'When You Engage Positively and Sincerely, Results Will Happen' Says Seema Sood, CEO, QiCom Brand Solutions
Building a brand is a long drawn process. No start-up can be there early enough yet the best way is to get your hands dirty and perfect the work and let that speak in the initial years.
QiCom is a result based integrated communication solutions company, which was founded by Seema Sood and Nitesh Thattasery in 2015. With more than 200 projects and 18+ years of work behind either of them, they have in their career span delivered result based solutions across multiple industries: Apparels, Building Material, Durables, FMCGs, IT, NGO’s, Energy Sector, Retail, among others.
In an interaction with BW Disrupt, Seema Sood, CEO / Co-founder, QiCom Brand Solutions shared her entrepreneurial journey and details about her venture.
Tell us About Your Organisation?
QiCom Brand Solutions was started by us, Nitesh Thattasery and me, in 2015. We were both in one of the leading global advertising organisations and had been in the marketing and advertising space for more than 18+ years each. I was feeling a lack of growth in my space and I felt that I wasn’t really learning much and was becoming stunted and limited mentally and emotionally. I needed a stimulus that would egg me onto my next trajectory. We explored the space of experiential marketing in a non-traditional way. We decided to break some norms of consumer engagement and looked for innovative, insightful and novel ways to reach out.
We have taken up specific verticals in this space like network grid planning, displacement and PAP management, fitness and health mapping etc that are focussing on a need that organisations will soon be desirous of. Under each we have reached out and engaged with clients to do work that impacts and enhances business and therefore the top and bottom line growth. No longer are experiences limited to mere single engagements or limited opportunity for people interaction. Brands are looking for more continuous growth and focussed plans that help growth beyond and we are focussed on that completely.
Throw some light on professional background and previous experience and current role.
A Masters in Mass Communication with 25+ years of experience across communication disciplines and genres is where I come from. Workwise I started my career as a reporter and sub editor in a couple of national dailies in the early 90s before going on to taking up the role of handling corporate communications for a large MNC. Movement to advertising happened rather late for me, in fact I was a mother of two before I technically got my first job as an advertising professional two decades ago. Learning curve was at 900 as I was too fresh and new and several times the marketing jargon would get to me!! But I had fun as I got to work on several brands ranging from retail to paints to consumer durables to FMCGs.
Several opportunities came my way, besides vanilla advertising, like project management, PR, social cause marketing etc and I took each challenge as a learning opportunity besides doing work that I picked up international awards for. Event management started for me with the onset of Goafest 2006. Believe it or not that was my first foray into the world of events and I enjoyed every moment. I managed five Goafests along with AAAI and in-between I got the fantastic opportunity to be the COO of a well known NGO in Mumbai too.
Three years of phenomenal work with this ground up NGO, along with working and advising other groups, made me the perfect candidate to work on rural marketing programs for clients when I returned to corporate world. I started one of the biggest educational and awareness generation program for an OMC- reaching out to 2500+ villages and small towns with a message of a progressive and healthy work environment for women in kitchens!! The work in all these truly varied spheres has stood me in good stead today and I bring all my learning to the table across genres.
What are the basic parameters of brand building exercise for any start-up?
Building a brand is a long drawn process. No start-up can be there early enough yet the best way is to get your hands dirty and perfect the work and let that speak in the initial years. Despite having an accomplished career each CEO of a start-up has to work like an fresh intern with the understanding of an accomplished CFO☺ !!. The critical factors for brand building for us have been to get the vision right, be innovative, ensure effectiveness and focus on the last mile delivery. The challenge is to have a shared vision with the internal and external team as well as the flexibility of challenging your own models on a regular day.
The best part about a start-up is just that. It is very fresh in approach, is the new kid on the block, it can take up challenges and it can rectify issues and change course very fast. All this allows the brand to be part of the consumer mindset and make the comfort zone uncomfortable and the itch to break the norm a norm!
What are the key unique offerings that your consulting brings to your clients?
I love to say that I love being a jack of all trades and a master of few. This, for me a great advantage. I am very flexible and I really don’t play by the rules. I love bending, changing, integrating and flip thinking a 180 degree. I travel in India and I specially enjoy the work I do in tier 2 and tier 3 towns. Brands have given me opportunities to experiment and create effective working campaigns for these markets. More so the network we have now created can be activated fast.
My own understanding of the ground reality also helps clients to dig deeper than usual and the insights that our team with extensive advertising, communication background brings integrates this learning in a cost effective and result oriented manner. Our greatest strength of helping to build networks and new ways of integrating the key elements of brands to effective ground work in the biggest opportunity for clients who work with us.
What are the key opportunities you witness?
The changing face of India in the last few years and the impressive start-up culture is making us leapfrog into the future faster and this edge will make change faster than any of us anticipate or predict. There is, I think a strong organic and amoebic growth across. Be it education, healthcare, infrastructure, IoTisation etc. Along with this is the intensive focus of the Government of India to change the face and trajectory of growth, and trust me, this is the best thing for us as entrepreneurs and indicators of change that will create more and more opportunities in coming years. We are making history and the world will see.
Are there any other competitors for you in the market, If yes, how you are different and how do you plan to take up the challenges?
Yes and no! Competition is always there and it is good that it helps you grow and think better. But the space I am growing in is going to be unique. I haven’t come across teams or groups doing what I do. There are consultants in this space who understand this arena and advise and pieces of that work scope moves to lot of people but in piece-meals not as a whole. I am now bringing these networks under an umbrella and working to focus on newer, more engaging innovative ways to reach the person who needs your product right now!
What are your expansion plans?
Currently every act is to grow the business. We have five primary verticals and we are focussing to work toward delivering under each vertical result oriented work. So right now we are in stability phase. Growth and expansion are ongoing as a process and we are hoping to reach our ambitious targets in the next 2 years before moving onto newer spaces.
What challenges did you face during inception or at initial phase of the business? How did you overcome or take up them?
I had beginners luck initially and that made us work hard too. We got a good bunch of clients both old and new, and we managed to deliver good results for them such that they continue to work with us with engagement by engagement. Not losing a single client in the last 2.5 years of our existence should say a lot about our work ethics and culture. We work with each client closely and build relationships such that there is trust and belief. We focus on the client’s business and dig out opportunities for them by understanding their unique challenges and then finding relevant, cost effective and scalable solutions for them.
One of the things that we make every client understand is that we are young and new and we will always think non-traditional. Ideas and solutions that we bring on the table are challenging and not tried before many times and that means the patience, bandwidth and belief required from the brand teams and marketing people are that much more. This is not easy. Trying new things everyone wants to do yet placing faith in that idea needs a very strong gut and sometimes deeper pockets too.
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