Friday, September 26, 2014

Men who Matter : Prateek N. Kumar, MD & CEO, NeoNiche Integrated Solutions

Prateek N Kumar “THE MILESTONE MAN”, is the CEO & Managing Director of NeoNiche Integrated Solutions.
His first successful ‘campaign’ was back in the 7th standard for the ‘client’, his friend running a fire-cracker stall during Diwali. Their full return on investment was a staggering 800%. It has been almost 25 years to the day. And the young boy’s enthusiasm, passion and entrepreneurial bugs have only been biting harder.
After starting his career in hospitality and hotel management, he shared in the growth stories with a number of startup event agencies. These gave him tremendous on-ground exposure and hands-on learning. With a dream of creating an agency that would be loved by every stakeholder- clients, vendor partners and employees alike – was NeoNiche born. Idea-driven, Innovation-focused and Insightful- these core qualities became the DNA and driving force of the organization.
Breaking the mold and challenging the status quo is a daily ritual. With his head in the skies and feet firmly on the ground, Prateek is as Prateek does. Driven by passion, his versatility and adaptability, people-skills and big-picture view-point make him the leader he is. His greatest strength is the ability to pick the right person for the right job, create self-sustaining and profitable ventures and then stepping aside to let the new leaders take the baton forward. Then, he sets his eyes on the next target and begins the march forward- perhaps that’s why they call him ‘The Milestone Man’.
An avid blogger and voracious reader, he is a passionate activist for animal rights and related social causes.
Here he talks exclusively to about his vision, the emerging integrated experimental marketing space and NeoNiche. Excerpts:
Q1. What is  “integrated experiential marketing” – the space where NeoNiche is placing itself?
Ans :- We understand that any marketing campaign or events cannot exist in silos .There are different audiences who have different receptiveness and each of these demographics of audience have different triggers that different brands are trying to connect with by creating experience across different mediums both online and on ground….Era of social media and smart devises have blurred the lines between traditional Ad agencies and Event agencies …these is where NeoNiche comes in.
Q2. Who are your potential customers? What kind of numbers have you achieved so far?
Ans: Our clientele is spread across different Industry verticals right from IT, ITES, BFSI, Manufacturing, Media, Healthcare and lifestyle, many of these clients are spread across the globe. We have been able to keep the business profitable with a focus of bringing values to our stakeholders be it Clients, Partners, Employee or Society. From beginning our focus has been to create lasting relationship rather than always looking at the bottom-line.
Q3. Going ahead, what are your immediate plans for the future? Where do you see yourself 5 years down the line?
Ans: Our immediate plan for the future is to create a value based solutions for Startups and SMB segment, who have either limited or non-existent marketing budget. A performance driven model with profit sharing as we think that lot of innovations can be created in this untapped segment. It’s difficult to outline the specifics 5 year down the line, what I can truly say is that in 5 years NeoNiche will be creating more values for its Stakeholders be it our Clients, our ecosystem partners, our employees and society in general.
Q4. How did you move into the world of BTL? What promise does it hold for a market like India?
Ans: Honestly its providence, My parents wanted me to become a doctor I chose hotel management instead as my preferred career .However, I was more interested in abstract ideas and organizing Rose Days, Prom Nights and many of those events that you see in any campuses rather than making and serving delicacies. BTL was still largely unorganized space and I landed up here .On a lighter vain I always blame it on “Road Less travelled” by Robert Frost. I frankly believe that the line is blurring between traditional “Above The Line” (ATL) and “Below The Line” (BTL) agencies .Digital and social media advancement has given rise to another form “Beyond The Line” where it is all about experiences ….for a country like ours which has diaspora of culture ,demographics and geographies lot is yet to happen as we advance in places beyond Metros and Tier I cities and as more and more smaller cities and villages are connected by better roads and amenities ,electricity and internet connectivity creating level playing field a new and almost untapped set of target audiences will create opportunities’ for Brand and Marketers.
Q5. What are the specific areas that you want to concentrate immediately? Which domains have warmed up to BTL already?
Ans: “Campaign in a Box” as a offering for SMB is our immediate focus .Almost all B2C brands and quite a few B2B brands have embraced a more robust Marketing Mix with ATL, BTL and Digital as part of their strategies.
Q6. What is your advice to the fence sitters?
Ans: The moment you think you have got the answers someone comes along the way and changes the very question, Customer is truly a Queen / king with so many information and options ,to win the trust and to connect with her or him constantly in a very user driven non-intrusive way.
Q7. As a self professed “Social Media Junkie” what are your views on social media integration so that your expertise can be made to go viral using the social media space?
Ans: Social media is still a very untapped domain where marketing a brand is concerned ,However, utilizing the right mix of Social handles starts from understanding your TG as it helps in establishing relevance, grab eyeballs, raise awareness, build relationships at a personal level, create memories, increase loyalty, encourage interactions and stimulate positive WOM.
Q8. Anything that you would like to communicate to our readers.  
Ans: We do live in exiting times where many of us have evolved from using Trunk Calls to STD Booths to Smart phones ,From Super Mario to Temple Run on our Smart Phones, from Pager to Smart Phones, From Camera to  Smart Phones, From DVD to Smart Phones ,,From Remote to Smart phones From Branch banking to ATMs to Smart Phone Banking …….My wild guess is as good as yours after the invention of Wheel possibly we are standing at the cusp of another  devise which is bound to change the human race.

