Mumbai: A millennial’s search for meaningful work led to the creation of digital marketing company Gozoop Online Pvt. Ltd. Co-founder Ahmed Naqvi, 32, an engineer, quit the corporate world in 2008 after short stints at i-Flex Solutions Ltd (now part of Oracle Financial Services Ltd) and the investment banking arm of JPMorgan Chase and Co., to learn diving and surfing. A few months later, he teamed up with Rohan Bhansali, a former colleague from JPMorgan to setup Raa Studios, a digital agency, out of a garage in Santacruz, Mumbai. In 2010, the firm took on another partner, Dushyant Bhatia, also a former colleague at the investment bank and started over as Gozoop Online. At that time, the company was largely working with e-tailers like Snapdeal, Myntra, Quikr and Groupon.

By 2011, Gozoop started diversifying and expanding. The company set up an office in Dubai and in two years, it accounted for a majority of the company’s consolidated revenues as it got on board clients like retail and hospitality company Landmark Group and Jashanmal Group, a distributor, wholesaler and retailer.

In 2013, the company decided to once again focus on growing the India business as the share of spending going from mainline to digital was rapidly increasing. “Brands that were spending less than 10% of their total spends on digital are now spending 30-40%," says Naqvi. To get a larger piece of the action, the company acquired social media firm Red Digital and this helped it establish a national presence. “It was a game-changing moment for the India operations. We have never looked back since," says Naqvi. The acquisition also gave it access to clients like Miranda, Lufthansa, Reliance Foundation and Mumbai Indians. The same year (2013) it also set up an office in Singapore and in the following year, launched operations in New York.

Today, the company manages the digital duties of brands like Kolkata Knight Riders, Asian Paints Ltd, supermarket chain Hypercity, Pidilite Industries Ltd and Dell India Pvt. Ltd. “The ambition is to be among the top three most talked about and the largest marketing communication agencies in the next three years," says Naqvi.

Naqvi claims his firm is already is one of the largest independent agencies in India that is not owned by a foreign network. However, the claim could not be verified independently. “There is a lot of fragmentation even within digital with companies specializing only in search engine optimization (SEO), social media or online video. There are no real dominant companies and the entry barrier is very low," says Jehil Thakkar, partner and head of the media and entertainment practice at KPMG’s India unit. However, Gozoop has been growing faster than the industry. In the last three years, its revenue has increased at a compound average growth rate of 140%, says Naqvi. “In financial year 2018, it will grow at 45-50% and will have a profit margin of 30%," he says. The company is privately held.

The growth will be both organic and inorganic. The company is in talks to acquire a couple of firms in India. These could be companies that are mainline focused, performance marketing (return on investment based marketing) and companies working in the realm of user interface and experience, said Naqvi.

The idea is to continue the evolution from a digital marketing firm. “Today, we can start a campaign on digital but it has to be able to move offline," says Naqvi.

However, even as the company is constantly changing, a few things have remained constant. “Our secret sauce is our culture and our digital core," says Naqvi whose cabin does not have lights as he makes it a point to leave the office once it starts getting dark.

Even as a bootstrapped start-up, its employees were at its very front. Now, the company has grown to a team of 180 people and has put in place practices like having a happiness ambassador to drive work culture.

Yet, challenges like a high attrition remain. “The average age of the employee is 24-25 years. These youngsters stay on an average for 2.5-3 years," says Bansi Raja, chief happiness officer who heads the human resources function and works with the employees on balancing their career, other commitments, responsibilities and interests with policies like career breaks, unpaid leave of 15 days on completion of 18 months and a one-month sabbatical on completion of 30 months in the organization; interest-free loans on completion of 24 months with the company; menstruation leave for women staff and also getting on board a counsellor who visits Gozoop once every month who the staff can consult for personal and professional help.

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