Small is big and impactful: Santosh ‘Paddy’

10 Apr,2017

Santosh Paddy isn’t his real name. It’s Santosh Padhi. But the dual identities are just in the name… he’s always very forthright and clear in his views, not shy to show his emotions and passion for his work, and as this chat with Pradyuman Maheshwari shows, happy to put his win in perspective…


#2 last year with a much smaller team than some of the biggies. And this year #1. As they ask sometimes on news television: kaisa lag raha hai aapko… how does it feel?

I think we’ve been mostly in Top 2 over the last seven years and we ended up becoming #2 agency at Goafest when Ogilvy was there in 2012. Over the last few years we’ve been #2 and on a couple of occasions we were #3. But mostly we’ve been in the Top 3 and I think consistency is what we believe in strongly… We’ve always aimed for the top slot and we were pretty sure these 2-3 solid campaigns may take us to that top slot. I’m glad we’ve finally achieved this. But I’m not happy just being the #1 this year. I think if we can retain this for a couple of more years, we’ll be really happy. It’s easy to reach somewhere but difficult to retain the position. I’ll definitely make sure we’ll retain this title for a couple of years.


For an agency that’s less than 10 years old, what does this win mean to you?

I think it’s pretty big if you think it seriously. I’ve been telling my team that there have been agencies with 1000 people and competing for years and haven’t achieved this and we have. It’s everyone’s individual contribution. Thanks to our Delhi team. Because this year they’ve also contributed in a big way.


Well, that’s a Dentsu agency that has metamorphosed into yours right?

Though technically it was announced some time back but we have been working with them for close to 8-9 months. There are some very intelligent and sharp youngsters who’ve taken the Taproot philosophy ahead, so thanks to them as well to contribute to the tally because with one office of 30-35 people we can only stretch to a certain extent. But the minute we added one more office, we can see the result…


We’ve also seen Social Street has done very well. Your agency is 8 years old. You have Social Street which is #2 or #3, depending on the way you rank agencies. Obviously it’s not important to be a 50-100-year-old agency to be maxing at Goafest.

Absolutely. This is an era of small agencies and small is big and impactful these days. Look at the number of golds that smaller agencies have won this year. There are 15-odd agencies that have won gold here and 12 of them are all young agencies. They’re very specialised agencies, focusing on a few businesses but doing justice to a lot of them.


You have an agency like Open Strategy and Design which have done 11 and 4 are Gold.

Absolutely, they, Autumn Winter, Umbrella… many!


Does that worry you?

Absolutely not. I always think competition is healthy. Competition makes you better, sharper, more creative. It keeps you on your toes and I love that challenge. We want that competition. Then only the industry can get better.


In the light of what you said, there’s always a sentiment that you’ve come on top without the top agencies participating. Your comments?

I don’t think a great piece of work will get impacted whether there are two or 20 agencies. That work will get celebrated. Adidas Odds has won in a big way at Adfest. It’s won here as well. If there were five more agencies, I’m sure Odds wouldn’t have got impacted because great people will appreciate great work. I’m not worried about that. Having said that, if you look at our past international wins, in four out of eight years, Taproot has topped at Cannes where all the big players were there. It’s unfortunate some of the key big agencies are not there at Goafest. It’s very unfortunate because I believe that if you have the Australias and South Africas of the world playing cricket with you, you always lot better. You are on your toes, you want to push, you want to contribute. So, the challenges are good. And unfortunately these guys have not been coming and staying away from Goafest which is also not a good, healthy sign for the industry. I’d request these guys to come together and have all our differences killed and do whatever is needed especially for the youngsters of the agency. Winning a gold and a couple of metals for smaller agencies is a boost. They will do lot better work next year. When we were young, someone gave us this platform. It’s our duty to ensure one big, healthy award festival happens in whatever form it takes.


Why speak about other agencies. Even Aggie (Agnello Dias) doesn’t come for the Goafest and the Abby?

