Please tell us about this transition from a journalist to an entrepreneur. How did this transition come about? Why did you choose to set up this company?
I graduated from The Asian College of Journalism in 2001 and was working full time as a news reporter at The Asian Age. In 2004, I got married and had a child immediately. After the baby, it was tough for me to continue full-time. My husband is in Merchant navy. So I had to stay back at home – I was young, married with a child and extremely frustrated because I desperately wanted to work. All through my life I had been a good student. I ranked second in my journalism course in ACJ. It hurt being forced to stay back at home although I was enjoying mommyhood. I started freelancing – my first break came writing for Transworld Features and there my mentors Sujoi Dhar and Ranjita Biswas gave me a renewed hope that I could still be associated with journalism though not as a full timer. From 2004 to 2005, I only freelanced for print publications. When there were more opportunities, I turned to web as a writer. As I wrote for the internet, I realized there was a serious crisis in the web. Most content did not make sense. They were written in random without any rhyme or logic. Companies who were doing web designing had now taken over as communicators. “Black Hat SEO” companies were rampant. People called up clients and made statements like: “The first three positions in Google are bought by me – if you want them, pay me Rs X and they shall be yours!!” Internet was and to an extent is full of scams. In most cases, clients were hopeless- they wanted to be in the medium as they realized its growing importance but did not know how to go about it.
My first company set up in 2006 was Wordsmith Writing Services – this company caters to overseas digital brand building agencies by providing them quality content. The very next year I set up Digital Brandz which does brand building for Indian brands.
How did you pick up the nuances of this business?
As I said, there was a great need for experienced communicators to enter the internet domain. The digital space was rapidly expanding and was becoming serious business for brands but the brands were at a loss trying to figure out a strategy there as most of the players were not competent and hence there was a huge demand. Communicating in this space required knowledge of communication as well as a developed understanding of technology and optimization techniques. Fortunately I had all three – and so I could carve a niche agency which handled online communication. As journalists, we know what story would sell for the brand. I had the required technical knowledge to tell that story to suit the web. My catchline is – “Does your website tell your story?” and “Can you Confidently Ask Your customers to Google Me?” I feel in this competitive arena, for a brand to stand out, it is a must for its website to tell the brand story and peg its entire digital communication of the brand around.
What kind of work does your company engages in?
My company does digital brand building – we craft internet communication strategies and social media marketing strategies for brand in the online space which allows them to leverage the power of the digital media and expand their reach. On a basic level our work includes but is not limited to website/portal development and maintenance; corporate blog creation and maintenance, social media marketing; online marketing and SEO, online ad strategy creation, online reputation monitoring, online crisis management among others.
What kind of clients do you get and which geographical areas do you cover?
We handle clients from all over India and we also have a lot of global clients. We deal in diverse sectors like education, real estate, fashion and lifestyle, food and hospitality, health, finance.
Do you have projects in Northeast India as well? Do you plans to spread your business in this region?
We do not have projects in North East at the moment – however we do have plans to expand there. I am also looking at North East for talent acquisition as people in North East usually have a strong command over language.
Online reputation is the new buzzword in the e-world. How do you monitor online reputation and manage negative publicity of your clients?
In today’s world, negative online publicity can severely hamper the brand image – take the case of Dominos Pizza as an example. We have teams to monitor the reputation of the brands we work for 24×7. As for negative publicity, we try to have that resolved promptly. Often the owner is busy and the customers cannot reach him; however with online complaint redressal mechanisms, the organization achieves better customer redressal, as the complaint can be heard at the highest level and resolved immediately. So the organization achieves better transparency. We work as mediators between the customer and the brand owner and ensure problems are solved ASAP.
How does digital corporate communications work?
The basic tenets of corporate communication remain the same – the brand needs to follow its basic principles in the digital space and cannot fake it. With digital corporate communication, the only change that has happened is that the brand communication has become much faster and gathered a wider reach.
What does your team comprise of and how do they work?
My team is a mix of media persons, business strategists, designers, programmers, writers and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) specialists. There is an in house team which does most of the coordinaton work. However a large part of my team is freelancers. It also consists of women settled overseas without a visa to work, or women who are qualified but do not have the scope to go out and work. I personally know how difficult it is for a woman to give up a career but at times they simply have no other option. I have always tried to help anyone who is caught in such a dilemma. So a large part of my working force is qualified, married women.
What kind of tips would you give to any online startup?
Unfortunately the online space is still full of scamsters. Tread carefully. Do not jump at every opportunity but evaluate, assess and then move forward. Try to be honest to your work. Do something genuine and you are sure to succeed.
Do you think the world is heading towards an e-world – business, shopping and even journalism?
Absolutely! We are heading towards an e-world. The basic mode communication has changed. Today no one writes letters – emails/ bbms are the norms. A movie can be killed after first day /first show as soon as an online review is posted or a social media post is made. So brand communicators need to take stock of their brand in the online space.
As brand communicators in the digital space, where do you place yourself 10 years from now?
I visualize my company as being one of the best internet communication companies that helps brands find a niche for themselves in the digital arena. We cannot today imagine a life without internet. At the same time we must acknowledge that there is a great need to clean it up as it has a lot of garbage content. We hope to develop ourselves as a pioneer company instrumental in improving the communication in the internet and making it more informative, newsworthy and user-friendly as it should be.