At his own pace

At his own pace

Sharad Haksar’s advertising agency, 1Point Size, much like the man, maintains a sense of calm despite being in the hub of activity. And even as the harrowed staff of 1Point Size is managing unexpected visitors, workflow and even a visit from Haksar’s pug Gizmo, Haksar’s roomy corner cabin is quiet and allows for free flow of conversation.

The award winning photographer starts by telling you that he hasn’t really slept in the past five days because he was busy with a reshoot of photographs for a local client. Just when you’re wondering how this would have affected his advertising agency, comes the surprise – the shoot was for a client of his advertising firm. Turns out wearing more than one hat does have its pain points.

There is so much clutter in the market that one has to come up with something fresh and radical to stand out.

“The client rejected our original idea, but when his idea didn’t work, he came back to us for help. So, we had to get the job done,” says Haskar, matter-of-factly. Typical ad agency day then? “Not really. You see, we don’t really function like any other ad agency. The client must be kept happy, but not at the cost of creativity. It’s the reason we even started out.”

One point agenda
Haksar’s decision to diversify from photography to advertising in 2002 has a Jerry Maguire-ish ring to it. “I was tired of just shooting pretty pictures and wanted to go beyond it. I roped in my friends, copywriter Anantha Narayan and art director C. P. Sajith (who is not with the company anymore), and we started with the idea of breaking away from the trappings of a big agency and doing quality work. ” Ten years later, the agency has stayed true to its initial idea.

Snap Shot

Founders: Sharad Haksar, Anantha Narayan, C. P. Sajith
Year: 2003
City: Chennai
Funding: Rs. 50,000
Concept: Boutique advertising agency that does uber creative work

The small team of 18 people at 1PointSize have their hands full with work ranging from Kama Sutra condoms, Pasta Bar Veneto, Anteedote, Stay Zilla, Inch & Iodine and a few more. But Haksar isn’t looking to hire more people or set up more offices. “I like that we are a small agency. Whether a client gives us business of Rs. 1 crore or Rs. 8 crore, we give the work equal importance. And if we don’t gel with a client, we just don’t do business with them. We work on relationships.”

Haksar’s work ethics also lends credence to the agency. “We go beyond budgets. Just because you can afford a double page centre spread doesn’t mean we blindly recommend it to you and make our margins. If a corner slot ad will work just fine, we go with that.” Add to that, the ability to be nimble enough to meet any deadline – be it three weeks or 24 hours.

Also, he’s not a big fan of celebrity endorsements. “Using a celebrity should be done very intelligently. Else, it just shows that agency ran out of ideas,” he says. “For instance, Aamir Khan was used excellently in the older Coke ads. I can’t say the same for a lot of the ads that have Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan.”

Market research junkies won’t necessarily find favour with Haksar. “I think market research is just a convenient excuse to cover you’re a**. One has to learn to understand audiences instinctively.”

Once a photographer…
Maintaining the boutique format also gives Haksar the breathing space to pursue his photography at Eye Light Pictures. He’s gung ho about One Eyeland, an online community for photographers. His advertisements too strongly reflect his sensibilities as a photographer, with most of them relying of captivating visuals than any other element. “There is so much clutter in the market that one has to come up with something fresh and radical to stand out,” he explains.

Haksar’s maverick ways have earned him another perk – most clients who come to him, do so because they want something innovative. “While on one hand, this puts a lot of pressure on us, it is great because one, it’s a huge compliment and two, we have the freedom to explore.”

But doesn’t having a base in Chennai turn out to be something of a disadvantage given that the ad circuit’s big playgrounds are Mumbai and Delhi? “If I wanted to move, I would have moved to London or New York,” is Haksar’s first reaction. But a couple of moments later he adds, “I guess it is a disadvantage, but I’m comfortable in Chennai. I was born and brought up here. And I like that I can take things at my pace here. Besides, we are starting to get noticed now.” Besides he says, small firms are all the rage now, citing Taproot as an example.

Gazing ahead
While looking ahead, Haksar is most excited about the digital medium. “I firmly believe that it is the way to go in the future. The scope for innovation is boundless and with mobile Internet and tablets everywhere, I think this the medium that will grab most eyeballs.”
As for the growth plans for his agency, Haksar is eyeing international markets over the next five years. “The digital medium will make this possible. I’m sure we will be able to attract clients globally with our work.”

Are there any more hats he would like to don? “I’m really interested in interior design,” he says, but quickly turns down the thought of starting an interior designing firm. His camera lens calendar (priced at a neat US $2000) is hugely popular and he’s now toying with the idea of designing innovative clocks. And to think that the National Institute of Design actually turned down his application. “I don’t get the same insane focus for academics,” says the man, who shrugged off the rejection and picked up the camera at 17, never to look back.

Ask him if he has any regrets, he answers, “Well, none really. I would have loved to be a travel photographer with National Geographic. But this is good too.” Indeed.

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