SME TIMES: Brand building key to small business growth, Prateek N Kumar

Today's customer is more informed and advent of social media have changed them from user to influencers in true sense, today the success of a brand lies in creating emotional connect with their Target Group (TG), one which changes "brand promise" to "brand action", Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of NeoNiche Integrated Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Prateek N. Kumar told SME Times in an exclusive interview.

He said that the era of "one size fits all" and "rack listed services" are over, Brands today does not talk about tangible products but intangible experience that they create. One way communication has changed to one to one and one to many, he added.

Excerpts of the interview...

Please tell our readers more about your group - NeoNiche.
Prateek N Kumar: NeoNiche Integrated is an experiential marketing company which acts as an extended marketing team to the clients that we serve. We conceptualize multidisciplinary brand building strategies across different platforms be it online - digital and social, or on ground through customer contact programs, events and exhibitions. At the core of our offering lies our value proposition of Ideas, Innovation & Insight

What other services you have? In what ways you can help Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)?
Prateek N Kumar: Our services helps our clients reach out to their Customers, Channels and Employees both offline and online to create positive connections .For SMEs we have a dedicated offering "SME Konnect" which works on basic cost of operation and profit sharing model. By doing this we take care that our SME clients are not burdened by huge budget constraints and every initiative pays for itself. Under this initiative, our SME clients get robust communication campaigns for their target audience across different geographies. It helps them reach out to a large audience and create focused loyalty programs for their existing client base. I also adds a professional approach to their sales pipeline creation.

From Small and Medium Business (SMB) point of view...Brand or Product - which is more important?
Prateek N Kumar: Not only for SMEs but for any enterprise, while "Product" is important the identity or "Brand" is what creates the connection much beyond the realm of a single product or service. However important a product /service may be for a particular time with time they tend to become obsolete but eventually the "Brand" takes the other offerings of the Organization forward.

Why brand is so important? Your views.
Prateek N Kumar: The moment you think you have got all the answers someone comes along the way and changes the very question, eventually new technologies, services and products are invented, upgraded and old ones are discarded ultimately it’s the brand which stands for the promise that we make to our Customers for current set of products and services as well as the new ones that will come in the future.

What is Below the line (BTL) advertising? How important is BTL for promoting a brand?
Prateek N Kumar: We do live in exciting times, where things change with a blink of an eye. Today speed-to-market with the right message, at the right time, through the right channel while maintaining brand consistency, coordinating with multiple internal and external stake holders, developing actionable insights are clear challenges that a brand faces and the same is better addressed by BTL Campaigns because they stress targeted and customer-centric communications and create more effective results and ROI metrics.

