We are publishing an interview of Ms. Ritu Jhajharia, CEO, Rolling Circle Pvt. Ltd. – A Mumbai based brand communications startup which is aiming to create differentiation through its integrated and deep work on the brand rather than focusing on a particular industry segment or niche.
About the founders
(1) Ritu Jhajharia : Ritu is a PGDM-2013 batch alumni of Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad (MICA) in Marketing and Communications Management with super specialization in Brand Management and a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) of 2006 batch in Computer Science from Rajasthan University. In a career spanning over a decade now, she has specialized in the areas of Advertising, Marketing, Corporate Communications and Public Relations across a variety of industries.
Prior to taking a full-time plunge into Entrepreneurship with spearheading The Rolling Circle®, she has worked across multinationals, PSU and early stage fast growing start-ups in India and has served at companies like IBM, Hewlett Packard, ONGC, Godfrey Phillips India, and Fitternity etc. and various other start-ups. She has earlier served as Public Relations Officer in the Corporate Communications department of India’s largest public sector undertaking ONGC at Mumbai as a direct campus recruit from MICA. In her debut year at ONGC, she put up a stellar performance, became widely known as a sought after public speaker and writer, and as a result, she was awarded as the “Outstanding Performer of the Year, 2014”.
She is also well-regarded as a sought-after visiting faculty and trainer at various management institutes like SIES Institute of Management and Edupristine etc. for Digital Marketing, Brand Management and Advertising to both full-time degree students and working professionals alike.
(2) Vinay Chaurasiya : Vinay is MMS-2013 batch alumni of Mumbai University with the specialization in Marketing and Communication and a Bachelor of Commerce of 2009 batch again from Mumbai University. In his professional career of over 8 years, he has specialized in the areas of Advertising, Marketing, Sales, Film Production, Graphic Designing and Client Management.
Prior to joining hands with his long time friend Ritu for venturing full time into Entrepreneurship with The Rolling Circle®, he has worked in IT and Advertising industry and has served as business development and client management officer at companies like CBT Infotech, Pineapple Technologies, Kaleido Communications and HatsOn Advertising etc. and various other companies.
(3) Sandeep Poonia : Mentor – We would also like to specially thank Mr. Sandeep Poonia, who has been providing us much-needed mentoring and guidance in business operations and strategy alike.
He is an alumnus of IIT Bombay and IIM Lucknow and has more than ten years of experience in various fields, covering supply chain optimization, energy sector, banking, project finance, investment banking and investing-in & providing guidance to business ideas. He is currently working with an project advisory and investment banking firm.
What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Marketing Communication is an overwhelmingly versatile function. It sits right in the center of all core business activities. One of the biggest tasks that a marketer has to excel at is multiple levels of coordination between various stakeholders.
Having led Marketing teams of two hyper-growing startups and through the regular interaction with all the support functions, teams, service partners and agencies for various marketing campaigns, Ritu identified this huge coordination issue and the age-old inefficiency with which it is currently handled by Marketing heads. Most of her productive time being spent in talking to multiple parties involved in a certain task. And the strategic message was always vulnerable to getting lost somewhere in all these levels.
Some of these parties are unavoidable to coordinate with but what really caught her attention was the amount of effort being invested in coordinating with multiple service provider agencies to accomplish one single task. The world had certainly moved to specialization and super-specialization but if it doesn’t make the life better, it won’t be of any use. Specialized agencies are good in a lot of projects specially when the projects are quite focused. But there is definitely a good need gap for all-rounder agencies who could work as an integrated marketing partner.
With this insight, we’ve set out to become a brand management partner specializing in Integrated Marketing Communication and work as a marketing partner for our clients instead of a mere service provider for a stand-alone task. We are trying to bring the balance by developing specialized teams focused on particular skill sets within our company and making an integrated offering to our clients. Hence, they need to coordinate only with a small central team managing a particular account and that team would get every deliverable aligned by working with specialized small teams within our company for accomplishing the bigger campaign objectives. This is specifically beneficial for companies with smaller or no marketing team in place.
So far the client response has been good and we’ve been able to get repeat business from almost all of our initial set of clients. The established players are also waking up to this need gap and have started setting up similar outfits or are assessing the viability of the idea. The opportunity is quite big because brand management and advertising as an industry are now ripe for a paradigm shift and innovative approaches to bring in efficiency in process would definitely be a game changer. We’re at the right place at the right time and this will certainly keep us ahead of the curve.
What is the uniqueness about your Startup?
The uniqueness is three-fold when it comes to our startup:
(1) The Core Team: Both the active founding partners Ritu and Vinay come with complimentary skills, experiences and networks. Between two of them they complete the entire circle of client-agency relationship.
Ritu comes with a thorough experience of having been the client side and hence understands the challenges, requirements and gaps from client’s perspective. Her strategic competence and experience of being a core marketer with thorough hold on both Digital and Traditional marketing provides us with a definitive edge over conventional setups.
Vinay comes with exhaustive experience of being on the agency side and hence is well-versed with the execution side of the business. His network on the supply side of talent and supporting functions to execute large projects with coordination between various teams helps the team to transcend the strategic vision into a matching reality
Overlooking both of them is their mentor Sandeep who has a stellar qualification background and pedigree, the right connections and network and the ability to see and craft the bigger picture to keep the company heading in the right direction. His versatile competence and strategic outlook is guiding light of the company, one that many of our competitors would envy.
