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Milestones

Published on: July 31, 2020, 1:21 p.m.
Twenty-five and counting
  • Syed: immensely satisfying

By Arzoo Dina

Celebrations are underway at the offices of Triton Communications. The Mumbai-based agency is ushering in its silver jubilee this month. As one of the last few remaining independent, homegrown agencies in the country, completing 25 years is no mean feat – given the wave of consolidation that has swept over the Indian advertising industry in recent years.  Founded by Ali Merchant and Munawar Syed in 1991, Triton began as their combined passion for the business of brands and advertising. Following a long stint at Everest (an associate agency of Saatchi & Saatchi), where they handled a number of FMCG and liquor brands, the duo decided to step out with their own venture, naming it Triton Communications Pvt. Ltd. “It wasn’t so easy though”, recalls Merchant, director, Triton Communications. “Money was tight and we only had the goodwill of our clients to begin with.” Business initially trickled in with a clutch of clients who pitched in with finances to get them off the ground, including one of their first – Eureka Forbes – with which they continue to have a working relationship even today. A year on, business was thriving, with the agency clocking billings of nearly Rs10 crore. By 1994-95, they had grown to be among the sixth largest agency in Mumbai.

Since its inception, Triton has been credited with building a number of successful brands, right from scratch. “We helped launch many brands and turned them into leading brand names in the market,” says Merchant, talking about their call to fame. Citing an example, he says that one of their first few projects was being tasked with the advertising duties of Aquaguard and Euroclean (the water purifier and vacuum cleaner brands of Eureka Forbes), when they were being launched in the market. “Back then, Aquaguard was the only water purifier brand. The challenge was not only to grow the brand but also the market.” Even today, Aquaguard has managed to retain its position with strong brand recall, he reminisces.

TVC campaigns

 Other successful brand launches followed – including AdaniWilmar’s Fortune Refined Oil and Fortune Rice, YES Bank, and Samsung Mobiles in the Indian market. They were also responsible for launching and promoting a clutch of brands for Paras Pharma (Moov, Set Wet and Ring-Guard). “Looking back, it’s been immensely satisfying doing the kind of work we did with these brands, that went on to become household names,” adds Syed, director, Triton. The agency has been involved in a number of innovative campaigns that they created over the last 25 years, such as generating buzz for Malayala Manorama newspaper in the Southern market to retain its number one position. Other popular TVC campaigns include those for Wagh Bakri Tea, Royal Challenge Beer, and Fortune edible oil, titled, Thoda aur chalega. Some of their print campaigns went on to become hugely successful as well, especially for brands like Zampa Wines, furnishings and home accessories brand, Shyam Ahuja and YES Bank.

“Right from the beginning, we have been driven by an entrepreneurial culture,” points out Merchant. “This has helped us in combining the disciplines of a large agency with the creativity of a smaller organisation.” The duo believe what worked for them were the strong relationships they cultivated with clients (and last even today), with business growing through word of mouth, as they gradually expanded into cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad.

Defining moments

Fast forward 25 years, Triton stands among the largest, independent Indian advertising agencies and is connected through ICOM, one of the world’s largest network of independent agencies with over 90 agencies in more than 65 countries. Currently, Triton has some 35-40 clients on its roster, including Force Motors, United Breweries and Venkys, among others.

Ask them about some of the defining moments over two decades and Merchant says that it’s their philosophy of ‘Strategy in Action’, that has helped bring them to where they are and kept them focussed. A key point, was their association with Paris-based agency, BDDP, in 1994 (which then merged with the TBWA network), which focussed on the model of disruption, something they believe is key to their business even now. According to Syed, the fact that they continue to build on relationships with clients even after 25 years, seeing people grow with the agency and be a part of their silver jubilee celebrations now, is a heartening moment.

From growing into a full-service agency to clocking group billings of Rs300 odd crore currently, Triton has clearly come a long way. However, with the changing face of the Indian advertising industry, challenges have been aplenty. “We realised that the only way to be relevant to our clients today is to evolve with the times. Unlike most other agency networks that follow a multi-agency model with specialised units, we offer all solutions under one roof.” Keeping this in mind, they recently launched their digital and experiential marketing arms, called DIGIMO and Metaphor, respectively. While DIGIMO offers interactive digital and mobile marketing solutions, Metaphor is a one-stop-shop for BTL (below the line) activities.

 “We’re looking at this as our second innings,” says Syed. As we continue to grow our creative, media, digital and experiential solutions, we are also focused on our vision of being holistic brand partners for our clients, they say. In the offing are plans to expand the business with verticals such as media research, shopper marketing, corporate identity and a specialised design cell too.

There have been offers to sell along the way, but the duo says they were firm in the vision of building a strong, independent Indian agency. They aren’t ruling out any offers for an international agency partner though, they say, adding that it is something they will consider if the offer is a right fit for the agency.

Till then, we will continue to look for innovations and new opportunities in what we do, and live by our passion for advertising, they sign off. Here’s to another successful innings.

(This is reproduced from Business India magazine. This was first published in our issue dated March 28-April 10, 2016)

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