Offering Integrated Communication solutions across platforms – Vinay Kulkarni & Sachin Karle, Co-Founders & Directors, Kites United IMC

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Customer Touchpoints are more important than you think. As digital touchpoints continue to multiply, the need to strategize this rapidly evolving term has become even more challenging. We met up with KitesUnited, a new-age communications partner to understand what made them delve into the field of unfolding brand stories

1.What inspired you to start your business? OR How did you become an entrepreneur? Can you tell us more about yourself?

ANS: It just happened. After spending over 24 years, working in various capacities with various Indian and multinational communications groups like WPP, IPG and Publicis, I reached the saturation point. And one fine day I decided to quit. I was on my own for 3-4 months doing freelance. Soon, the work started increasing and I realized that I am running out of bandwidth. That’s when I met Vinay, who used to run his boutique agency in the past where I used to be a consultant Creative Director. Both of us are very passionate about advertising and marketing. And we thought it is now or never. So, we decided to team up and started KitesUnited IMC.

2.What core issue does your startup solve and how?

ANS: Having worked in the industry since 1995, I have witnessed various transitions and transformations Indian advertising and communications industry has gone through. Right from the day, the internet started to the mobile phone revolution to the dot com boom and the bubble burst to the rise of digital and social media, which is still evolving day by day. And this has affected big time not just the way we communicate as humans and even the way brands communicate with us.

Everything is mobile-first today. And that is how your brand communication needs to be. The consumer touch points have changed completely. And hence, unlike earlier integrated communication is the right thing to do.

We follow one simple mantra for everything that we do. Idea first. Platforms later.”

No matter what is the media, at the core is always an idea.

We do everything from brand identity, ATL, BTL and digital & Social media.

3.Why did you choose Pune as your launchpad?

ANS: Thanks to the digital revolution, today your geographical location isn’t relevant anymore like it used to be earlier. You can sit in any corner of the world and do the work for the clients sitting anywhere in the world. So, while our registered office is in Dombivli a central suburb of Mumbai, we cater to clients from Pune, Nashik, Bengaluru, Delhi, Dubai and USA. We have our affiliates spread across.

4.What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

ANS: When you start your setup without taking any help from anyone, challenges are the first thing you will face. Right from the company formation process, compliances, appointing auditors, various registrations, GST, ITR filings, etc. you have to do everything.

Being a start-up, you often double up beyond your profiles as and when required. E.g. At one hand we are working on a campaign and the other hand we will be doing the admin jobs like paying electricity bills, buying papers, getting the electricals fixed, etc. It always keeps you on your toes. Probably, this is what you call building your castle brick by brick. It’s fun at the same time tiring. Also one has to know that as the company grows when you stop micromanaging the things and start giving the responsibilities to the respective teammates.

While a funded setup can tackle these problems smoothly and quickly, there will always be a pressure that you are working for someone else despite being the owner of a company. As at the end of the day you have to show the ROI to the investor. The advantages are like you can have the full-fledged setup with all the latest infrastructure ready in no time.

If you ignore the initial hiccups of the non-funded setup, the feeling of ownership is stronger and you will not have that additional burden of returning the money to someone. This keeps the sense of freedom alive. This doesn’t mean funding is bad. 😉

5. What was the initial response to your brand and how did customer feedback help make changes for better?

ANS: The response was very positive. In fact, today a lot of clients despite their global alignments with bigger agency networks, are looking to smaller setups for specific projects besides their empanelled agencies. Everyone is looking for fresh ideas. Also, there is a clear gap in the relationship between the established bigger agency networks and clients. Finding this gap is the key for the smaller setups. This way sometimes you end up getting a very good project that gives you recognition.         

6. Who are your mentors or role models that have influenced you? Can you describe the impact?

ANS: There are more than one. For the past 24 years, I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the best people in creative and strategy who also happened to be my bosses at various stages of my career. I have learnt a lot from Suresh Babu at Ogilvy, Ravi Madkaikar at FCB-Ulka, Robby Mathew and Niteen Bhagwat at FCB-Interface, Ramki at Cartwheel, Paul Menacherry at Quadrant-Lintas, Jaideep Shergill and Narendra Nag at MSL-Publicis. What I am today is thanks to these mentors.

7. How do you want to measure success for your startup?

ANS: It is an ongoing process. We are just 2 years old and we are still sowing seeds. Like they say you need to give 1000 days to your business to grow and start giving you results. We are taking baby steps. We are selective about the work and clients we choose.

In the first year itself, we did 2 pan India projects. For Eureka Forbes and Venky’s. These gave us great exposure.

We focus more on quality than quantity. Having said that, we have organically grown some of our clients. And these clients refer us to others. I guess this can be a good measure of success.

8. What motivates you as an entrepreneur?

ANS: Ever since we have started KitesUnited, my canvas has grown much wider. At the same time, there is a sense of more responsibility as I have to strike a perfect balance of creativity and numbers. It forces me to push my limits every time. Keeping in mind that I have to do my best and give my 100% to make this agency a unique setup. A creative company where people would want to join. Working towards this goal is what motivates me.

9. What are you most paranoid about?

ANS: The Agency & Client relationship. It should work both ways.

It shouldn’t be like client and vendor but more of partners.  

10. What has been the most rewarding part of your journey until now?

ANS: Job Satisfaction and freedom to implement my ideas without any limitations. I can say ‘No’ to things.

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