What kind of brands seek to benefit most from BTL?
Prateek N Kumar: Any kind of Brands from any industry as long as they carry relevant messaging and converts "Brand Promise" to "Brand Action" will benefit from BTL Campaigns .

Why BTL is a better return on marketing investment?
Prateek N Kumar: Today branding is a function of media fragmentation. More channels and more newspaper reaching out to diverse customer base, makes it harder for marketers to reach a truly mass audience. Simply stated, above-the-line marketing that utilizes generic messages to build awareness is no longer the best way to influence customer behavior. Also The shift from ATL to BTL spending is in part the result of changing consumer attitudes; more sophisticated consumers demand relevant messaging that engages them in a dialogue and allows them to interact with the brand through their preferred communication channels.

Capital in hand is a big issues for most of SMEs in India. In that case what kind of marketing strategy is the best for them?
Prateek N Kumar: Small businesses do suffer from lack of funds that a large enterprise enjoys; but that does not mean creating brand name is expensive. SMEs just need to find the most cost effective way to promote their brand. First do a little research and decide what will be the best medium to reach the target audience. Think of unique ways to communicate with their target audience. Apply innovative approach like Profit sharing rather than cost based model with "Agencies", or Utilize online tools. Etc.

How you see the Social & Digital Marketing?
Prateek N Kumar: While the current BTL trends are exciting lot is yet to happen when a marketer will face a new set of challenges with new and yet to be invented technology and devices …The biggest challenge will be to be less intrusive yet establish a more relevant one on one connection. I frankly believe that the line is blurring between traditional "Above The Line" (ATL) and "Below The Line" (BTL) marketing .Digital and social media advancement has given rise to another form "Through The Line" where it is all about experiences ….for a country like ours which has diaspora of culture ,demographics and geographies lot is yet to happen as we advance in places beyond Metros and Tier I cities and as more and more smaller cities and villages are connected by better roads and amenities ,electricity and internet connectivity creating level playing field a new and almost untapped set of target audiences will create opportunities’ for Brand and Marketers where marketing will be through smart devices and even more personalized….For brands life within the pixel will change

Your group - NeoNiche also helps in aligning employees and channel to deliver the brand promise to customers and help clients build strong footprints. Please tell something more on this. (How do you do this?)
Prateek N Kumar: As stated earlier we conceptualize multidisciplinary brand building strategies across different platforms be it online - digital and social, or on ground through customer contact programs, events and exhibitions through our value proposition of Ideas, Innovation & Insights.

What do you have for start-up companies? Also suggest that what kind of advertising tool they must apply in their plan so they can generate more and more business?
Prateek N Kumar: We have offerings like "SME Konnect" based on Cost plus profit model where we partner startups in true sense there are other offerings like "Seminar in a Box" where we template the touch points between Startups and their TG.

Tell something about the importance of establishing an emotional connect with customers today. Why and How?
Prateek N Kumar: The era of "one size fits all" and "rack listed services" are over, Brands today does not talk about tangible products but intangible experience that they create, One way communication has changed to one to one and one to many. Today's customer is more informed and advent of social media have changed them from user to influencers in true sense, Today the success of a brand lies in creating emotional connect with their TG, One which changes "brand promise" to "brand action" . 

See more at:

Everything Experiential : Your Life Within The Pixel Will Change – Prateek N Kumar, MD & CEO, NeoNiche

Prateek started his career with Sercon India Pvt. Ltd (now a part of WPP group), a BTL agency that brought the concept of database management, audience acquisition, and lead generation seminars for B2B businesses. He then moved on to Shobiz Experiential Communications Pvt Ltd, where he started the Integrated Event Marketing Services Division and converted it into the largest profit centre within the organization both in terms of head-count and revenues within 5 years. Now the CEO and Managing Director of NeoNiche Integrated Solutions Pvt Ltd, EE got talking to the expert about the use of technology in Experiential Marketing and his predictions of the future.

