In recognition of the recent celebration of their 10th anniversary, we caught up with Mehul Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, and Siddharth Devnani, Co-Founder & Director at SoCheers.
Short for “Social Cheers” the India-based company with offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru, creates campaigns designed to “move and inspire people through digital and non-digital platforms.”
Over the course of our conversation, the pair talk about what inspired them to start SoCheers, some of the challenges to overcome with launching their venture, the changes they’ve witnessed in the industry over the years and more.
Looking back, what inspired you to start SoCheers, and what were your initial goals?
Siddharth Devnani: While we both were inclined towards entrepreneurship as well as digital marketing, what furthered our inclination was the fact that despite the amount of time spent on digital, brands were putting in minimal effort to keep their audience engaged. Thus, our objective was to bridge that gap by creating engaging content for the users. We aimed to not only win brands over to our expertise but also to deliver the best possible results for them.
Over the past decade, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced? How did you overcome them?
Mehul Gupta: Starting SoCheers came with its own set of challenges, one of which was building a strong team of professionals who shared our vision and commitment to exceptional results. However, we try to overcome this through careful recruitment, training, and professional development. We ensured that our hiring process was selective and that we brought on board individuals who not only had the skills but also shared our values and passion for digital marketing.
Adapting to the ever-changing dynamics of digital advertising and its consumers is paramount. To remain relevant in this fast-paced industry, it’s crucial to constantly evolve strategies and generate innovative ideas regularly. SoCheers, as an agency, strives to be top of mind for individuals who value both management proficiency and creative thinking.
While this is an ongoing one thus, we constantly learn and explore new opportunities, attend conferences and events, and invest in training and development for our team. This helps us stay on top of industry trends and technology, and ultimately deliver the best results for our clients.
Looking back, what are some things you would have done differently if you could?
Siddharth Devnani: Honestly, there is nothing that I and Mehul regret or feel could have been done differently. We both have loved our entrepreneurial journey as individuals, as friends and most importantly, as business partners. I believe all our mistakes and good calls are in hindsight and eventually lead us to where we are now.
Nearly all entrepreneurs go through periods of doubt in the early years. Was there a particular moment when you realized ‘Hey, this is going to work?’
Siddharth Devnani: As entrepreneurs, we went through periods of doubt in the early years of SoCheers. However, we were fortunate enough that we both were never in that doubt at the same time. Jokes apart, building a business from scratch is never easy, and there were times when we wondered if we were on the right track.
However, there were a few key moments when we realized that our hard work and dedication were paying off. One of the biggest moments for us was when we landed a major client early on in our journey. It was a vote of confidence in our abilities and a sign that we were on the right track.
What are the biggest changes in the industry you’ve seen since you started?
Mehul Gupta: Since the inception of SoCheers, we have observed a significant transformation in the digital marketing industry. Previously, digital marketing was viewed as a supplementary medium that replicated traditional marketing communication on digital platforms and only accounted for 10% of the overall marketing budget.
However, with the increased accessibility of the internet and smartphones in the past 4-5 years, digital marketing has witnessed tremendous growth. With more people accessing digital platforms daily, digital marketing now holds an equal place in campaign and content strategy plans and commands an average allocation of 30-40% or more of the marketing budget.
“India is a diverse country with many different languages and customs, so it’s important to do your research and tailor your approach accordingly.”
Today, equal importance is given to the content that goes out on digital and traditional platforms. As a result, SoCheers has benefited from being in the right place at the right time and has observed and adapted to this shift in the digital landscape.
Siddharth Devnani: Adding to Mehul, I think the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a notable surge in daily social media consumption, accelerating the adoption of digital marketing and advertising over the last few years.
As a result, many startups and established brands have shifted their budgets toward digital channels and are increasingly relying on digital agencies to tap into the immense potential of the digital space.
This growth has exceeded the anticipated trajectory of digital marketing. So, conclusively, over the past decade, digital advertising has seen a shift towards mobile devices, a rise in programmatic advertising, increased use of social media for advertising, and the emergence of new advertising formats like native and video ads.
Can you share a particular campaign over the years that you are most proud of doing? (Include any links)
We’ve had the pleasure of working on various exciting and impactful campaigns over the years, so it’s hard to pick just one! But a few stand out for us. Like:
Siddharth Devnani: Ministry of Education’s Say Yes to Study in India where we showcased the vastness of the Indian education sector to lakhs of students across the globe.
Study In India (SII) is a tech-driven program implemented by Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL) and backed by the Government of India. To raise awareness about the program and its offerings in the selected international markets, through both digital and offline mediums, the idea was to highlight a complete summation of what our country can offer to passionate, young students from across the globe by embracing its core pillars – Learn, Thrive and Explore.
This led to a 400% jump in the number of students participating in the PRAGATII scholarship examination. Students from 118 countries took the exam, increasing from the previous number of 20 countries, making it one of the only exams from India which is being taken across the globe in 100+ countries.
Mehul Gupta: The campaign for The Family Man show on Amazon was also a hit. We developed a video strategy with different concepts, each highlighting a key aspect of the show, such as its characters and talent. The campaign’s creative solutions included a lie detector test video, an Only Excuse October video, and an Epic Middle-class face-off video with stand-up comedian Atul Khatri.
The campaign resulted in The Family Man becoming the most-watched show in India on Amazon Prime Video, with 8.2Mn video views and 200Mn+ impressions on YouTube.
Each of these campaigns was unique and presented its challenges, but we are incredibly proud of the results that we were able to achieve. They are a testament to the power of digital marketing and the value that we can bring to our clients through our expertise and creativity.
What is some essential advice you have for brands looking to engage with India’s diverse consumer market?
Siddharth Devnani: If a brand is looking to engage with India’s diverse consumer market, our advice would be to take the time to understand the cultural landscape. India is a diverse country with many different languages and customs, so it’s important to do your research and tailor your approach accordingly. Embracing digital channels is also key, as more and more Indians are going online daily.
“We aim to maintain our reputation as one of the fastest-growing agencies and more than ‘just another digital agency.'”
Localization is another important factor to consider. Indian consumers tend to respond better to content that feels like it was made specifically for them, rather than something generic. Prioritizing customer service and partnering with local influencers can also help you make inroads with your target audience. This will help in building trust with your audience, which indeed is a crucial element. We Indians are very relationship-oriented, and we appreciate brands that take the time to connect with us on a personal level.
Finally, affordability is another factor to keep in mind. India is still a developing country, so many consumers are looking for good value for their money.
What’s your vision for the next decade of SoCheers?
Siddharth Dewani: Our vision is to do meaningful work that creates an impact across the globe. We also aim to become an inspiration for the best in class advertising campaigns, all of it while having fun!
Ultimately, we want to be a name that fosters creativity, collaboration, and continuous learning. The three C’s! While the focus will keep on expanding on the way to hitting the 20-year mark, one thing that will always be constant is our consistent endeavours to be a people’s first agency, and further our philosophy of keeping ‘people over processes’ & ‘Ideas over patterns’.
Mehul Gupta: We aim to maintain our reputation as one of the fastest-growing agencies and more than ‘just another digital agency.’ Along the way, we would focus on growing our workforce with more talented and dedicated individuals, as well as increase our brand portfolio to work across industries including national and international geographies.
With SoCheers Spark, we will be focused towards creating meaningful, lasting and purposeful campaigns to spread the word about the spoken as well as unspoken causes.