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Startup Saturday: Creative collective: full circle on deliverables

DEF Centre will deliver complete solutions to customers - every creative input needed is on the job. The backend of that operation is what has earned Rs 20 lakh in six months.

pune Updated: Sep 15, 2018 14:53 IST
Namita Shibad
Namita Shibad
Hindustan Time, Pune
pune,maharashtra,startup saturday
DEF Centre is called so because Agarwal felt that all the nine people he has now got under his umbrella need not start from ground zero.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

United we stand, divided we fall. Sometimes childhood stories become real life lessons. Like it did, for Sagar Agarwal of DEF Centre.

In January 2017, this marketing professional decided to set up his own advertising and media consultancy. “I had a lot of experience having worked with several ad firms and thought it would be easy,” says Agarwal , but he realised that truth was hard to swallow.

“I was capable of offering clients a strategy. I could tell them what would be the best way for their brand, but clients did not want just strategy. They wanted the entire service. They wanted someone who would plan and buy the media, someone who would write the content, videograph it, voice over artiste, graphic designers and so on. That set me thinking.”

In the entire year Agarwal managed to do business of Rs 5 lakh. He realised he could not do it alone. He needed to have a team. “I asked a couple of graphic artists and content writers if they would be willing to tie up with me. They agreed. I thought why not collaborate with everyone that a client needs from copywriter, graphic designer, media planner, buyer, videographer, packaging, the works? Why not come together and then be able to offer a client all that he needs?”

So, an advertising agency? Agarwal makes a clear the distinction between an ad agency and his DEF Centre which he insists is more like a collective. “In an agency you have a fixed number of people, you get salaries, and if a client wants something different from what your team can offer, you have to hunt and have very limited choices. Not so with DEF,” says Agarwal.

DEF Centre is so called because Agarwal felt that all the nine people he has now got under his umbrella need not start from ground zero. “The basics are taken care of,” he says. These being getting business, taking care of administration like invoices, taxation, accounting, and chasing clients for money. Our team simply has to focus on their work.”

With the support of a full-fledged team Agarwal can now offer his clients whatever they want. “This year, after starting in March, we have made Rs 20 lakh. It surely helps when you are united,” he says.

Agarwal and his family invested Rs 2 crore in an office on Bund Garden road. His brother Vishal, who is a photographer and co-founder, also offers the space to artists who wish to use it. “ We have a graphic artist and a copy writer who have chosen to work from our DEF Centre as they have problems with power cuts in their homes,” says Agarwal.

Understanding the value of an office space the duo have now started charging a small rent. “We now know that we can make our office a co-working space for media professionals to add to our revenues,” he adds.

So how does the DEF Centre work? “It’s simple really. I get the business. If we get a client I decide who will be on the team. The work can be a one off job, a huge project or a recurring business. I see who fits the bill perfectly and make up a team. Our members work from their offices and come together for a job. We meet at our office when we have a project briefing or a client meeting. Or we even Skype. Once they understand what is required they go back to their offices and begin work,” Agarwal explains.

What’s in it for the collaborators? ”It’s not so simple. If say a graphic artist goes to a corporate they will say you check with our ad agency. When he goes to the agency his chances of getting work are really poor because the agency will push its own people,” says Agarwal.

“Add to that the issue of payments. When you work alone you have less bargaining power. When you are a firm it is easier to get into contracts with companies. Generally, companies shy away from signing contracts with individuals, but not with firms. It’s strange, but true. When an artist signs up with DEF we assure him of payments by the 10th of every month. We chase all the monies due,” Agarwal explains.

A fact that Vijay Pingle, a graphic designer with DEF, agrees to. “I am a freelance designer and I find working with DEF very useful because then I do not have to worry about getting payments from clients, or following up with them. If I were on my own I’d have to struggle first to get work and then to get payments. I work on projects from DEF as well as on projects that I can get on my own,” Pingle says.

So does this in effect become a salary? Says Agarwal: ”No. It is not a salary. It is payment for work done. So when a person signs up I ensure that s/he gets at least two jobs to start off with. Then depending on his s/performance he will get work. So if s/he’s good s/he can make say Rs 1 lakh or more a month, or maybe nothing. It all depends on your ability to deliver.”

The revenue model of this centre is pretty simple. Whatever a client is charged DEF deducts 20% that goes towards administration expenses (10%) and 10% as profit.

When a person signs up he states his charges for his services. Agarwal maintains an Excel sheet and when drawing up a team he takes everyone’s charges into consideration. He goes a quote to the client based on this, plus his 20%.

Says Agarwal, “There are 300 ad agencies in Pune. And over 500 artists. With supply exceeding demand they are cutting down rates. Even with freelancer.com what is happening is that each person simply bids for a project. There is no unifying element in that initiative. As a result everyone is divided and the income you can earn is much less.

“A year ago people would charge Rs 50,000 for a job, now the rate is down to Rs 20,000 and some individuals charge even Rs 5,000 for the same job. It is important to come together to get better bargaining power. Also, it benefits the client too as he can get full service from one place.”

Collaborators get the freedom to work as they choose. They can get work from DEF, but also are free to find more work. “With us they don’t have the bother with invoicing, taxation, chasing clients for money. It’s a win-win for all.” Yes, united they stand.

First Published: Sep 15, 2018 14:51 IST