A couple of years ago there were ad agencies and event agencies. An ad was perceived somewhere and executed by someone else, creating a disconnect. “We at NeoNiche try to fill that gap and erase the disconnect. We act as a marketing extension to the brand that we serve and then also carry out the execution of the event.” says Prateek N Kumar, Managing Director and CEO, NeoNiche Integrated Solutions Pvt Ltd. 
“The era of one size fits all has gone. There is a difference in the way you would approach a marketing situation in rural areas vs urban areas. The situation has changed, dependency on technology has increased, people are more technologically connected. Tech creates that synopsis and makes it easier to reach out to them directly.” says Prateek, commenting on the current scenario. “Newspaper ads die out, hoardings are mostly ignored by passersby and most of them are not even visible at night, while technology has made it easier for brands to reach out to their customers at a time they know they will get the attention and have a bigger impact.” says Prateek.

Giving examples of how NeoNiche used technology to execute events, Prateek said, “We created an experiential marketing campaign for one of our clients – – called Hackathon. The target audience of this event was mainly developers. Conferences were held in major cities, but there was a live streaming which also enabled all the people not physically present at the banquet to become a part of it. The event eventually reached out to pan India, while actually being physically carried out in a few urban cities. Technology enables you to do that. You could be at one place but you can reach out to millions at the same time.” The sky is no longer the limit.Technology enables the brand to reach out to its target audience in smaller, tier 3 cities. Such cities don’t usually have the infrastructure for events and it is difficult to convince brands to event in such cities. “There is a lot of expenditure involved plus there are a lot of difficulties that you have to face when it comes to conducting events in such cities. But that doesn’t mean you ignore that consumer base. Technology enables you to reach out to pan India, thus reaching those cities too which would otherwise have not experienced the campaign.” says Prateek.

It’s no news that execution of marketing events usually involves a lot of expenditure, and its usually big brands that have that kind of capital that are able to reach out to their consumer base easily. That’s where startups fall behind, but technology comes to the rescue. “If you’re looking at start ups who don’t have the bandwidth to spend millions, for them we have created an entire CRM system. So basically we create a level playing field – you receive the same thing that could be given to big enterprises.” says Prateek.

Predictions in technology developments?
“10 years back was a generation of Internet 1.0 – where everyone was basically talking about the internet, e-mails, etc. Then came Internet 2.0 where people began talking about social media marketing which include Twitter, Facebook, etc. We are now moving on to a digital era where we are using experiential medium in a digital space. So in the future Google Glass, Google Earth, and social handles will evolve more.” says Prateek. Evolution of social handles? “Till date you have been utilising Facebook as to what Facebook offers you and not really what you would want it to do. Soon it is going to be an era of users in which customizing power will lie in your hands. Before Facebook came into the picture there was Orkut and Hi5. Who even talks about those now? That’s because consolidation happened with Facebook as Facebook gave you everything that these sites combined did along with youtube and tagging access. For a country like India that is still developing, as power and electricity reaches out to more cities there will be an evolution of mobile devices. Your life within the pixel will change.” says Prateek.

How does experiential marketing help brands that are not tangible?
 “Everyone is talking about experiences. No brand in today’s date is really talking about what they do. For eg Coke is a means to happiness which is an experience. They are not talking about the taste of coke but what it will make you feel like. Similarly mobile handsets are not telling you that you will be able to make calls for them or send messages. They tell you how using them you will stay connected with your near and dear ones and ease your life. Anyone and everyone is talking about experiences, be it a brand that has a tangible product or a brand that offers service.” says Prateek.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the experience.

See more at:

SOCIAL PROMA: Exclusive Interview:Prateek N. Kumar,MD & CEO -NeoNiche Integrated Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

