KS Collective finds order within the chaos

1/6KS Collective finds order within the chaos
KS Collective finds order within the chaos
The 21st century is the wild, wild west for brands and companies. The new millennium has shattered old school marketing and advertising which has left players scrambling to understand what has happened. It is what Bob Dylan meant when he sang “you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin’,” and to help these brands swim in the new waters, KS Collective, a curated resource of experienced and talented creative minds has stepped in. At its center is Kabir Singh, a communications maverick himself. After being 20 years in the industry, he has mastered the art of communications.

Right down from producing videos, designing sounds, chalking up digital campaigns - KS Collective represents it all.

“Whether its video, or sound, it's all modes of communication and I sort of mastered the art of understanding the messaging from my client and sort of translating it to a format that suits his needs,” Kabir told Gizmodo India in a telephonic conversation.

And it is this mastery that has made KS Collective a force to reckon with. Despite the brand itself being relatively new, Kabir Singh launched it in April this year, however in reality it has been operating informally in stealth for the past 8 years.

“I started my first vertical in 2009 and now its 2017 where I've branded it under the Collective to bring all these verticals together. For the longest time, I was doing websites, branding, logos for people and they were not aware that I do it all in my official representation in the market. The brand never said that. So the purpose of the Collective is to finally put it all out into a cohesive offering. It makes the client's life easier. It solves a pain point for them,” Kabir said.

With a little help from his friends

2/6With a little help from his friends
With a little help from his friends
For a company that handles just about every medium of messaging to communicate a brand’s ideas to the targeted audience, Kabir does not have a fixed salaried team. He believes fixed resources, especially in design, results in a loss of quality.

“I don't believe in an in-house creative team because I find that if you have two graphic designers on salary they'll do one single style of design for all projects because that's what they're good at. So I bring together teams from other agencies and freelancers. And other production companies,” he said.

Instead, he handpicks his resources from a pool of talented professionals which he had the pleasure to know and work with in his two decades of experience.

“It's pretty much the right team for every project. I don't want to shove clients with a team I have on salary because I have to keep them busy. I want to shove them with the right team that actually pulls off what they want,” said an enthusiastic Kabir.

A company is nothing more than the people who work in it. And Kabir has used his twenty years of networking, of working with friends to assemble a team that he himself is comfortable working with.

“I have a fantastic team of professionals who have been both my friends and colleagues who don't necessarily work for me on a salaried basis,” he said.

Origins

3/6Origins
Origins
Despite being around for a while, the KS Collective was not born in a day. There was no seminal breakthrough moment. It was a natural culmination of a lot of slow and steady experience. Kabir himself did everything wrong before doing it right. As a first generation entrepreneur, he never had a job, never had a boss, never worked for an agency. He built everything himself - from scratch. It also took a sickening eight-year long sting in Mumbai to bring it all together for Kabir.

In his own words, “I started in sound and sound is my first love. I used to DJ at a pub in New Friends Colony from in the late nineties and that time I was one of the first guys to play Psytrance in a pub in Delhi. And that's how it started for me with the music. From music, I moved on to video. I started studying film and mass communication after which I moved to Bombay where I spent eight years. I started a video production company and a sound solutions company. So sound design solutions and basic productions are my first two brands. I also did the whole advertising and corporate stints and I got sick of Bombay. I finally moved back to delhi about four years back and that's where it sort of expanding into the whole thing.”

The KS Collective works out of a place in an upscale south Delhi neighbourhood and since its inception it has worked for hundreds of clients. Their listing of testimonials on their website itself is a glimpse into their hard-earned success.

During the early days of the company, Kabir worked on a film commissioned by a client which happened to win a national award in the short film category for sports.

“This happened in the first year we were in the business. It was one of the first projects we did. It became a sort of a good starting point for us,” he said.

Fixing a hole

4/6Fixing a hole
Fixing a hole
With the advent of digital, the audience of the brands have now split up into various mediums. While older people stuck to the broadcast media, the younger folks are now huddled over the digital medium where they constantly engage in conversations with their brands through likes, dislikes, shares, no shares, etc. And in such a chaotic time, Kabir has stepped in to babysit clients by helping them strategise for the big picture.

“I would come to a client who will demand a video and I'm like that's great - what's your business plan and how will this video benefit you? And by the time I was done talking to him as a consultant he didn't need a video. He needed a print campaign, a digital campaign and an audio jingle but he didn't need a video. I ended up babysitting these guys. I said, you know let's link your communication strategy for production of content to a larger strategy that will actually generate ROI for you. You are going to spend money on creating this stuff. So, who is your target audience? what are you saying? who are you saying it to? where are you saying? Should you be saying this? Is this the right medium for you?,” Kabir gave an example.

He also pins the problem of brands being lost in the midst of all this noise to a lack of thinking on their part. He considers good content emerges from a process where you incubate the idea for some time before executing it.

“India suffers in thinking. Everyone is ready to do. Nobody thinks through the planning stage and I'm very planning heavy. Every would be like let's start tomorrow. But I would say, no, let's really understand what you want. I think planning and getting into the essence of messaging is far more crucial than the execution because the execution will happen but what ends up happening is if you lose track of your larger picture, then you end up making the wrong thing and wasting money on it,” he quipped.

Getting better

5/6Getting better
Getting better
When I spoke to Kabir, he was juggling between six projects, each with its own deadline across different mediums. Before that, his collective did a series of animated videos for an NGO based out of Kuwait, a magazine for the German Embassy on nation branding between India and Germany as well as sound designing for Playstation games like Street Cricket.

But he agrees that the future is in video.

"68 percent of all content that will consumed in the next two years on digital will be video. Last year, 80 million unique viewers consumed video from a connected devices in India alone. Essentially, video is the way to go. As far as digital is concerned, people respond far more quickly to the engagement of the moving image than your static image. So I think video has a huge future.”

The paradigm of video itself has shifted from big budget productions which are broadcast on televisions during cricket tournaments like IPL to lower budget, but innovative and creative videos which are low on production value as well as in use and discard value.

“The videos won't be like a TV ad that will run 3000 times during the IPL. Instead, the trend is to keep making new video content for the same idea to drive the campaign over a few weeks or few months to reinforce that idea,” Kabir said.

Keeping up with changing times

6/6Keeping up with changing times
Keeping up with changing times
A lot has changed since Kabir Singh first started to work in the industry. And through natural evolution, he kept growing with his ideas and executions.

“We kept adding services and we kept adding capabilities and continued creating content in different mediums as it came out. Everything evolves. Video evolves. 360 videos came and now we do that. People want apps. We do that. People want different kinds of websites. We do that too. I'm constantly looking to add to our capabilities to widen our offering,” Kabir said.

Over the next few years, Kabir has his eyes set on the foreign brands entering India. The brands usually don’t have much knowledge of how the Indian market operates and Kabir intends to help them reach out to their audience in the country. When asked about what next for his collective, he said:

“Hopefully growth. Growth in being able to do good work with good clients all over India and the rest of the world because we are an agency that knows how to communicate and I would be like to be a partner to foreign brands that want to enter India and don't understand what to do here. There's no Yellow Pages for an international brand to be in India. They have no idea. Part of our consulting will be to help them understand the market and then creating the right kind of content, communication to the right touch points for their brands.”

Things clearly look bright for the KS Collective in the future. They have seen the Indian market evolve and know what works and what doesn’t. They are diversifying. They are expanding. And they are only getting started.