Catalyst

Looking for their mojo in India

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on March 03, 2016

David Williams

Hong Kong-based marketing services agencies have designs on the country



A few years ago, Dutch design studios were beating a path to India, with agencies such as Fabrique, SVT and They arriving here to explore opportunities. Now, it’s the turn of Hong Kong-based creative studios to have big designs on India. A host of marketing services providers from Hong Kong was in Delhi last week to explore partnerships.

Speaking at a roadshow organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and FICCI, branding and design gurus David Lo, Creative Director at LoMatters Creative Studio, Katarina Ivarsson, Founder and CEO of Boris Design Studio, and David Williams, Founder and Lead Digital Strategist, Asia Digital MOJO, described how the former British colony was experimenting and innovating with digital production in a way that marries the sensibilities of the East and the West.

Faintly jet-lagged after arriving straight from attending the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona, David Williams described how his online to offline (O2O) firm has already made inroads into India with an office in Pune, and will soon be starting one in Delhi too. “E-commerce is very strong and growing in India,” said Williams, describing the attraction for design-driven digital marketing firms like his.

The other attraction for the Hong Kong-based creative firms is that, as the Chinese and Asian brands they work with increase their India focus, they see the need to follow them here too.

Williams, who works with Huawei and Samsung, points out how, increasingly, Chinese companies are increasing their presence in India either directly or indirectly through strategic investments. For instance, take Chinese travel booking giant CTrip.com’s investment in Make My Trip or the way Alibaba is expanding its footprint here through strategic funding. Plus, the O2O strategy that Asia Digital MOJO is evangelising — calling it a logical progression from product design and experience design — is now really taking off in India.

In recent months YepMe has opened a physical store, Flipkart has set up experience zones and physical collection centres and so on. “The e-commerce market is following China in embracing physical interactions — you can call it OmniChannel, you can call it O2O as we do in Hong Kong and China, or you can call it hyperlocal as you do in India,” he says.

Williams says design focus is not limited to products, now you have “marketing design” too. Marketing is about customer experience and an O2O strategy allows you to layer that experience. The campaign circle is now to map out online touchpoints as well as offline touchpoints.

But how would MOJO, which has offices in Barcelona, Hong Kong, Seoul and Mexico, differentiate when designing marketing experiences for India clients? “The Indian market has far more cultural differences than China or other markets. Hence, what could work is to have campaigns in India that ride on user-generated content — using social media, for instance.”

Tying up with design schools

MOJO’s expansion strategy is to tie up with design schools wherever they go. “Every office we set up has a network of design schools we work with. We develop courses in design thinking for the institutes. What happens is that within half a year we have access to great talent,” he says.

In India, the agency partnered with the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, to create a workshop on re-imagining the Indian Railways. The workshop guided students to map the tangible and intangible experiences — both offline and online — of passengers through their rail journey. And based on that, reframe the service design of the Indian Railways. “Students looked at carriage design, sleeper design, as well as things like smart cards that could provide services like meals and so on,” said Williams.

Similarly, in Pune, it has a partnership with the DSK International school of design. Williams says he is pursuing more such tie-ups with other design schools here.

Future of apps

Given that digital experiences — especially on mobile — are shaped through apps, how are brands utilising those? The apps story has become a challenge, believes Williams.

“The sheer number of apps available now is making it difficult for brands to stand out.” So the solution, he feels, is for brands to look at creating apps that have more value for customers and may not even have value for the brands. Gamification is one way. “The phone is the one thing that is in the hands of consumers all day long — certainly we have to find new ways of delivering experiences on it,” he sums up.

Published on March 03, 2016
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