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Opinion and Insight

How Innovation is Catapulting India’s Marketing into the Future

Isobar’s Shekhar Mhaskar on the importance of IP, the government’s digital transformation drive and cautious clients

How Innovation is Catapulting India’s Marketing into the Future

From inventing trackable luggage tags to creating exciting experiences with augmented reality, Isobar India is an agency that loves to get stuck into innovation and invention. They’re at the vanguard of a wave of innovation that’s sweeping every sector of the country’s economy – it’s predicted that India will bulldoze its way past China in the innovation stakes by 2025. The government is also pushing to improve online infrastructure and it’s claimed that India’s tech start up scene is the 4th biggest in the world.

We caught up with Isobar India Vice President and head of the agency’s creative and tech business verticals, Shekhar Mhaskar, to pick his brains about how that push for innovation and digital transformation is playing out at the agency and across the advertising landscape. 


LBB> India is well known for its tech sector but in advertising, creativity and technology really come together. To what extent, generally, are agencies in India driving innovation?

Shekhar> That’s right. Bygone are the days when advertising agencies were looked up to for only creative communication ideas or campaign ideas. Indian agencies have come a long way, in the last five years or so, in moving the needle to create some really exciting innovations that are a great amalgamation of creativity and technology. It pans across creating engaging ways to attract consumer attention, to brand interaction, via the prudent use technologies like AR, VR, AI, Chatbots, Voice, etc. that seamlessly combine the brand proposition with the natural user interaction. Creating disruption that only enhances the experience, and builds a long-lasting bond with the brand. 

The creative think tank at Indian agencies are more than gung-ho to devise such ideas at every given opportunity. Not only that, but they’re also proactively pushing such innovations to clients to make a mark in the international advertising arena, to an extent where they even co-fund the projects.


LBB> What sort of innovation requests or tech requests are you getting from your clients?

Shekhar> The clients in India are abreast with the latest technologies and exposed to innovations that brands are doing across the globe. While they don’t ask for a specific technology or innovation, they do give references of similar work they have come across. The brief is usually to solve a business or a brand challenge and expect the agency to come up with innovative solutions. A word of caution here though – many clients don’t have the courage to invest in such solutions. Hence, the need for agencies to co-fund such experiments with an eye on increased business and awards. 


LBB> At your agency, what are the most exciting innovations or inventions your team has worked on in the past year?

Shekhar> Isobar India has a plethora of these. We have created an intelligent baggage tag for a leading domestic airline. This tag tracks and locates your bag through the entire journey until it lands on the carousel and sends alerts to the mobile phone at every given stage. 

For a luxury automobile brand, we have used VR to bring to life a life-size car right in front of you using the HoloLens which users can explore every feature of the car in minute detail. For another car brand, we have created an intelligent safety device using BLE and OBD that sends an automatic text message to a caller saying that the driver cannot take calls.  There are many more to this list that we are proud of.


LBB> Is creating your own IP something that’s important to the agency?

Shekhar> Indeed. Patenting is something that we believe in. Of course, to safeguard IP, but more importantly to allow us to reuse and build on the technology, thus allowing several brands to benefit from them. 


LBB> Do you work much with small start-ups – either collaborating on projects or incubating them or just getting involved in the local start up scene?

Shekhar> Yes, we do. The Indian start-up scene is burgeoning. Each new start-up wants to be in the front running to capture the ever so demanding consumer, by creating technology disruption to garner his/ her attention. We are well equipped and self-encouraging to partner them.


LBB> I read a prediction that India is due to surpass China by 2025 when it comes to innovation and that the government is trying to drive innovation more broadly in the economy. Is this momentum something you’re experiencing in your own work in the agency and with clients? 

Shekhar> The answer is a mighty positive. With initiatives like the ‘Digital India’ by the Government of India, there’s a huge thrust on various digital initiatives. India is moving fast towards a cashless economy with the advent of ePayments, eWallets, etc. We need to build commerce and CRM solutions to be in tandem with such steps taken by the government. It is a steady beginning, and I am sure we will be the front-runners in the race.


LBB> How can the culture of the Indian industry benefit innovation? And what obstacles does Indian culture/Indian agency culture present to innovation?

Shekhar> Innovation is only going to catapult the marketing strategies and methodologies multifold into the future at breakneck speed. The culture is already prevalent and only waiting for a boost with the right handshake from agencies like ours to push the active and ongoing implementation of the creative use of technology. I think the only prohibition is the cost of implementation. Hopefully brands will take cognisance of the fact and invest more do create the much-needed disruption and ROI.

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