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Published on: May 14, 2022, 12:35 p.m.
Social Beat: Tiger from the South
  • Suneil and Vikas Chawla: we have a diversified portfolio of large brands and businesses

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

When you think ‘digital marketing’, what are the names that come to mind? Chances are they will be global agencies, or offshoots or acquisitions of global companies. Now, there is a new contender which has quietly grown over the last nine years to become arguably one of India’s largest independent digital marketing companies. 

This dark horse was adjudged ‘Fastest Growing Agency’ by Agency Reporter, and ‘Digital Agency of the Year’ by Advertising Club of Bangalore in 2022. They also set a new benchmark for managing Rs900 crore of digital media spends in 2021, managing almost 4 per cent of the digital investments that happen in India. What makes it all the more interesting is that this rising tiger in the digital marketing world is headquartered in Chennai, with offices across India.

Meteoric rise

From a small beginning with clients like Dr Smilez, Social Beat went on to do work for Casa Grand, Brigade group, the Murugappa group and Randstad, after which there was no looking back.

Suneil Chawla, one of the co-founders says: “We were able to identify high growth sectors and acquire clients in them to fuel our growth. Initially, it was the real estate sector with multiple engagements, then it was healthcare, gaming, BFSI, and fintech. Followed by D2C brands such as boAt and Happilo. Today, we have a diversified portfolio of large brands and businesses across sectors, but have productised a service to scale D2C brands because of their growth potential in the future”.

The company has both width of management and depth of expertise to partner with brands to scale their growth using diverse platforms with creativity and innovation for better results. Says Vikas Chawla, co-founder: “We began as a social media marketing company, but quickly realised that effective digital marketing requires digital advertising for brand awareness and performance, deep content and search engine optimisation for discoverability, a tech stack for enablement and analytics, website design and ecommerce portal design and development, video content for YouTube or reels on Instagram, Facebook and so on. So, we built these capabilities with dedicated teams.”

Today, the company has 75 marquee clients across the country, such as Tata Cliq, Dhani, Jaquar, Indian Terrain, Upgrad Campus, Sundaram Mutual Funds, Bharath Matrimony, Snapdeal, and many more.

Next-gen marketing company

Social Beat focused on hiring for attitude and potential, and skilling & nurturing for growth so that most of the core team – the senior management team – are home-grown based on the values with which the company is run. “The bedrock on which we have built the company is our values,” says Suneil. “We adopted these values when we were just about 35 teammates through an inclusive process with the seniors. Since then, the first filter in our hiring process is values, and if we find a person does not match our values, we reject them no matter how experienced they are.”

The company’s values have served it well, and is the glue that bonds the team together so that their rallying cry is: ‘One heart, one beat!’ For a fast-growing company that evolved over the last nine years to be able to identify, train, nurture, upskill and retain talent in a sector starved of good talent is no mean feat. Indeed, team members who left and tested the waters elsewhere came back to Social Beat, seamlessly integrating into its culture and contributing to its growth.

The company’s values are not only foundational, but the secret sauce behind its success. Today the 300-plus member team works on a hybrid work model with two days in the office. They also spread their knowledge of digital, having conducted eight ‘Digital Leadership Summits’, five of them in person and three of them virtually, with the last one in mid-2022.

Making the right bets

The company’s ability to identify high growth sectors has not only benefited it with the right clients at the right time to fuel its growth, but this also extends to services and new initiatives that were beginning to see demand. When brands began to use online influencers early on, Social Beat was quick to launch influencer.in, a platform with verified influencers whom companies can contract for their influencer campaigns. Today, with more than 70,000 verified influencers on the platform, it is a growing business on its own.

This was followed some years later by 22languages.com, a platform for language writing that ensures high quality language content that is written in the language using its own unique idioms and expressions, rather than translated from English. As large brands step up their reach into tier 3 and 4 towns, language content has become crucial to gaining market share. So, this was another timely initiative that helped the company offer comprehensive services to the brands entrusted to it.

Social Beat also realised the importance of video as a preferred form of content on digital platforms and built video teams to create a range of videos based on a brand’s needs – from ideation to execution. These include everything from animated videos all the way to full production videos based on a brand’s objective. 

Indeed, many of these video campaigns have gone on to win awards for creativity and impact, while serving to meet, and often exceed, a brand’s objectives for reach, engagement and conversion.

With Rs7 crore revenue in 2019, they had an annual run-rate of Rs40 crore in revenue in FY22. Social Beat aims to be at a run-rate of Rs120 crore by 2024 with its focus on D2C, influencer marketing and data-driven creative campaigns.

Integrated digital marketing solutions

Having such a wide library of services also served the company well from a new business development perspective by widening opportunities to engage with prospects who were looking for a particular service. The engagement may begin with language content for example, or videos, content and SEO or an influencer campaign. The outcome of the engagement along with the quality of experience when interacting with the company often led to a wider engagement. This also meant that the company was able to leverage all aspects of digital marketing to ensure highly effective campaigns, no matter what their objective was, whether brand awareness, consideration or performance.

Says David Appasamy, head-brand and strategy: “The range of services and expertise we have developed enables us to manage a prospect’s journey down the marketing funnel – from awareness, consideration to conversion. This covers a wide range of content assets such as display ads, videos, reels, social media posts, content and SEO – both blogs and YouTube videos – for awareness and discoverability at the top of the funnel. And pillar content, influencer promotions and videos for consideration, while offer campaigns, bundled offers, limited period sales, etc work very well at the bottom of the funnel.” Indeed, the company’s engagement with some leading brands today spans this gamut of activity, supported by analytics, to manage the customer journey through the marketing funnel.

Meanwhile, the latest offering, D2Scale, promises to deliver high growth to the many funded D2C brands that hope to scale and establish themselves. With the experience of working with brands such as boAt, Social Beat is ready to ride the next wave of high growth. Its recent recognition as a 2022 Google International Partner also means that the company will be able to gain deep insights into international markets for its brands, and also be discovered by international brands for its integrated marketing expertise.

Making it truly a tiger from the South to watch out for.

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