Mehul Gupta and Siddharth Devnani launched SoCheers (a digital agency) in 2013. At the time, both of them were employed at Naaptol, an e-Commerce entrant. Mehul and Siddharth noticed a gap between small-to-medium consumer brands and digital advertorial opportunities that they could leverage. The duo proceeded to close this gap with an agency that began operating from a rented 3BHK, relying purely on personal laptops.
In five years, SoCheers has transformed into a full-service digital agency that works with more than 125 premium clients. They were also named the Advertising agency of the year (Content) at the Talent Track Awards, 2018. The founders believe in diversity and are great social evangelists of diverse workforces.
This is an exclusive interview with Mehul on The Times Blog, as a part of the #TimesStories initiative.
Give us some insight into SoCheers. What prompted you to launch the agency?
SoCheers is a full-fledged advertising & marketing agency based out of Mumbai. We cater to all marketing-related needs of different brands across industries – both online and offline.
When Siddharth & I were working at Naaptol, we spent a lot of time traveling together. Our daily monotony sparked an entrepreneurial flame in both of us to do something to cater to the gap in the agency business. With my advertising and digital experience at JWT & Naaptol, coupled with Siddharth’s expertise in logistics and tech, we took the plunge and started SoCheers.
Today’s advertising agency ecosystem is a very cluttered market (at best). Especially in the digital space (since it’s easy to start ‘digital-only’), the clutter is remarkable. Most entrants realize once they’re in the game, that it is difficult to sustain. People who choose to fight the long fight (like us) will survive.
When did you launch SoCheers, and what challenges did you face initially while going about it?
When we started in 2013, we launched as just a digital marketing agency. Our primary and only service was social media management. The challenge that we faced was to look at our own work and do better than that everyday. Innovating in a space that had little or no history, was the challenge. We kept adding layers of customization through the months and years, and we are happy to say that our oldest clients are still with us, five years later.
Midway, we realized that most brands need a one-stop solution to their creative and marketing needs, which prompted us to launch services in film production and multimedia content creation. Now we’re a full-service creative + digital agency.
How did your family react when you told them you wanted to start your own business?
Honestly, I expected them to not support me in this journey. I’m the youngest in my family and I never really took up anything very seriously. But surprisingly, they were very supportive throughout the entire process. They always push me to be better, and their support goes a long way in enabling me to take more business risks.
Was there ever a time when you felt overwhelmed and unable to continue? What made you continue? What kept you motivated at your worst moments?
Co-founding a startup in a crazily cluttered market is overwhelming. There are small roadblocks at every curve. The big decisions that you need to take are often accompanied by even bigger risks. But eventually a strong team, backed by support from our family and friends, always kept us motivated to move forward. Sometimes 'encouragement' can even be a small comment by someone who believes in your vision. Motivation and signs to move forward are omnipresent. Finding them in the right spots and applying them wisely, is what has kept us going.
Are there specific influences who have inspired you in your entrepreneurial journey? If yes, is there any advice from such mentors/influencers that you would like to share with our readers?
If I had to list down the number of influences that have inspired me on this entrepreneurial journey, The Times Blog would fall short. One very notable person in this journey has been an uncle, Mr. Diwaker Kaja. He has been a constant support in guiding us towards a successful business.
One of the key advices he gave us early in the business was – “Value your people and try to put yourself in their shoes. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and financial strata, and everybody has responsibilities that you probably cannot even imagine. The least you can do is make sure that their salaries are disbursed on time, without any delay or default. For all that they will put in for you, this is the very least that you can do for them.“
Another key advice was: “At any point in your work life, make sure that you are doing things that you love in addition to things that you normally procrastinate over. Maintain a healthy balance of the two, because even the things you aren’t exactly passionate about, need to be done. As an entrepreneur, you cannot let that balance go off-hand.”
What are the Top 3 Business Takeaways that you did not know when you first started out?
1. Be true to everything you do, never give up, and give your best. Have faith, that everything will happen in its due time.
2. Give more than you take – help someone directly or add value to society, but always give more than what you take away.
3. Empower yourself and others - This is my favourite. Believe in yourself and in the people you work with; This is the single most effective way to strengthen your team.
What advice would you give to your ten-year younger self, if given an opportunity?
Dear Mehul Then,
Don’t be afraid of trying and failing, because failure teaches you a lot of lessons.
Sincerely, Mehul Now.
Any advice to aspiring digital publicity entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is like a rollercoaster ride. It’s fun and scary at the same time. It gives you the adrenaline to achieve great things, but sometimes also makes you really sick in the stomach. Enjoy the ups, and learn from the downs.
P.S. Funnily enough, I am really scared of rollercoasters. You’ll never find me in one, even if it’s a life-or-death situation.
The Times RapidFire
Name One book that you would recommend today, without blinking.
Answer: Start With Why by Simon Sinek
An original quote for your loyal customers?
“Go massive, or go home!"
Do you operate with goals, or systems? Pick one.
Answer: Goals, always.
Cricket, or no Cricket?
Print, or Digital?
Answer: Digital, obviously!
And finally... what comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘The Times Blog’?