NewsX was recently joined by Vineet Bajpai, Author and CEO of Magnon Group & Talentrack, for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List where he spoke about his journey with his companies and his books.
Talking about his work and journey of being a first-generation entrepreneur Vineet said, “I am the founder and CEO of the Magnon Group which is one of the largest advertising and digital groups in India. I am also in a parallel avatar of a tech entrepreneur, I am also the founder and CEO of Talentrack which is India’s largest online platform for hiring in the entertainment sector. So these are the two life missions that I am working with and writing is a hobby. Like you said I have written 8 books, 3 of them are business books and 5 fiction novels. So that’s one creative channel that I am blessed with.”
Sharing what he thinks became the reason for his success, he said, “I think it’s been a combination of a few things but if you compel me to point out one key element that worked for us then I would say I think it is the team that we had been able to nurture and retain for so many years. There are a set of people who started with me way back like you said 20 years ago and we are all still together. I think that it’s just not for our company, I think for any entrepreneurial outfit the initial core team, the first few people who share the vision and plan the whole journey together, are really the definitive critical success factor for the success of any enterprise. In that sense, we have been really really blessed. There is one more element I would want to share is that I think we have been able to time our journey really well. For example, we started out when the whole internet wave had started in India and we were a small independent agency at that time and by 2012 we had become one of the larger agencies in India and which is where we had investment from the Omnicom group which is a fortune 200 multinational. And we transformed from being an independent outfit to being part of this large one of the most respected conglomerates in the world for media and communication and advertising. Today we are proud partners of EG Plus worldwide network which is one of the largest creative production companies in the world. We are part of the TBWA network which is a top 10 global advertising group. So, I think a combination of these two. A great team along with the timing when to stay independent and when to become part of a large group, when to accept the highest quality of investment. So I would say these are the two factors.”
When asked how Magnon differentiates from its competitors in the market Bajpai said, “This question is very pertinent to the entire advertising, marketing and digital ecosystem at this time. Whether it is agencies or marketeers, everybody is really excited about this whole new how this ecosystem has blossomed especially with digital playing a far more aggressive and dominant role that people had expected it to at one time. I think the way the ecosystem is shaping out is very very like parallel lives between Magnon and the advertising and digital sector because when the digital sector was all about tech enablement we were doing tech enablement at that time and then a lot of advertising agencies today are trying to embrace digital and call themselves integrated agencies.”
“A lot of digital agencies are trying to go back into traditional advertising and be able to offer club services. They are all very well-intentioned and are all great companies but I think the edge that Magnon has had is like I said that for 12 years we were a hardcore independent digital agency working with some of the biggest brands in the world. And once we became part of Omnicom and a part of the EG Plus and TBWA networks we got the benefit of the best, the highest quality of knowledge capital in advertising and digital from the biggest names in the world. Today while a lot of agencies or agency groups have tried to make inorganic efforts to become integrated service providers, I think Magnon has been a very natural journey and it’s been a very organic journey,” added Vineet.
He added, “Today, we are here as a 360-degree advertising and digital group where we offer digital solutions to clients, media advertising, production, linguistics, So it’s really a 360-degree agency and I think that is the validation for that comes from the client roster that we have and I’m very happy to share with you that we work with seven of the global hundred brands here in India. So I think it’s been a fantastic manner in which we’ve been able to stay with the curve.”
Sharing his learnings of being an entrepreneur Vineet said, “The most important thing is that one has to be very clear about the objectives one is chasing at any given point in one’s entrepreneurial journey. For example, we are starting out or any entrepreneur is starting out, one, they have to have the right reasons for why they are getting into what they are getting. I get invited to a lot of forums where aspiring entrepreneurs come and ask for guidance and the one thing that I always tell them is that please do not think that entrepreneurship is some exciting adventure that you’re going to embark upon and which is going to be entertainment plus wealth creation. It is a very serious career choice and you have to be very careful before choosing it because while it does come with its, sometimes, extraordinary returns, it does come with its huge enrichment and gratification of building an organization and I think nothing really compares to that. But it also comes with a huge amount of lifestyle choices, it does come with a lot of sacrifice. It is not really something that you just hear about or something cliche or something which every entrepreneur says. Entrepreneurship is really one of the biggest life choices that an entrepreneur will make.”
Answering whether having a startup was easier in the past or is it easier now he said, “To be honest, getting a startup to become a successful company has never been easy. In fact, my first book back in 2004 called ‘Built from scratch’ was actually a handbook, a guide for aspiring entrepreneurs. On how to basically get about entrepreneurship if you are a first-generation entrepreneur, if you have a fire in your belly but you’re not a Harvard dropout and you don’t have that billion-dollar tech idea but you still feel you can build a company. So what is it you can do, how do you make a plan, raise money, how to get your initial team. So that was my first book ‘built from scratch’ in 2004 and I don’t think it has ever been easy. However, your question is very insightful because certain environmental or systemic improvements have happened over the last 20 years. The most important being the availability of capital both financial capital and knowledge capital. Today the kind of startup accelerators that exist, the number of high-quality organisations that are backing entrepreneurs, providing entrepreneurial training, entrepreneurial guidance, that is something which is very new.”
Bajpai added, “he second is the whole excitement around the VC activity in India which has been growing steadily, it has its ups and down based on what market conditions are but I think availability of capital for businesses that really have merit and businesses who truly have the potential to become large-scale businesses because VCs are not interested in lifestyle businesses. If you go and tell them that you are going to build a company which is going to do 100 crore rupees of annual revenue, I don’t think many VCs will be interested. It can be a great business but it won’t impress them. But for businesses with true merit of achieving scale, I think the availability of financial capital is so much better. You’ve got the Prime Minister of the country, the government of the country talking about startups.”
Lastly answering to whether anything new is coming up and what is it that drives him to write Vineet said, “I don’t think anything new is coming up because I’ve already got my hands full with Magnon, Talentrack and the books. But yes, you know I have written three business books and five fiction novels and my first set of fiction novels ‘The Harappa trilogy’ has been one of the biggest successes. The readers have absolutely showered their love. One of the largest production houses in the country has taken the film rights of the trilogy and now my latest work which is called ‘The Mastan Trilogy’ part two of that trilogy is going to be released on 26th January and we are really excited about its release.”