In an exclusive interview with EVENTFAQS' Kate Fernandes, Harindra Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Percept, discussed the evolution of the industry and Percept, the birth of Sunburn and other intellectual properties, and his outlook for the industry.
(The following are excerpts from Harindra Singh's interview. Read the full interview in the July issue of ExM Magazine)
How has Percept evolved as a company over the years?
Founded as a mainstream advertising agency in 1984, Percept grew phenomenally over the next decade across multiple functions, services and businesses in the media and communications domain including public relations, experiential marketing, production, content, sports, talent, digital media and more. Since its inception, the company and the services it has to offer have both grown considerably. When we had just begun, ‘super specialization' was the name of the game. These specializations were methods by which agencies could focus on key objectives and delivery areas. This resulted in better client relationships.
However, the space was changing rapidly and clients began to look for a bundle of services from a one-stop-shop agency. Foreseeing this situation, we evolved and launched the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) concept in 1994. Addressing the evolving client landscape and the associated speed of adaptation and innovation from our end was paramount towards retaining our existing clients and growing our business by offering this new IMC value-added offering to new clients seeking the same. So, we had an edge with both clients who wished for an IMC bundle of services as well as those clients who only wished to pick and choose specific services from our bouquet of offerings. It was a win-win concept and better yet, we were way ahead of any EMC player in conceptualizing and offering this concept to the market. If you do a quick history fact sheet check, you will realize that agencies like O&M, WPP and Starcom started using the IMC terminology many years later.
How did Percept venture into creating intellectual properties?
Percept had been in the traditional services business wherein we came up with entertainment, media and communication solutions to help deliver on the client's objective such as traditional advertising, PR, events, production, branded entertainment, media buying and so on. But such a business is very transactional in nature i.e. once the job and billings are completed, we move on to the next project, and so on and so forth. It's a never ending process and just a means of survival in this space. We realized that if we created solutions that were unique, innovative and needed by a target audience, we could create properties that could become a pipeline of revenue for eternity. In other words, the focus was now shifting from simply creating solutions for clients to simultaneously creating solutions for ourselves. These copyrighted solutions or intellectual properties could be shared with clients and monetized for a long time to come. Thus, Sunburn, Bollywood Live, Goa Super Sixes, Champions of the World, Comedy Awards, Fight Night and numerous other intellectual properties were born from the Percept stable.
We have been in the ‘Ideas' business for the past 27 years and have been instrumental in creating many intellectual properties in the past for our clients. However, now it was time to consolidate our efforts in the area and take ownership of our ideas. Intellectual properties were simply a further extension of our existing knowledge and expertise in the entertainment, media and communications domain. Our vision was to convert them into assets to create long term value for us as well as our clients and investors.
Intellectual properties came with two new considerations - risk and capital. The success of an intellectual property can never be guaranteed. It can take off and become a phenomenal success, or it can be taken down. That is the risk associated with creating a new intellectual property. Money is another important factor to consider. An intellectual property requires large seed capital investment and it could take a very long time to recover the returns on these mammoth investments made.
One of Percept's most successful properties has been Sunburn. Could you tell us more about this property, how it came into being, why it became so popular and what your future plans are for this property?
Sunburn is an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival. EDM is basically music without lyrics and is groovy and trendy. The absence of lyrics helped to cut through regional, linguistic, political, religious and ethnic backgrounds to bring together a diverse mix of music lovers from countries around the world, and cities and towns across India to this music fest. Besides removing the linguistic bar, the music appealed to the young and old alike. Everyone could get up, enjoy and dance to the sound of this music. While EDM is a popular music genre internationally, it is a relatively undiscovered music genre in India. This novelty gave us an advantage. The property we offered was brand new to Indians, and they loved it.
The success of an intellectual property can be attributed to a lot of hard work, research, investment and other tangible factors. However, luck also plays a key role in determining its success. We started off with two music festivals in 2007 - Metalfest, which celebrated rock metal music, and Sunburn (EDM). However, it was the EDM fest that showed more potential going forward, based on the response garnered from a wider audience, unlike rock music that focuses on a specific niche target group. Therefore, we had to take the tough call of dropping the Metalfest as an intellectual property and continuing with Sunburn. Risk was definitely associated with the continuance of Sunburn. In the first two years, as is the case with any intellectual property buildup, we lost money, but by the third year we broke even. And the response to year four (2010) was phenomenal, far greater than what we expected.
Future plans for brand Sunburn include taking the festival across Asia - Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Bali. We will definitely cover two international Asian markets in 2011. We were so encouraged by the successful launch of our Sunburn merchandise last year that we plan to expand the Sunburn franchise further and launch an entire range of Sunburn branded lifestyle products this year. These products will be available all year round online as well as at our mini-tours, events and festivals. The product range will encompass apparel, accessories, F&B, online gaming and many more across categories. Further, brand extensions include Sunburn Club Lounges, Sunburn Music Record and Video Labels, Sunburn Records, Sunburn Radio, and a Sunburn Television property, to name a few. Sunburn Talent will also serve as a platform to nurture and create future star DJs.
What other intellectual properties have you launched recently or plan to launch?
We have recently launched Champions of the World, Slamfest, Good Luck India, and Fight Night, to name a few. Other upcoming popular Percept intellectual properties include the Comedy Awards, Sports Awards, Indian Diva, and Mr. & Mrs. Bollywood. And there will be many more innovative intellectual properties rolling out of the Percept Group in the coming years.