also pointed out that initially, SoCheers used to focus a lot on social media accounts and then with different clients. But even then, the agency would win the pitches for bigger and bigger clients and therefore they changed their system to evolve from looking at a social media feed or individual posts to going all in all with impact-level campaigns, step by step.

“Over the years, we have seen multiple successes with our relatable campaigns, stories, etc. and that made us realise that the future is not just about understanding the platform, but having a far deeper knowledge of the same because what’s necessary is understanding the people of the platform and building a story which helps us connect with the customers of the brand. And hence, we started positioning ourselves as a digital-first creative agency,” he added.

Commenting on the fundamentals that they’ve held onto these passing years whilst working on a slew of services ranging from influencer outreach, digital strategy, social media marketing, content production and more, Gupta stated that while the agency does provide all these services in isolation, the reason that clients stick with the agency is- the entire picture.

“Being the custodians of brands and building them through digital as a medium, if we cross boundaries and take the digital-first things offline as well, all our individual services become a part of it. But our core fundamental is to first understand where we need to go and then figure out the different mediums to reach that destination,” he said.

With this, he also added, “We always make sure that our core fundamental is identifying or giving direction to a brand and envisioning not only one or two months but say one, two, three or even more years down the line. The core of SoCheers is 3Ws- Where we need to go and what are the mediums to reach that destination.”

Throwing light onto the third W in SoCheers’ 3W core strategy, Devnani stated that at the end of the day, everything narrows down to one thing which is why is the client/brand with SoCheers.

“Since brands already have some amount of people working in their internal teams, CMO, brand manager, etc. the reason that they come to any agency is ‘innovation’ and ‘execution’ and therefore that’s what the focus has been for the past decade and will continue to be so in the coming one as well,” he added.

Furthermore, the co-founders also went on to break another common myth that surrounds SoCheers, the one where individuals get a skewed picture of how a lot of the work that happens at the agency is in or around entertainment.

“Since entertainment is one of the news categories, the nature of entertainment will be high noise making and therefore, it sure does seem like we are very heavily focused on entertainment on the face of it, but it’s a balance that’s happening over here in the kind of work we do,” Gupta said.

Adding on to this, Devnani also mentioned that since the entertainment business overall grew quite a lot during the pandemic, what did end up happening was that SoCheers’ entertainment business also grew quite a bit as entertainment was a segment that was investing the most in digital, but now that the world has returned to normalcy, even the agency is back to its original mix.

“Today, we work across a lot of industries including FMCG, BFSI, Alco-bev, Electronics Retail, Startups, D2C, etc. In fact, we’re working on a lot of campaigns for the IPL as well, in addition to advertising the IPL itself,” he chuffed.

Furthermore, he also mentioned that the agency, despite facing external challenges like that of budget cuts across industries, has managed to grow and remain positive in its growth numbers owing to its wide mix of clientele across different industries and that too in a healthy 50-50 mix of both project-led work and retainers.

“By nature of having a decent amount of entertainment clients, our project work will be higher when compared to someone who does zero on entertainment as they will always have a higher retainer work rate. In our case, we’ve won a few pitches this past year and since clients particularly in a segment like FMCG, BFSI and more prefer a retainer account, we have brands on retainers as well. But, especially for entertainment, not all the work we do is on project and is a mix of both project-led and retainers. Our growth has come from all of them,” he said.

Throwing light on how the agency has strategized or planned its objectives for the foreseeable future, Gupta mentioned that looking at how SoCheers has grown all these years where the agency has worked with smaller homegrown brands (60-70%) and bigger national or global brands (around 30%), the agency is keen on cracking its game in the latter whilst adding more challenger brands.

“We also intend to increase our team size from being at 225-230 as of now to getting more people with the right talent, skills and capabilities into our agency. Going forward, we are also looking at growing in India geographically and while we have been in the South market for a few years now, we’ll be focussed on growing more in the region physically. While our Bangalore office is much smaller than what we have in Bombay, we want to make it significant now,” Devnani added.

The duo also went on to point out that SoCheers’ client base has grown by 2.7x over the last 3 years, with profitability increasing by 5x for the same period and that the agency has its sights set on national expansion and an overall growth in revenue to 30% in FY25.

Concludingly, he also mentioned, “When we were nearing our 10th year, we realised that we wanted to give back to the society in small ways and that there’s no program to bring it all together and hence we launched Spark. But now that we’ve done a couple of initiatives under it, we are looking forward to do a lot more impactful work across working with brands to create campaigns which will drive social impact, having our initiatives funded and sponsored by us, and other kind of initiatives we can do with our team, as part of giving back to the community.”

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