Neena Dasgupta CEO & Director who has played a pivotal role in the firm becoming a name to reckon with among the most prestigious firms in India. Zirca was Neena’s brainchild, which she launched and built into a 130-people-strong firm. She holds more than 20 years of experience building organizations that lead the charge on effective and efficient communication. The Industry has recognized her leadership, featuring her at No 35 in the Impact most influential women 2018 and was also a jury member for Social Samosa Social Media #Superwomen.
Zirca Digital Solutions, proudly cater to an ever-growing number of projects not just within India but also exclusively represent nine international brands including The Economist, Fast company, Microsoft, Inc.com, Skype, and Binge in India and a presence in South East Asia.
Founded in the year 2012, today it has access to over 3000 advertisers. The talented team at Zirca has been seen deftly tackle projects by providing content and brand solutions, content strategy, content creation and curation, and now they have bought a new tool ContentdB, Asia’s first native advertising management platform. which aims at helping marketers amplify their digital campaigns. It will also be launched in Singapore in a month, later in Europe.
In today’s Leaderspeak Neena Dasgupta, CEO & Director, Zirca speaks about her vision for Zirca, the media landscape, and much more…….
Career spanning 20+ years in this industry, how has your journey been and what were some of the challenges?
Actually, I have been around for 25 years!! And the most wonderful ones, where I have been witnessing the significant shifts in our industry. And I believe I am right in the middle of a new paradigm that will become rather obvious sooner than later. The challenges have always been interesting. It’s been the speed of altering one’s way of engaging in the market and business in response to the aggressive market shifts. In a matter of months, we would experience new shiny tech becoming obsolete and some evolving to a new scale and level. And I believe that’s the only challenge that continues even today. People are resistant to accept the shift and lose on precious opportunity and time by adapting in the early stages. Even today when we speak to partners and brands about diving into consumer insights, many mixes it with programmatic audience buckets. The difference is stark and yet there is resistance to see the difference. I believe the industry needs to do some work to ensure that we bring case studies and pilots faster and have a set of brands ready to experiment, with no downside.
It has been 9 years since you launched Zirca, how has the journey been and what were the challenges?
Exhilarating, enjoyable, occasionally scary, and ever so enriching. The journey has been wonderful to say the very least. We built on the back of a strong team that remained committed to the purpose and values of Zirca.
And like any business, we have had our share of challenges. And until now these were around our significant pace of growth and simultaneous pivoting towards a product-led organization. Over the last 18 months, the challenges are new. They are around responding to an entirely new scenario. The challenge is now to survive, sustain and enable growth within these new constraints. I will be lying if I don’t say this experience has added significantly to our overall experience and made us more resilient, adaptive to change, and significantly more rooted in our purpose.
What was the Vision and Mission of Zirca, and how have you stayed on that path?
Zirca is defined by its purpose “To facilitate meaningful conversation”. And we ensure that all we do is aligned to our purpose. Our vision is “To be a global brand integral to digital communication” is what drives us. Our missions are designed under Process, People, Product and Positioning. As an organisation we have remained steadfast in staying on the path, for these continue to guide us and our response in all circumstances and at all times. And that’s the beauty as well as the arrogance of our audacious purpose and vision. Its truth and its relevance remain significant given conversations continue and in fact grow at times of crisis and remain intact at times of steadiness. Our values ensure that each Zircaite lives by the purpose and is guided by the vision and follows through on the missions.
In this pandemic and crisis, digital has grown by leaps and bounds, your thoughts?
I guess what’s grown in leaps and bounds is digital consumption. And what’s followed is digital advertising. However, it’s interesting to note that the gainers have largely been platforms and solutions that offered stringent performance metrics at optimized costs. I am not too sure how much we have spent time to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of this spending. There has been significant commoditization of messaging and possible erosion of brand scores on account of stringent performance KPI’s in a tough unpredictable market. Its lot of words there, but also the reality. I believe we need to ride on the growth of consumption and design strategies on creating the right conversation. Access is there and we need to have the right message to ensure that the consumer eliminates way less than they are doing now. The understanding consumer mindset is a need of the hour before spending the dollars and defining linear KPI’s irrespective of the consumer segment.
What will be some of Zirca’s initiatives and meaningful content on the digital platforms for their clients in the new normal?