An Industry veteran Prateek was in the startup team of Sercon India Pvt. Ltd  and was instrumental in setting up company’s branch offices in Mumbai, Bangalore & Chennai, This success led to him being invited to join the core group of Shobiz  a Stage management company at that time where he started the Integrated Event Marketing Services Division and converted it into the largest profit centre within the organization both in terms of headcount and revenues within 5 years. With more than 13 Years of Industry expertise Prateek also features as Industry Faculty and have been invited for Guest Lectures in IHM Mumbai, Welingkars, EMDI and other notable Institutions. An avid Blogger, Reader and self-proclaimed Social Media junkie  Prateek is very passionate about Animal Rights and welfare and devotes his free time for the betterment of Stray Animals…He lives in Mumbai with his wife 2 Furkids and Twin Sons ….His motto to live this world a bit better than when he arrived here.
 What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
The desire to create something new which was grossly missing in my earlier job, the desire for autonomy, The desire to create an Agency which served all its stakeholders be it Employee, Vendor Partners, Clients and Society and lastly the potent need to leave a legacy in the form of a profitable long-lasting business.
Tell us about the whole team and how do you manage the venture?
Every member of NeoNiche Team lives by the tenets of “Ideas. Innovation. Insight”…..To create something of value you have to first break all set rules ….Out here there is a reverse appraisals, Where subordinates grill their bosses ,No family members of the Directors are allowed to join the Organization which helps us in being rational and transparent at all times……You can understand or culture by the fact that our Directors are known by nicknames like ,”Milestone Man”, “The Firefighter”, “The Go To Guy”, ”Jack of all trades” , “Last Man Standing” and “Mr. Jugaad”… these nicknames came into being because of personal characteristics….I was largely lucky because of the kind of team that is there with me …..In essence very complementary.
Tell us about your three major challenges and how did you overcome them?
Our only major challenge was Money or rather the lack of it, We did not had any money in the beginning and barely pooled in money to form the Company ,To make the company profitable and to break-even  faster we decided not to take any salaries for first 6 months ,Brought our Laptops, printers etc. from home to save money .However, we never for a moment doubted that we would not succeed …In retrospect that passion or foolhardiness more than made up for any challenges that we may have faced.
How do you see your business where you have so many big and small competitors in the market?
I believe competition is always good for the Industry and customers that we serve…It keeps you hungry and does not allow you to become complacent ….Moreover, If  organization has a value to add it succeeds in a long run.
What is your differentiating factor?
NeoNiche provides services across different spectrum of “Marketing Mix” ….what our clients get is a single window for all their marketing needs ,like On ground Events, Online Digital campaigns ,etc. We understand that the era of rack listed services are gone and you need to first understand the “Brand” and then customize the offering to better suit the people who matter most to it Customer, Channels or the Employees.
How has been response so far for the business?
It is always difficult to score your first win be it hiring the first employee, closing the first Vendor Partner or getting the first project after that if you have delivered it’s just a matter of time before people start trusting you with their “Brand” …..We have been fortunate enough to get clients who trusted us and then spoke about us which helped us in getting more clients.
What are your future plans?
To create more value for the ecosystem that we exist in ,drive more Innovation in the way that we are currently doing business and add more value to the society that we live in.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Digital & social media, an unconventional career

I had written the following article for the readers of  Daily Pioneer Newspaper

I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost (The Road Not Taken)

If one is contemplating to take digital and social media as a career option, here is a word of caution. This option is unlike the traditional career path that your friends may want to pursue.

Unlike doctors, engineers, accountants and lawyers, the trajectory of digital and social media is very different —  it is not clearly outlined in an employee manual. In fact, one will have to create ones own career roadmap. One will have to draw on all of the resources, learn to trust yourself and do it all while the people around you tell you to ‘get a real job’.

If you’re looking toward a career in social media management, it’s best to start building the roadmap as early as possible, since one won’t get any examples or past veterans to idolize an option available to more traditional media careers.

Here is what every aspiring digital and social media professional should know about this career.

It’s all about communication and creativity:
If you are good with words and images ,if you have the gift of the gab varying right from slapstick to intense ,there is a brand suitable to your characteristic. So hone the skills. As an official representative of a brand, a social media manager has to have clarity, accuracy and tact in communicating with customers, employees and the media.

Build personal social media handles:
This will help you to create strong connections by expressing a sincere, earnest attitude and you’ll have better chances of success.

