It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times depending on your outlook towards life.
Information on the web travels so fast that one may feel as if several events of importance are taking place all over the globe simultaneously. Indeed there may have been times when one feels practically helpless, upon realizing that there was no way he or she could understand everything that was happening around the world. The world is a complex place because, today more than ever before, more and more people are sharing information with more and more people from every corner of the world and all of us are interacting constantly to create change and value.
There is so much happening.
On a personal level, one has dreams and aspirations since one has seen the standards of living that are possible, good and bad. On a professional level, one can literally choose to be anything, provided he or she is able to access the right information and delve deep into his or her subject of interest. What about brands and companies who make all our products and think about innovative services? An atmosphere of proactiveness and learning, in order to harness the best of technology and people ought to keep them in good stead.
Today, at Bangalore Insider, we spoke to Aatef, the founder of Togglehead, a digital agency based out of Mumbai. Apart from filling us in about his personal journey, he gave us a few insights about running a new age digital firm in this day and age of information overload.
Give a brief info about your startup?
Togglehead is a leading independent digital agency of storytellers and digital enthusiasts; we narrate brand stories with a Toggler’s Twist! While social media, web development, and digital advertising form the core areas of work, it is our ability to combine the trio that enables us to provide an optimum and holistic communication map for the brand.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
The agency is the manifestation of a dream that best friends usually share. Back in 2012, Akshay, Krish, and I noticed the difference between a strategy that merely gets a brand heard, and a strategy that promotes action. The former happens when a concept only adheres to the rules of Marketing, and the latter is the result of a thorough understanding of Branding & Marketing.
Fueled by a strong passion for digital communication, our core values at Togglehead are research, personalization, and innovation.
We take the guesswork out of digital marketing and rationalize each decision before jumping onto the bandwagon of trends! Bridging the gap between creativity and technology, we use online analytics to pinpoint the ideal target audience and make sure that brands aren’t wasting their time in the digital cacophony, waiting to be heard.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Before my entrepreneurial journey began, I had stints in the fields of Business Development, Digital Marketing, and Public Relations. Though distinct, each of these experiences was vital in the foundation needed for Togglehead. I first started working at Peninsula Land as a Business Development Executive while pursuing a graduate degree in Management Studies. A year later, I moved onto a digital agency, Skarma, where I worked as a Marketing Consultant. As a second-year grad student, there were times balancing work and college got difficult; however, it was here that I explored my passion by delivering creative strategies for their brands/ initiatives, including ‘Searching for Goodness.
I switched to an integrated communications agency, Tute Consult, in the final year of my course. My experience here, though for a brief period of eight months, helped me develop a unique and holistic approach towards communication, one that merges the line between Branding & Marketing while maintaining its distinctiveness.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
We’re based out of Mumbai; however, we cater to brands across the globe. Mumbai is often known as the business hub of India, and the fact that it is our home-town is just an added benefit! At the time of inception, it was wise for us to stay within a place we were well acquainted with and put all our focus into developing a concrete foundation.
Today, with eight years of experience in working with brands worldwide, we are planning to expand our presence in Delhi and Bangalore shortly.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Honestly, I’ve always been the kind of person who prepares for the worst. Further, my role as a mentor doesn’t allow bouts of stress or anxiety. Over the years, I have learned to maintain a positive and proactive attitude; I overlook the working of the agency and intervene as a support system when unforeseen situations arise.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
There are a number of digital agencies in the industry, Wat Consult, Kinnect, and The Glitch to name a few, all working towards the same goal but with different roadmaps. The ‘Creative’ industry wouldn’t stand true to its name if we were all identical, now would it? Thus said, I respect the distinctiveness of competitors, and although we’re much younger, I believe that it’s our holistic approach and personalized twist that sets us apart.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
In the beginning, a work-life balance seemed like a far-fetched dream, but today, it’s reality. With the technology available at our finger-tips, it’s very easy, especially for people in the digital field to work around the clock. Further, building the foundation of a start-up is certainly not a cake-walk and requires complete dedication. I’ve skipped personal commitments to meet unrealistic work deadlines, some that I set for myself too! However, it was much later into the business when recurring frustration led me to realize the importance of a healthy balance.
While personal and work commitments will continue to add on to our schedule, we shouldn’t overlook self-care. For me, exercise is a must every day; it refreshes my mind and body, thereby helping me maintain a calm and poised demeanor. I’ve ingrained these lessons into my work ethics and make sure all in the agency, myself included, take time off-screens and enjoy work as a part of life, not life itself.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
As the Co-founder & Director of New Business/ Strategy, I’m the external face of the agency, thereby minimizing my interaction with several internal teams that I don’t directly overlook. There have been times when, due to my position, people have felt intimidated to approach me directly.
However, we follow an open-door policy in the office, literally. On the contrary, my department heads never have to wait long for approval; my replies to both emails and messages are prompt. As for those from the internal teams who’ve joined me for meetings have had an instant change of perception.
What gets you excited about this company?
The challenge that I wake up to every day! The digital industry is ever-evolving; it’s a ground sprouting with new opportunities and redefined benchmarks each day. In this scenario, obstacles only provide the thrill to pacify your passion when your team of over 100 shares the same enthusiasm as you.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
You probably won’t enjoy a day in my life if you’re not a cat person! I am one of the ‘early to bed, early to rise’ people; my day starts at 8 a.m. with a prayer, following which I map out the day’s schedule. Once I’ve established my tasks, I usually catch up with the happenings of the industry and share relevant updates with the team. I make sure to schedule my meetings either in the first or the second half of the day, to spend the other half working with my internal teams in the office. Once at work, I follow a daily routine of team meetings with my departments to help them prioritize their day, answer questions, and provide feedback on updates if any. We also have daily Director meetings to make sure our departments are tandem with one another. The hustle is real, but fun! There have been times when I’ve taken these meetings/ updates on call while traveling for another pitch. A usual day at work concludes at around 6.30 p.m. with personal commitments lined up for the rest of the day. This is when I hit the gym, relieve my body and mind of the day’s struggle and enter home refreshed. At home, there isn’t much of a routine that we follow, we catch up with each other while munching over dinner. Usually, I catch up on my read of the week just before hitting the bed.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Akshay, Krish and I share a friendship that goes way back to childhood. While Akshay and I attended the same school, we met Krish at tuition the three of us attended. If only we knew that we would share a business, then! Each of us took up separate paths after school, Akshay flew to California for further studies, Krish specialized in Technology, and I worked my way, alongside studies, to realize my passion for digital communication. It was only after graduation in 2012 that we all reunited at a party and discussed our plans. Much like a play of serendipity, we shared similar interests and instantly decided to explore the opportunity of starting a firm. Six months down the line, in December 2012, we held the inauguration of our first office and haven’t looked back since then!
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