1. Digital services: No borders here

Digital services: No borders here

An acquisitive start-up shows the way to digital space

Updated: November 21, 2014 5:02 AM

The name is ‘To The New’. The game is rapid-fire expansion. And the arena, the digital space. This upstart company is perhaps among the hungriest in Asia. In a space of three years, To The New gobbled up five digital players, and is SMACKing its lips for more. An APAC-wide hunt for digital talent is also part of the menu. “We believe that in every two or three years, every business in this space should re-invent itself”, says Puneet Johar, CEO & MD, To The New.

Before co-founding To The New (TTN), Johar had another outfit called Tangerine Digital Media Solutions, which he merged with TTN, to become its division. A similar model was followed in other acquisitions. Even its key financier, Four Cross Media, which backed TTN with a R75-crore war chest, too, became a part of it as the holding company and renamed itself as To The New Ventures. Along the way came in vertical specialists like ThoughtBuzz, Ignitee Digital, IntelliGrape, and Techsailor. Such give-n-take acquisitions bring fresh blood, new ideas and cutting-edge technologies to the company, besides new clients.

Though started in India early 2011, TTN moved its headquarters to Singapore last year, eyeing the larger Asia-Pacific market. “We’ve invested a lot to develop and build our proprietary solutions and products. So, it makes sense for us to expand to multiple markets where these can be sold”, says Johar.

And this seems to have worked. “We are about 500 people now, in seven cities; Singapore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila, and Beijing. We’ve grown very, very fast.. We’re growing 100% year-on-year in terms of revenue and profitability”, adds Johar, an IIM grad who had stints—and high networth friends who chipped in—at Coca-Cola, Reebok, Star TV and Fox.

graph-job-potential

What TTN does is to take over the entire digital media campaign of a customer through SMACK (social, mobile, analytics, content, and knowledge) services. It takes care of all the needful for the client, from doing digital strategy and analytics to digital marketing, content generation, app development to cloud services. Only that a client will need to have a digital marketing budget of at least a crore for TTN to get interested.

While its strategy to be a one-stop shop for all digital services, through acquisitions, paid off, the demand for its services across countries has created another problem; talent shortage. TTN is in search of leaders to head its various divisions across the region. It has embarked on an entrepreneurship leadership programme, called  Entrepreneurs At Work, to hire, train and mentor 20 young professionals from the Asia-Pac region. After two years’ training, each will run a new division, geography, product & service or business unit as a TTN entrepreneur.

“It takes an entrepreneurial mindset to excel in the digital space. But not every talented individual out there has had the opportunity to become an entrepreneur or work in an entrepreneurial environment. Hence we designed this two-year elite programme where we hire the best talent and then expose them to challenging assignments”, says Irfan Khan, head-marketing & strategic alliances, TTN.

Global executive search firm Spencer Stuart will do the entire selection, training and placement process for TTN. The selection criteria is tough, though. The candidate should be: in the 26-28 age group; from a premier technical or business institute from APAC; having three to five years’ work experience in both large and start-up firms; and possessing soft skills like leadership and innovation. So far, TTN has got 2,700 applicants for the programme, mostly from China, India and Singapore.

TTN is not bothered about the compensation package for such top talent.“Unless we do this, we won’t survive in this space”, says Khan. Clearly, digital is not for the dabbler.

By Verghis Chandy

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