The word ‘Branding’ came from “brandr”, a word used by early Norse tribesmen, meaning, “to burn”. It was used to brand livestock to declare ownership. Not only did that help identify the cows as belonging to a particular cowherd, but when meat was sold in markets, buyers could identify good quality through the brand on a particular cattle. Soon people realised that just quality wasn’t enough, the product had to be named and tagged. Surely, branding has come a long way since the early ages and companies still understand this need to establish their identity.
Making a difference in this space is Bangalore-based Origami Creative Concepts (Origami) that provides low cost services for several companies, across verticals including IT, outsourcing, media, entertainment and hospitality, offering everything from creative brand consulting to internal communication to social media management.
The company commenced its operations in 2001 when the economy was fairly unstable. While they faced competition from the advertising biggies, they also landed an opportunity in the midst of a crumbling economy. “Fortunately for us, the recession created the atmosphere for many companies to seek low-cost advertising needs. Many of the clients shifted from the biggies in the ad world and turned to smaller firms like ours. Once they realised that we provide good quality creatives at low costs, (low overheads since we were a startup), they stayed on,” quips Ravi D’Abreo, one of the founders and director of Origami.
We figured that our expertise was in creating ideas. We could identify with our client’s needs, and our job was to establish the connect between our client and their consumer,” says D’Abreo.
But despite the tremendous opportunity, it wasn’t an easy ride. The company started off as an advertising agency, but realised that it was not able to function this way. “Advertising is based on space selling and how much money one can make out of it. The agencies offer the space based on the requirement and the creatives are available for free,” says D’Abreo. As a startup, they were not able to compete. Their expertise was in creatives and not in space selling. And soon they decided to focus on creative ideas, which had an opportunity in itself.
Identifying their niche
“We could identify with our client’s needs, and our job was to establish the connect between our client and their consumer,” says D’Abreo. Origami believes in keeping the message simple and focus on removing the jargon out of brand communication.
Today, brand communication is only one aspect of the services offered by Origami. Their service offerings include internal communication, brand engineering (establishing the brand before communicating it to the target audience) and creative design among others. “At a broad level, there are two aspects that are important here: generating the creative idea and then spreading these ideas to a specific audience through the relevant medium,” explains D’Abreo.
An innovative partnership model
Origami has opted for an interesting expansion strategy. Says D’Abreo, “We figured that we could expand by roping in more employees, but we opted for a partnership model”. Their foray into brand engineering was through a partnership with two fairly experienced brand engineers Rahul and Roby to form a new entity BloomBox. “There are a few advantages with the partnership model. As partners, the value-addition from the new members is more committed and it also made financial sense in terms of expansion expenditure,” explains D’Abreo.
Origami has also established two other partnerships ‘Missing Piece’ for creative outsourcing for the Middle East market and ‘Chirping Bird’ to dive into social media management. Whether it is adding new services or tapping into markets in other countries, Origami’s strategy is to expand through partnerships. “We brought in partners from Dubai to establish our presence in the Middle East. The client servicing team is in Dubai while the creative team is in Bangalore. The creatives are made here and the communication happens through various free facilities like Gtalk and other video conferencing technology,” explains D’Abreo.
Origami’s 2009 revenues stand at Rs. 4 crore. The company plans to raise Rs. 10 crore to expand its business. But the idea is not just to raise money but also partner with like-minded people who can value add strategically to Origami. “There has to be knowledge transfer to enhance the way we work.” says D’Abreo.
“We are coming out of a bad market. The last two years has been very trying and to our credit we are still around to tell a story,” he explains. Several prospective partners that have seen value in their business-model for creative outsourcing and have reached out to establish partnerships in Singapore, UK and South Africa. “We are not sure how this is going to turn out. But I think atleast two of these alliances will work out. The partnership model that has worked for us in the Middle East is something we can replicate in several geographies,” says D’Abreo.
D’Abreo approach to business is clear. He says, “Origami is not only about money but about the sheer pleasure of doing what we love doing. What brought the whole team together was that we wanted to do something that we enjoy more than anything else”. Clearly, no one has Monday morning blues at Origami!