Ravi Deshpande on the hows and whys of Whyness

07 Nov,2013


By Pradyuman Maheshwari


He had made his exit as chairman and and chief creative officer of Contract India in April this year. While his design school in Central Mumbai was doing well, he was working on a project that he said he would tell us in good time.


Which he has with Whyness Worldwide. Three offices – Mumbai, Paris and Boston plus alliances with Boston-based big data tech firm Findability Sciences and a branding and design company called Seenk from France.


Said Deshpande, who is designated founder, chairman and CCO of Whyness, in a communiqué: “We are an integrated communications agency for the new world.  We address brand challenges with solutions that combine human insights, creativity, design and technology. In a sense it is an agency that bridges the gap between traditional agencies and digital agencies. We wanted to mix up things and produce surprising results that actually work for brands and companies. Design and Strategy combined with technology, Creativity mixed with Algorithms.” This isn’t Deshpande’s first attempt at being an entrepreneur. In 2001, he quit Contract to start Lemon.


In a free-wheeling chat, Deshpande goes behind the setting up of Whyness, the name, the integration of tech and design in an ad agency and whether he would look at hooking up with a bigger player.


Other than Ravi Deshpande, how will Whyness be different from the others?

Whyness is born with a different genetic structure, and that flows through the way we approach businesses, marketing challenges and storytelling with the help of technology. We have built our team around that ideology. In a sense, Whyness will bridge the gap between traditional agencies and typical digital setups.


There is an emphasis on Big Data in Whyness. While we have had India perform well in the international Echo awards, is Big Data really big for advertising agencies. And wouldn’t advertisers prefer specialists for that?

It should be. With so much emphasis on social media, both by advertisers and marketers, it’s perennial to know your audience and have smart data to validate every step. It is a practice in Whyness, we don’t do anything without asking the right questions, and to ask the right questions, you need to have market intelligence. Big Data is just that, and it’s the lack of such practices is why Whyness is born with a specialist Big Data alliance called Findability Sciences.


Ditto with design… there are a fair number of exclusive design boutiques in the country?

Technology without design is soulless, and art without the use of new techniques of expression is stale. Both are disciplines that help you solve a marketing problem, and at Whyness we stitch them together in order to create more immersive experiences.


A lot of agencies now display the ‘integrated’ tag. There are many agencies which are now sporting that tag? Is integrated the same as full-service or is it different?

Integrated is not necessarily full-service agency. It is really about a seamless structure that combines storytelling, tech, strategy and design.


Will you be having the strategic planning and media buying/planning functions too as part of ‘Whyness’?

Strategy and Planning would be an integral part for Whyness. We are exploring digital media planners being part of the ecosystem.


Any clients on board? Any one moving from Contract?

We are in conversation with businesses from India and the US.


Tell us about the funding?

It is a self-funded venture.


This isn’t your first experience with entrepreneurship? Any lessons from Lemon that you will not repeat now?

Well, the biggest learning is that you have to control your own destiny.


While we all knew that you were looking at setting up anew, the immediate response was: offo, ek aur nayi agency? Is there room for another creative shop?

Indeed there is a need for an agency such as Whyness. Marketers in India and around the globe, feel the need to integrate disciplines when it comes to communication. But there aren’t many agencies that successfully manage this integration. Most importantly, I don’t know of any such agency in the country that is built around a technology core.


What’s about the name of ad agencies these days… from agencies named after people (JWT, Ogilvy, R K Swamy) to business-like names (Enterprise, Contract, Rediffusion) to some interesting ones now like Taproot, Scarecrow, Enormous and now Whyness?

Well, defining a problem sharply, is halfway to finding the right answer. Great work usually happens when we take a problem by its horns, and ask the question ‘Why’.  From the reply, emerge more questions. Which when answered, give rise to more questions. Until finally, we have narrowed down the problem, cornered it, pinned it to the wall and left no room for it to escape. No more room for questions.


On such a clean slate, the problem lies, clear, waiting to be solved.  This, we believe is the perfect condition to deliver great work. Hence the name ‘Whyness’.


You’ve just set up so possibly inappropriate to ask this now, but still: at what stage would you look at aligning with a Big ‘Un?

We are beginning a journey, we have the steam and strength to move ahead comfortably for a long while to come. But if we do meet some partners who value us for our way of thinking, then a friendship may be forged. But till then, we are happily unmarried.


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