With over 15 years of experience in designing some of the most influential brand experiences for leading brands in India, Alvin D’souza before starting off as an entrepreneur with creating 121XP used to be Head of Experiential at DDB Mudra Western Region.
121XP offers holistic solutions across experiential activations and outreach. At present it caters to more than 40 brands across diverse industries and geographies.
121XP was Co-founded by Alvin D’souza and Aniket Sharma, the Agency has a team of 62 people across 8 locations. Headquartered in Mumbai, 121XP is an out-of-the-line agency and caters to marquee clients including Google, Tata Sky, Gulf, Petronas, Legrand, Axis Bank, Tata Group, Bournvita, Bournvita Biscuits, Tang, T20 Mumbai MCL, Budweiser, Hoegaarden, Corona, Fastrack, HUL, Cinthol, DS Group, Sony Entertainment, Eureka Forbes, among others.
Medianews4u.com caught up with Alvin D’souza, Founder of 121XP to talk about their journey so far and their plans ahead.
How has the journey of 121 XP been till now?
In my previous stint in DDB Mudramax, I managed the business for Mumbai and also headed operations across India. My team and I back then, not only won new businesses but also retained the existing set of clients. Over a period of time I had an opinion not only about the way the work should be, but also how the organization should look like. I never had a friction with the agency I worked for, but I realized that a time is going to come when my point of view will be so strong that we will need to have a place where we can do things the way we want to do. That’s when I decided to launch an experiential outfit where we could imply our own thinking.
Looking back, I have to admit, jumping into the world of entrepreneurship was one of my best decisions ever! Aniket Sharma, who led Strategic planning in my team hopped on to the bandwagon.
Recounting the journey we embarked on, we already had 4 clients on board even before we announced the launch of 121XP. One thing we were clear about, was to not establish ourselves as a rural/urban activation or event agency. We wanted 121XP to be one-stop that delivers a client’s business and marketing solutions. Over the last 3 years, we have worked with over 40 brands across categories and have grown to over 60 members across the country.
The focus in the first two years was to give the best service to the clients, and for that we had to do certain tradeoffs. We didn’t focus on awards nor did we submit entries for awards, instead we focused on client servicing and acquiring new businesses. However, getting business has not been an issue, as many client wins came because of the equity Aniket and I enjoy in the industry.
With the experience you have with experiential marketing what is it that drives you on a daily basis?
The fact that no two days are the same ever is the biggest motivation.
It is the love of being in the business of ideas and innovation that see tangible light of the day and sometimes making a real difference to the world we live in the biggest reason to walk into the office with a smile every day. To be able share your unique ideas with some of the iconic brands in the brand that can contribute to their growth story is exciting every day.
We get paid to stay curious and creative, how many people can actually boast about that about their jobs. The prospect of being introduced to and to work with some of the most amazing technology enriching brand experiences is like being that kid in the candy story who just wants to play with each and every new toy (reach technology) that comes in front of him.
The process of studying consumer behavior and gaining insights into their world is fascinating. Consumer is at the epicenter of all things experiential. Like any other form of advertising, experiential too is useless if cannot drive the brand into the consumer conversations amongst his peers, family or social media. For the rural consumer getting his hands on and experiencing the product and its benefits in detail is a conversation on the contrary for a millennial being a part of something epic and insta-story-worthy driving FOMO amongst peers who missed it is also experiential doing its job of seeding conversation pods in their consumers social mix.
Experiential today is also driving real experiences that are catalyzing content that is authentic, organic and shareable across earned digital and traditional channels. This is where the measurability of success of experiential is being recognized and adopted.
What is it that differentiates 121XP with peers in an overtly complex industry with ahost of players-including regional, national and international agencies?
We have three core strengths that help us to compete with our peers in an overtly complex industry with host of players – including regional, national and international agencies. Size, team and motivation. We are not a large agency but a growing one. With large size comes an inertia – be it in levels of decision making or implementation. Being an agency that is still growing our agility to decide and execute is our first strength – especially in an industry where time is practically money. Second is the team. Having worked in the industry before turning entrepreneurs, we have curated a team that comprises of 60 highly motivated and skilled professionals with a pseudo-entrepreneurial passion.
Our job as founders is to give this talent its due space, authority and confidence – which itself has led to huge dividends in a short span of three years for us. And third and most important is motivation. We started this agency with a value proposition of ‘Out of line agency’. We are motivated by the power of ideas that are simple, executable and offer high impact – thereby enabling our clients to achieve their business objectives.
Any recent brand case study that you would like to share which brought 121 XP a lot of critical acclaim?
There are two significant pieces of work that come to my mind from the recent past. Both ironically with one of stellar brand partners Gulfoil.
The Gulfoil orange alerts – during the monsoon season we deployed reflective orange alert signages across 10 of the lowest lying flood prone areas of Mumbai to warn and protect the mumbaikars from coming in the harms way during the multiple occasions of flooding during the recent monsoons. The low lying areas also co-incided with Gulf’s small trucking community audiences dwelling in the same low lying areas out of business needs. The Gulf Orange alerts saw the support and recognition of the Mumbai Police and the municipal board and the story being picked up by local news media channels organically. The simple warning signed placed at the right place at the right time was a simple tool that drove Gulf oil’s saliency amongst its audience by seeping into their conversations. There is no bigger feeling than to be a thought leading organization and brand that can contribute to the saving of human lives through simple experiential design innovations.
The other piece of proud work I would like to highlight is something that has helped us break the Guinness record for the longest chain of postcards. During RakshaBandhan this year, delivering the platform of SurakhsaBandhan was Gulf oil’s Superfleet Turbo range we engaged with the trucking audience across the transport nagars pan India.
Driven on the insight that Gulf’s trucking audience especially the drivers and mechanics do not get to celebrate the popular festival like the rest of the nation due to their nature of work which demands them to up and running no matter the day or time of the year. These drivers, truckers and mechanics bear the burden of being the backbone of the Indian economy. So this year we reached out with to them with a post card that they could send back home in their absence for as a little surpise for their sisters on the occasion of RakshaBandhan seeking a pledge to always keep them protected.
We collected and disseminated over 20000 postcards during the course of the campaign and reconnected the brother’s love for his sister back home. The overwhelming response and sheer numbers of post cards gave us the once in a lifetime opportunity to break a Guinness world record for the longest chain of postcards. This campaign yet another proof of the role experiential can play in being the instrumental factor to seeding organic PR and shareablity while helping the brand achieve its business objectives.
Which have been some of the key learnings with 121Xp?
The best lesson that we have learnt is always trust your instinct and also people around you. Most of the people around us want us to succeed and most of the times what holds us back is our own inhibitions and doubts. Take a plunge – be it the idea you want to test or the venture you want to peruse and then trust people around you. As Paulo Coelho wrote about how the universe conspires to help you achieve what you seek – the same comes true if only one believes in own abilities and of those around him/her. Recently we continued to pursue an idea of Ganesh idol for visually challenged despite no one supporting it. It took a lot of effort to convince or get support. But we chose to go ahead alone and implemented a prototype. And then the support came from some esteemed clients towards the project and we showcased it and won awards for the same as well. It took us some more time but we didn’t lose focus or let the doubts shadow our idea.
Where do you see 121 XP be in the near future?
We have been through a great journey so far and have delivered some brilliant pieces of work for our clients. We wish to push the envelope further and take our achievements ahead to create value for our brand partners and consumers with newer ideas and dynamic innovations. We would not like to be the largest but the most envied agency India. Once we achieve this, we will then set our sights to being the most envied agency in the world.