Interviews

Dream big and dare to fail is the mantra of Pravin Shah, CEO, Six Inches Communications

  1. Tell us something about Six Inches and the legs the company operates into?

We are an organization that believes “those who dare, profit”. Six Inches is a 12 year old branding, strategy and creative agency that delves right at the point of inflection, where all the action happens. Our haven is where technology and media converge, where imagination of a creator meets the pragmatism of a doer, where real is now virtual due to the digital realm.

With more than a decade of experience and expertise at our disposal, we are equipped to create customer experiences that activate, engage and evolve across every channel. Directing our expertise to drive businesses growth.

We believe in empowering brands and growing businesses. We are in the business of being enablers, of being growth catalysts, for brands and organizations. We architect, strategize and implement branding and communication solutions that harness ROI. We believe in working with people who dream big, dare to be different and are change agents. We have worked with people who believe in absolute impact, address poverty and underprivileged children, and invest in innovation, culture and enlightenment.

Some of our key areas of specialization are Brand Identity, Brand Campaigns, Digital outreach via ideas, content & videos across touch points and Experiential Marketing.

 

  1. How did Six Inches happened? Tell us about the story behind.

The year was 2006.

I was 24 years old and my resume wasn’t an impressive one – a bachelor’s degree in science and a three-year integrated course in interior designing from Mumbai’s Raheja Institute (from which I had dropped out in 2001 with just one year left for completion).

And the 24 year old I institutively levitated towards the dream of being an entrepreneur. And the field I chose was branding.

The moment I voiced my plans. It triggered a slew of reactions. What? No way.” “You’re too young to start your own company.” “You don’t even have an advertising background”

Despite all odds, and reactions I decided to give it a go. And launched my own agency Six Inches, my seed-capital, my first investor was my sister who gave me INR 60,000 to buy a high end machine. I set up my office in a corner of our tight apartment. And the name ‘Six Inches’ was an inspiration from the book – Positioning by Jack Trout, in it I had read an interesting quote – “Between Six Inches of grey matter, is where advertising takes place”.

I pursued some friends for giving my agency some work and one servicing guy who had become more like a consultant with his new firm partnered with me to pitch businesses with him. We got our first account – Hakoba fashions. It is a woman fashion brand with decent ad spends. My servicing friend and I were in for a good start, we began making decent money. Enough to compensate the monthly salary calculations.

When you are a start-up, as its leader one has play every role. I was meeting clients, working on creatives, making invoices, sourcing vendors and following up on payments. It was a challenge to be and do everything, but this phase of absolute grill was the best teacher, I learnt a lot. I was able create a strong network and add muscle to our agency. We were aiming to grow with small bites from various brands. However, to make brands trust a new agency involved rigorous follow-ups and lot of free sampling work which took a toll on our time. We still survived. And once we secured a few brands, there was no looking back. We packed a lot of action into the company and it produced results swiftly.

When I started Six Inches, we were not even .00001% of the industry, which was full of mammoth players, who will always be around. My aim was never to compete with them, my aim was to co-exist. I had no USP as such when we met clients. All we possessed was passion, endless energy, and immediate action and that impressed clients and won their trust. And these three aspects have been DNA.

With the money I earned, I decided to hire people for my start-up. I got my first 2 employees – one runner and one art guy. I urged one of my aunt to give her empty house for us to work. This was an old apartment, NO AC. We did some business from there.

My hunger for growth needed more fuel. I was chasing more businesses. Those days we did everything that came are our way from big brands – be it print jobs or adaptations. Purely to establish relationships. I started small but my thinking was BIG.

With little more growth in business, we moved to a friend’s garage and started operating from there. Our work was getting featured across advertising trade journals and we were noticed by bigger brands.

We got our first big win in 2010 when we beat 10 agencies and bagged Kingston Technology business for the Indian market. There has been no looking back after that.

From a 2 people company, in a span of just 10 years, Six Inches has gained international as well as national recognition. The journey has been a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs and ups! Learning, unlearning, collaborating and adding newer capabilities with time. But the journey has been amazing and it continues to be.

 

  1. How do you see the landscape of creative agencies in India and does India have the potential to compete with global players in the same space?

Landscape – the literal meaning in dictionary is “all the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal”.

If you scan all creative agencies website including ours – the danger is we all look same, offering same services by saying “Better”. This puts all of us squarely in the world of “perfect competition,” where price is unfortunately often the deciding factor. This lazy approach to differentiation is an issue – the claim we make is “Yes, we agencies all do the same things, but our agency is much better in doing the same. Imagine if Apple had adopted this approach. In place of an exclusive portfolio of innovative products, they would be producing the same kinds of products as HP, which has 250 times more SKUs than Apple and only 5% of the market value. I personally feel we need to replace the word creative with innovative. And not just replace it but refresh our own thinking. If I take examples of global agencies like RGA, IDEO – their core focus is innovation, co-creation of products, creating IPs and investing in ventures. These agencies are taking brave steps. And even we should.

 

  1. How big is the team and what kind of people you prefer to hire?

We are a team of 22 people. Our team is medley of talents and skills. From strategists, research experts, visualizers, designers, architects, interior designers, photographers, illustrators, writers to implementers we have them all. My wife, Shweta Shah, who has been a strong support on the HR front believes in creating a diverse mix of skill sets as that ensures fresh dimensions and point of views always. We prefer to hire people with the right mind-set to work and gel within our system. Sometimes for us it is not important where they come from, where they want to go matters to us more.

 

  1. Tell us about some of your successful campaigns in brief.

Our latest was an NGO establishment assignment. The focus of this NGO is Women Safety and empowerment, Health care and education for underprivileged children. Our role wasn’t just about building a brand, but it was about thinking across processes and systems when it came to Women Safety. Our role was to coin a name that will resonate with the current and future India. We not only created a brand for the NGO but also made sure it reaches across India. We achieved this by an integrated brand campaign via brand asset creation, brand identity, messaging, content, videos, influencer led campaigns and an engaging website.

The effort led to the brand trending on twitter at #2 in India on launch day and #17 Worldwide. We also had celeb retweet the launch.

Another interesting campaign we did was for Kingston Technology that led the Brand’s mention in Limca book of Records. To promote a high capacity pen drive, we created a gigantic storage-drive of 32 feet at a Mall. Anyone passing through the drive came across a live painter, a singer and a photographer to symbolize things that one stores in a storage device.

 

  1. What are your future plans ( Expansion, product etc)

Six Inches future is about co-creation of products, owning IPs and focus on innovation.

 

  1. Are you boot strapped or backed by an investor? In case of backed, request you to provide details about them?

Six Inches is backed by 2 investors from the UK

 

  1. What is the piece of advice you will give to marketers who are in a hunt of great agencies? What should they keep in mind?

I believe “greatness” exists in every agency. All it needs is the right environment, right partnership and a bit of braveness. For marketers looking for agencies, I would advise stop looking for agencies. Instead look for valuable partners who will build the brand with you, will co-create the brief, will spot or anticipate trends. And most importantly, those who are agile and ahead of the learning curve. Not those who are catching up with digital.  Choose someone who doesn’t see what is, but anticipates what isn’t and can be.

 

  1. What is your mantra of success and who is your real life role model?

Dream big and dare to fail! Is my mantra.

The world ticks because of the power of Big Ideas. Be it Gandhi’s idea of non-violence or be it Elon Musk’s SpaceX, these big ideas shape the world, change the world, and make the world go round! It is in these Big Ideas I anchor my belief.

I follow Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. These innovators have seen things far ahead of time and had the guts to pursue them. And the results are a proof of their beliefs their sheer courage.