Monthly Archives: April 2018

One Year of (Living) ON PURPOSE

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!

One Year of ON PURPOSE – Talking About Breaking Stereotypes

An ice basket full of bubbly was ready, the house had been cleaned within every inch of itself and since we were in CR Park, local street-food dominated the menu. We just couldn’t wait! For what you may ask? An evening of revelry with some friends of On Purpose!

We were celebrating one year of On Purpose. One year of helping brands articulate their purpose. One year of working out of unconventional places. One year of choosing to work with interesting, inspiring people. And as we reflected on the year that was, we realise that one of our favourite bits was striving to take a stand for social issues and change-making. Our campaigns, where we interacted with like-minded people to discuss social issues, were fun, which is why, our celebration became another opportunity for us to gab away with some amazing people in an open mic format!

The guest list was small yet significant. We had invited friends, ex-clients who had become friends, ex-colleagues and pretty much anyone who had words of encouragement for us during our first year! What we didn’t anticipate though was a hailstorm an hour before start time. As the strong winds blew and the city came to a halt with broken trees and crazy traffic, a few brave souls made it to CR Park. To each of you, we’d like to extend a deep thank you!

We thought we’d have to urge people to speak, but were we wrong! A room full of strong, independent women with opinions – add a question to the equation and everyone was engaged! 

Even though we tried to follow a trajectory of questions, ‘What do stereotypes mean to you?’, ‘How do you think you’ve broken a stereotype?’ etc., the evening took its own course. We relived childhood memories shaped by stereotypes – two young girls not given the correct information by the kite vendor because girls don’t fly kites (obviously!). Experiences in our education/ career paths of dealing with stereotypes (Psychology? but why?!). Advice on motherhood shrouded in stereotypes (You have a son, why do you need to adopt another child? A girl?). We tried to delve deeper into our conditioning of these stereotypes.

While the whole evening was very casual, one of our friends, Pratiksha Tewari, a child psychologist, feminist, prone to writing verses on paper napkins and willing to get paid in food, took the time out to pen down a little something for us:

Hide behind a smoke screen

Keep my name out of the papers

Be called a victim or survivor

As per your convenience

I won’t.

Drop out of school

Not play with my friends

Hear my mother being criticised

For wanting to raise me as an equal

I won’t.

Be the next name for whose justice

You go on a hunger strike

And watch you easily shun

Another me behind the camera

I won’t.

Have you take away

My pain, my humiliation, my hurt

Because I knew the person

Who stole my agency

I won’t.

Be questioned on the authenticity

Of my despair, my wounds, my cries

Because the finger points

At the respectables in my family

I won’t

Cry as I share my story

Look like I wear a shroud of shame

Letting the abuse be everything

That my life will ever be about

I won’t.

It was an amazing evening, where champagne flowed, food was delicious and laughter abundant! Thank you, everyone who made it, for making it special. And everyone who was there in spirit, cheers!

One Year of On Purpose – Playing Games at Buguri Community Library in Bangalore

What’s the best way to spend a Sunday morning? Relaxing on the bed with a good book for company is a great idea. But, a better idea is to spend it with a group of young, enthusiastic readers at a beloved library!


Buguri the community library officially came into being in January 2017 in a two-room flat located in Banashankari in Bengaluru. The day was marked by gregarious children from the nearby community and many volunteers coming together to paint the walls of the space. Together they painted images of clouds and birds, and animals, and parachutes, and a giant spinning top on the bare walls. ‘Buguri’, by the way, means ‘spinning top’ in Kannada. Today, these walls enjoy the company of hundreds of books in multiple Indian languages, all donated by readers who want the joy of reading to spread farther.

On Purpose officially came into being in April 2017. As the realisation of completing one year dawned on us, we thought that it was time to deepen and widen our commitment to social change. The past year was marked by a lot of work, a lot of travel, and lots of meetings with many, many interesting people who continue to inspire us. So, naturally, in this new year of existence, we will continue doing that and getting closer to the grassroots of change-making.

What were we doing at Buguri? Quite simply, playing! Lakshmi Karunakaran from the NGO Hasiru Dala helped us plan a fun event with the children to mark the On Purpose first birthday and armed with a big box of chocolates and juice packs, we were ready to put it into action!

The fun began with some circle games to get the children in the mood. Then, we began enacting ‘This is Our House’ by Michael Rosen. This simple but beautiful story relates the tale of a child who becomes so possessive of a small box/enclosure in a park that he dismisses the entry of any other friend by making increasingly silly excuses. But, when nature calls and he is forced to leave the box for a bit, the friends invade and refuse to let him back in! The enactment was meant to enforce the ideas of sharing and inclusivity, especially the idea that the community library is for everyone and no one should be shunned on any excuse. Needless to say, it was a riot!

We moved on to craft activity next, drawing outlines of the children’s hands on coloured paper which they then filled in with their own idea of a dream home. These cut-outs were then stuck on to a huge cut-out of a house which will be on display at the library.

It was a morning filled with laughter and a lot of paper-cutting! And, we loved it! Thank you, Kshiraja Krishnan and Sangeetha for helping us make this special!