This woman entrepreneur is helping the Indian Olympic Association rebrand for the first time in 90 years

Founded by Smita Rajgopal in 2008, SMITTEN Worldwide has served over 500 brands including the United Nations, Walt Disney, Unilever, Hilton, and Taj Hotels, and others.
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In advertising, what’s most important is the connect between the agency and the client. The right communication and design techniques help in effective branding and messaging. 

In most cases, brands and the creative team are connected by client servicing executives. Entrepreneur Smita Rajgopal, however, thinks differently.

She says, “I wanted to see if there was a way to build an agency where middlemen between client and creative person did not exist.” 

In 2007, Smita was working as art director at Beyondesign from a remote location in Chennai. With little access to any other design companies, she was prompted to start her own firm, SMITTEN Worldwide, in 2008. 

No cookie-cutter approach

Started from a home office in Chennai, SMITTEN Worldwide claims to be a 360-degree communication firm that helps people and companies solve problems through creative communication and design. 

The startup operates either on project basis by fulfilling a specific project requirement of client or on retainership model by exercising as the company’s communication agency. The time period and payment for the latter is done on a monthly basis.

Smita says it aims to stand apart from its peers by offering creative solutions and for  resorting to cookie-cutter approaches. For every project, the team at SMITTEN Worldwide begins by understanding what the client wants to achieve and the problem they wish to solve through the project.

 

“For example, if a company asks us to design a brochure, we look at why they need it and if there are better ways to solve the problem. Then we come back with creative solutions and inform them that we can provide the brochure but a website or an interactive installation at the lobby would be more effective.,” Smita explains. 

The startup’s biggest project is an ongoing one. SMITTEN Worldwide has been tasked with rebranding the identity of the Indian Olympics Association (IOA). It will change its brand image for the first time in 90 years since it was first formed during the British Raj.

She adds that team India never had a commercial identity in the form of merchandises and the startup is helping design various elements including the logo, sweatshirts, among others.

Smita also recalls working on a CSR project of automobile company Ashok Leyland where they wanted to create and send an e-mailer to its employees to raise awareness for a local NGO partner. The idea was to get employees to donate in cash or kind for children’s education. 

The startup offered a creative solution by designing a tree that was set up in the lobby at Ashok Leyland’s headquarters. Gift tags with messages asking to donate stationery were hung on the tree, making it a creative way to attract employees to the cause.  

An email was then sent to all the employees asking them to check the tree, pick one tag and draw a smiley face on the other side if they wanted to donate. 

“The goal was to turn the entire tag into a smiley face, which would mean all the employees are gifting something,” she says. 

Smita also provides customised service of logos, websites, and brochures according to clients’ requirements.

Price is determined by time, quality of work, and budget. “It is not possible to stick to a budget, be timely and creative as well. Sometimes, I tell clients I can give them a budget and be as creative as you want but it can take time,” she adds.

Building relationships

According to Smita, the biggest lesson she has learnt as an entrepreneur is to build and strengthen relationships. 

“If you build relationships, business will build itself. That is how most client acquisition also happened.” 

While she does not have a background in design, Smita says, being an MBA graduate from Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies has helped her network effectively for her business. 

“One of my professors said every person in the classroom is a potential contact and that really stuck with me. Every classmate was going to become a brand manager in the long run. If I am good at what I do and be in touch with them, there was no reason why they wouldn't give me a foot in the door,” she says, adding that peers from a design school would be competitors and not a source of business. 

While starting up, she landed her first client through her classmates and she bagged IOA when a close friend working in the sports space informed her about the tender for the project. 

The entrepreneur always wanted to expand globally, and this was realised in 12 years of operations. Headquartered in Chennai, Smita works from New York with a team of 15 people across multiple offices in India and Dubai. 

She says that everyone in her team is equipped with providing creative solutions, doing away with the need for middlemen between clients and the creative team. “We are seamless and united and I think that builds a better camaraderie,” she adds.

The startup has handled over 500 brands so far and some of their important clients include United Nations, Walt Disney, Unilever, Hilton, Taj Hotels, Sheraton Hotels, Mattel, Panasonic, Bacardi, Logitech, Perfetti, Wagamama and Maxell. The startup hopes to further expand geographically in the future.

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan

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