You know Aggie well, he’s a shy guy. He always shies away from such events where there are more than 40-50 people. I’m scared that if there are more than 80 in Taproot, he might not come to office also(laughs). So, he’s a shy guy and in spite of pushing him, pulling him…


You more than make up for that.

We try to, but as you know Aggie is Aggie.


You are aware of the body of work that was produced last year in in India. If you had to put include the agencies who haven’t participated, how do you think you would’ve fared?

I think the boundaries are getting blurred in terms of the mediums. I’m so glad that lots and lots of new age ideas are coming forward or being done for brands. We’re no more a traditional country which does TV, Print and Outdoor. I’ve seen a lot of design work, activation ideas, a lot of direct ideas, lot of digital, mobile ideas being done. So, I think, we’re living in a world where you can’t say this is an agency doing well or is expected to do well. I think today there are specialist guys coming and contributing. I’d love to give the Jonty Rhodes example. Without even coming to bat, by just fielding, he scored 25 runs for his team by fielding so well. That’s the kind of specialty agencies in India are getting into. There are all great performers. So, it’s not that if the Top Performers are here, these guys will stop performing or winning. I think the country is in a fantastic state with a lot of new contributors adding to it and we should applaud these things.


Do you think you’d still be No. 1 had the others been there?

I think we would have won the same no. of metals but I think we wouldn’t be #1 or #2 because the moment a big agency with six offices comes in, it will obviously override the work our two offices have done. But having said that I don’t think we’ve seen work from agencies as powerful as Adidas Odds, but I think we’re really proud of that piece of work. And another piece of work we’re equally proud of is the Open Network campaign, Unfortunately, that didn’t pick up many metals. But I’d be a little happy had it picked up more metals.


I know this is a celebratory mood. But since we don’t do these interviews too often, lemme ask: One of the things said about your work is that while you are a creative hotshop, in terms of effectiveness you don’t win too many awards. How would you react to a charge like this?

To be frank, we didn’t enter effectiveness awards the way we should have entered. It’s a format. Somebody has to take that format seriously. We’re creative guys, so we have been entering creative work. Early on, we didn’t even enter creative awards. So, to be frank, we have been only entering Effies, and not the APAC awards. Some of the pieces of work we have produced have huge chances of winning at APAC level also. For example, Open Network or Adidas Odd*, I’m sure these will win big time but I don’t think we’re that gung-ho about entering effectiveness awards. There are some agencies who believe in effectiveness. We believe that if you create a great piece of creative campaign, it’s going to effect in a positive way. Maybe it’s an effective campaign, that’s why clients are buying it, it’s been celebrated. It’s a matter of cutting that case study in a way that it impresses the Effie judges, and we’ve not done that. We haven’t put our energy behind pleasing those juries. So, it’s a matter of getting those numbers and charts and XYZ, which I think being a small agency we haven’t done…to be frank.


One last question, since we are on awards. Typically Taproot doesn’t participate at Kyoorius, is that going to change?

There is a reason. We always believe there has to be a single award. We enter Cannes which is the biggest international award. We skip Cleo, D&AD and many other awards because one has a limited budget to invest. You can’t enter all 20-25 award shows happening across the world. So, you have to choose your battle carefully and we always believe after years of battle, the industry decided here is an award we all should be proud of, we should be entering. And we’ve been entering since the last eight years….


You are on the Kyoorius jury this year and Aggie was there last year. So, you have nothing against it?

Yes. Correct. It’s a matter of deciding you have 10 units. Whether you want to divide and put 5 in both places or gun for one and put all 10 units in one place. Because it’s an expensive affair. You can’t put two, two places. It becomes really expensive. So, nothing against it. I think Kyoorius is getting better year-on-year. There are more Indian juries this year compared to the last two years. Because, if it’s a local award, Indian jury will do far more justice compared to an international jury and somehow Rajesh has been taking care of those small things that make the festival better and they are getting better.


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