Pursue an educational qualification in communications and creative:All digital and social media enthusiast need to have a skill such kind of courses will come in handy

Learn more about brands and marketing: 
Read books, articles and talk to people remotely connected with this discipline. Even if social media roles aren’t immediately available in India and still growing this can potentially open the door to a full-time social media role when the company is ready to take their marketing strategy to the next level, which happens quite often.

Volunteer for an NGO:Try volunteering for an NGO and help them in building a robust social media. Apart from giving one a reason of being a part of a worthy cause this will help one in creating connections and gives one a feel of the job with much less pressure.

The good news: 
Social media management is GenX’s playground so people in this field if they are good grow very fast with less cluttered hierarchy. So, what are the kind of designation that exist in this field today is something left to the imagination of individual organization and varies from; manager digital and social media, digital evangelist, Internet marketing manager, etc.

The road less travelled may not have the navigation compass or the map but the journey is worth it, we choose it because something within us tells us we must. So, keep climbing because the view from the summit is truly breath taking.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Creating meaningful experiences not campaigns :What does it take

My article that got published in "All about Outdoors"
Lot has changed and lot will, not only for the Brands' but also for people and organizations working in the Experiential Marketing domain. Globalization and technology advancement is shaping the way we perceive and see things today like never before. Strategies, tactics, and operational processes that just a decade ago reigned supreme, now look a little out of sync, when viewed through today's brand perspective.
As the line between traditional ATL and BTL have started blurring, marketers have started looking for more robust Marketing mix, one which will interact with consumers in unbelievable ways at various touch points, allowing brands to come alive for the TG by creating connections between brand and consumer, in their personal world. These connections should be formed by experiences that are personally unique but relevant to the consumer, it should be memorable for them, it should be interactive, and it should invoke emotion and lead to sales and brand loyalty.
Unlike traditional marketing, experiential marketing tries to tap that special trigger within the consumers’ mind space, one which invokes thoughts about comfort and pleasure, as well as inspiring a sense of practicality. This implies that the marketer needs to have a firm grip on the mindset of the target audience he or she wishes to attract. By understanding what the consumer is likely to think and feel, it is possible to get an idea of how to steer the customer in a direction that will relate with the product,but to do that it is important to engage as many of the senses as possible. Striking displays with powerful visual elements, such as websites, and visual media such as Print Ads, Billboards and mailers should not only be visually appealing, but also conjure up imagination and sensations that are relevant to the individual. When a Marketer or an agency creates customer experiences of this nature, a sense of rapport between the Brand and its consumer is established that helps to make the offerings more desirable with each encounter.
Well guess what, that ads on the Internet, or in print media, and on modern billboards must immediately catch the attention of prospective clients and hold that attention long enough to make an impact.  Success for brand lies in and making the connection quickly and seamlessly, Clients today are looking for agencies which can grow up the value chain from being a vendor to a true marketing partner, one who understands their brand essence and promise and provides ‘Value for money' solutions rather than rack-listed services, Agencies which are capable of rolling out that magic campaign which makes those connection with the prospect and retain that mindshare.
We as a Marketers or Agencies servicing these brands, can pat our back only if we are able to roll out integrated campaigns both online and offline across different mediums. The Campaigns which can establish relevance, grab eyeballs, raise awareness, build relationships at a personal level, create memories, increase loyalty, encourage interactions and stimulate positive WOM, and last but not the least however clichéd it may sound one which has a tangible  return on marketing investment.
 Living politics aside, the “AAP Phenomenon” will be one of the most discussed, debated, diagnosed and dissected case study at all social and corporate do’s of 2014.One which can highlight at great length how budget becomes secondary when you have an “Out of the Box” idea which makes connection with the TG and uses Guerilla Marketing, Door to door connection and Social Media canvassing ….One of the best ROI I must say…..
We do live in exciting times, where things change within a blink of an eye. What keeps all of us who are a part of this exciting discipline called marketing on the go, is our undying passion, that adventurous streak, our affinity for challenges and that gush of adrenalin when it all falls together...Those "moments of truth", knowledge of a work well done and we are ready for the next challenge....aren't we?