Our initiatives are driven and informed more and more by consumer insights. We are focussing on ensuring that we help the brands understand their consumer personas in a scientific manner using robust technology and be able to project it to their likely universe of consumers. Once we have these segments identified and tested, each marketer can plan and execute content and copy basis the segment to make the conversation meaningful and get better response on their investments. Integrating these values on whether they target their prospects on FB or in a defined supply category, our suggestion is to do so from the consumer lens.
You recently launched a white paper on ‘Food and Beverages Trends’, what made you do this?
We have been working on white papers for a while now to share trends as we see them emerging. The idea is to be able to share knowledge under our UnGeek platform that aims to simplify what we have complicated – using data to under consumer. The idea is to ensure that we continue looking at patterns that are constantly emerging with a growing digital population and new habits that we are building in a digital economy. Young to old have altered their ways, from shopping to banking irrespective of the value and aware of the choices. Businesses have transformed. Our intention is to try and highlight some of these trends as knowledge papers and make sure we can distribute them far and wide. We will also now start bringing series of sections that simplify complicated ad tech and mar tech concepts. To be used and consumed basis your role and interest. And of course, time.
How zirca is helping brands customize consumer conversations through insightful, data-driven advertising and content solutions?
Zirca is using its products ConsumeriQ, ContentiQ, and Archetype Indicator to add significant value to insight and data-driven solutions. One can find more about these on our website, www.zirca.in. In a nutshell, however this is what each does:
- ConsumeriQ – Psychometric-based planning tool that provides consumer pschyometric profiles, their preferences down to the metadata level of content in real-time, their affinities to formats, and their skew to the internet universe. We have TGI and Comscore integrated to the tool to ensure that the output is actionable and that too by consumer segment.
- ContentiQ – A unified dashboard with API’s integrated for multiple delivery platforms allowing for real-time optimization of campaigns basis conversations and not the platform. Integrated with blockchain technology for trust and transparency and ML for optimization, ContentiQ brings efficiency to spends while increasing the effectiveness of a campaign.
- Archetype Indicator – A psychometric tool determining the consumer mindset and allowing publishers and brands to build online real-time panels and assign mindsets to their universe of prospects and users. All of this can be done in real-time, using our proprietary Real-Time Archetype Determination model.
Your thoughts on the handful of women in leadership roles?
I believe the future will be different. What we see today is because many women had to leave their careers and put it away to take care of families. It usually ends up being the mother who gives up to nurture. And then there aren’t enough organizations bringing them back into the fold for various reasons. Things are now beginning to change. The younger generations are planning their support system well and fewer women are leaving work. The other part that operates is fear of ambition. Many women who are brilliant are thwarted in environments that don’t necessarily have a culture of gender neutrality. That discourages many others to voice their opinions or chase their career dreams. We need to create forums where women can voice their ambitions fearlessly and these are heard. And finally, we need to build flexible work environments to allow the woman to play all the roles she needs to do without compromising on her career in any way. And this must be done without any impact on their professional assessments. Strong KPI definitions and evaluation basis are a keyway.
Who was your first or most significant mentor or teacher in the professional space? What specifically did you learn that has held you in good stead throughout?
I have continued to have mentors and teachers who keep contributing to my learning. And some have influenced me significantly. Some of these learning’s that have always been a part of my professional life are:
- A sales deal that seems fantastic may not always be so. Look for the long-term impact rather than a sale
- Each time you want to say something in a group, especially seniors, ask yourself – “Do I really need to say it?”. 90% of the time the answer will be NO.
- To control what you make, control your pipe sheet. That’s the only way to know your work in the market and build your opportunity.
- The only certainty in business is failure. So never be afraid to take risks and fail. Evaluate of course, and then move forward.
What are some other activities or hobbies that excite you? What are your weekends like?
I indulge in cooking. And I love it. And these days, I am the official cook given the current situation. My other interest is trying to find a fitness and nutrition framework that works for fussy teenagers and for old people. I have guinea pigs at home and trust me the teenage one is a challenge each day that keeps me going. Weekends are a frenzy of planning, cleaning, and catching up on various things. It’s also a time to do nothing that I enjoy the most.
What are your plans for the next 3 years? What specifically do you want to achieve? Bothpersonally, and professionally?
Expansion is my professional agenda for the next three years. We are now looking for an equity partner to grow the business. My two other big agendas are:
- Working with the SMB sector in bringing Adtech solutions to enable growth for them.
- Cross-media integration of solutions. I am focused on working with print partners and broadcast partners and train them on bringing solutions that use the strength of their mediums and access to their users/readers/viewers. Data and tech can enable that easily.
Personally, I want to finish writing my book. That will be a big feat.