(2) The Offering: Their are very few true value players when it comes to delivering an Integrated Marketing Communication approach. The Rolling Circle® works as a one-stop solution when it comes to all marketing needs of their clients. It puts them in a unique position and the provides with a deeper understanding of client’s business. This leads towards long sustainable relationships and repeat business, back-bone of surviving in this industry.
(3) The Working Philosophy: Our working philosophy is supported by three core pillars – Strategy (strategic consulting to our clients for their marketing and business needs), Content (creating compelling content to suit the client’s strategy with our best-in-class design and content team and in-house production department), and Communication (working with client to deploy various elements of marketing across strategically chosen channels). Hence, we strive to be the one-stop solution for our clients when it comes to brand management, marketing and advertising requirements.
What is the revenue model? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
Since we’re working to bring in process innovation in a traditional business, the revenue model is simple and straight forward i.e. of service fees. However, we charge a premium fees for the services that we get signed up for as we go far beyond in our approach, bring in strategic marketing inputs on board and provide a holistic marketing communications solution rather than only what is the expected deliverable. So you could say that we follow a Premium model.
A premium fees not only provides us the cushion of healthy margins to deliver high quality results, it also helps us working on the projects that both we and the client would care for. We focus on doing few high value premium projects rather than running around for too many low value projects and spreading ourselves too thin as a result.
Who are the consumers that you are targeting? How is this going to affect them?
We’re targeting consumers who would benefit from an Integrated Marketing approach. It could be SMEs, startups and even large MNCs and PSUs. But we focus on new age businesses who appreciate process innovation for bringing in efficiency and long-term results. We’ve worked with a range of brands across sectors and business segments. We aim to create differentiation through our integrated and deep work on the brand rather than focusing on a particular industry segment or niche.
What is the big picture of your startup? Will it lead to something bigger? If so, how?
That’s a tough question to answer as planning the future is as unpredictable as it can get. Big picture or vision for us is to become a brand management and marketing communication force to reckon with, a one-stop solution provider who is sought after for all things marketing. We would like to expand our service beyond Indian market and become a global force in our chosen market segment.
If done right, it could lead to becoming a leading force to drive innovation in an age-old industry, be a flag-bearer of a long due and much needed change and to be able to create sustainable value through our work.
What is the success story of your startup in your own words?
Our journey for last year has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride to say the least. After quitting my last job as a Head of Marketing for a well-funded and fast growing fashion startup, I was at crossroads as to where to lead my career from there on. Becoming a full-time entrepreneur had been a long time career dream but somehow it always got pushed. There were always too many factors to consider and something lucrative always came along as a good alternative to distract from taking the plunge.
This time, Sandeep, who is also my better half, suggested that I leave every short term distraction and focus what I would actually want to build as a legacy project. Since we had almost repaid all our MBA education loans and could comfortably survive on one salary, we started brainstorming around the possibilities.
A chance meeting with my long-time friend Vinay after a long day led to both of us discussing existential questions about life and career and where we were heading to. It’s generally in such moments that clarity strikes you. We both started developing our ideas which finally took the shape of The Rolling Circle®.
We worked for a couple of months for on-ground research, spoke to many stakeholders to get their inputs, put together a plan and model in place, worked out finances and other nitty-gritties of building a business from the ground up. By that time, we were convinced that we had something that deserved a chance and Vinay also quit his job and we both started working full-time on this.
We converted my living room as our temporary office and started working out of there. Even before we started working full-time, we had a paying client and a project from my part-time Digital Marketing class. We successfully delivered on that got client’s satisfaction with our work. This further strengthened our belief and slowly we started doing a lot of meetings. This was our learning phase. We always managed to get some or other paying projects to keep bootstrapping our business brick by brick.
By November, we had 3 clients and big enough projects to fund our team’s expansion. We hired our first employee in November, 2016 and grew rapidly from there. We shifted into a premium co-working office space on new year 2017 and were super busy for next 4 months being flush with large projects. The biggest challenge became to grow a solid team to support this hyper-growth and that’s something we still continue to grapple with.
Last month, we’ve shifted into our first small private office and have also got two retainer accounts. Hence, we have made the journey that started in a corner of my living room to our private office and a small yet effective team of 6 members. Dealing with constant rejection, challenging deliverable and unrealistic expectations, missed or delayed payments and working with finances, both on the personal front and to build and grow the business have been the biggest challenges for us and we’re still on our way to work with those.
I would say, we’ve just started our journey and are taking baby steps. There is a long way ahead and we’re confident that it will be a journey worth taking.
Any other information about your startup that you would like to share with us.
Rolling Circle Pvt. Ltd. is a one-stop brand management and content production solution. Under the brand name of The Rolling Circle®, we work in a boutique fashion. The idea is to work closely with the brand like an integrated team (deep work) and help to nurture the brand in its journey. We’ve helped and continue to work with early stage startups/brands to help create and nurture a compelling brand identity.
In our year-long journey, some of the brands we have worked with, on a regular basis, are ONGC (India’s largest PSU), SPWLA-India (India chapter of world-renowned society of energy scientists), Mintifi (a fast growing Fintech start-up helmed by IIT-B alumni), Care24 (on-demand healthcare service provider at home), Hygienetech (leading corporate hygiene solutions provider) and WondrBox (an e-commerce monthly subscription based children’s engagement activity brand) etc.
Thanks Ritu. Best of luck!