One year. The one that just flew by, the one that tossed us, twirled us, threw us from a trapeze and shot arrows at us as we rode into the great, wide, open unknown.
It took a while to let go – but the space in between has been thrilling, hair-raising, nerve-wracking, sometimes (read every day) annoying, but overall – enthralling. It’s like stepping out of the matrix and breathing in the fresh air. You know you could never go back.
ON PURPOSE started as an idea – that communications can drive social change, that if we were clear about our purpose, we’d attract a certain type of people and work and that we could do what we enjoy and make a difference. It was about making choices.
One year later, with 16 clients and 8 team members, we know we’re on to something. It’s not perfect, but it’s something of value. And we’ve created it together. Every time we said ‘yes’ to something we hadn’t done before, every time we said ‘yes, we will’ rather than ‘we’ll try’ and as long as we’re clear about why we’re doing what we’re doing, we’re building shared purpose, together. Here are a few things we’ve learnt in the last year:
Clients will pay for differentiated expertise: Today, we have five clients in renewables and have gained considerable expertise in designing campaigns for Central and State governments to drive demand and effect behavior change. We’ve no longer had to pitch for business. We’ve replaced presentations with conversations about how we can work together effectively.
Clients will pay for research if it solves a business problem: We’ve conducted research across seven states of India across public and private sector organisations and consumers to understand barriers and motivations in purchasing behavior. It’s becoming the foundation of our strategy and campaigns for clients – local insights presented to clients in the language of the boardroom.
Flexible work spaces encourages creativity: We started our business from a co-working space at SOCIAL and meet at a common venue when we need to brainstorm and come up with strategy or creatives. Else, we work from home or from a client’s office in Delhi and Bangalore. It’s helped us maintain positive cash flow without requiring external investment and gives our clients our creative best, without the trappings of a formal office space.
You don’t need a formal background in PR to be successful in communications: Someone took a risk with me more than a decade before. I’d switched careers from hospitality to PR, post MBA and have never looked back. Today, 50% of our team is working in communications for the first time. We have an ex-street theatre activist, an ex-Goldman Sach’s employee and journalist, a development sector researcher and film-maker and the diversity is helping us deliver campaigns that reflect the diversity of audiences our clients need to reach.
We can work independently, yet be part of a team: 75% of our team have more than ten years of professional experience. We bring specialist skills together to deliver integrated content-driven work for our clients. That means we don’t need to necessarily supervise each other or work in the same location to deliver different requirements for a client, brought together by a single lead.
We couldn’t finish a first year anniversary post without thanking everyone who’s taken a leap of faith with us. We’re incredibly lucky to have attracted a set of extraordinary people with raw talent, attitude and unique quirks that allows to connect with each other as people first and then as professionals. We’re also grateful to the clients and industry peers who’ve supported us so whole-heartedly. We’d need to thank hundreds of people for every email, coffee, recommendation and good word you have put in for us. We hope someday to be able to repay you, or better still, pass it on
We’ve started our second year even more committed to social media than ever. Read more about our first Open Mic session to break stereotypes in our lives, how we spent our first year anniversary in Bangalore playing games in a community library and look out for our first tweet chat of the year in a series called #CriticalMatters coming to your newsfeed soon.
If you have any thoughts or ideas of how we can make ON PURPOSE a stronger force for social change in India, we’d love to hear from you. Do drop a comment or share further if you’re so inclined. Thanks for reading this and for your consistent support. We couldn’t do this without you!