EXCLUSIVE | Mehul Gupta, SoCheers: Rewinding, reflecting and looking ahead

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Mehul Gupta, Co-founder and CEO of SoCheers, started socheers.com at 19 which was then a mash-up between Google Docs and Facebook for his classmates, while that website didn’t last, SoCheers did. SoCheers, is a digital-first marketing and advertising agency that helps build brands. Its clientele includes names like — Star World, Star Movies, TCS, Budweiser, IMDb, Mahindra, Twitter, Amazon Prime Video, Nick, MX Player, and many more.

In this exclusive piece, Mehul writes about how his ‘digital-ninjas’ and he adapted to work-from-home, sustained business and his future plans. Read on.

I won’t start another article by using the word ‘unprecedented’ or describing what the year was. We were all there, we all lived it and we all survived it. Our focus during the pandemic was to sustain the agency, sustain our people and ensure that their livelihoods were not affected. This significant alteration could not be done without a positive mindset, which was one of the central pillars of my personal and professional operations throughout the year.

WFH is not just about setting up a computer and a working internet connection but also a matter of trust, understanding, and communication between the agency and its people: Mehul Gupta  

Like every other business, our challenges were majorly related to adapting to the Work-from-Home situation. Luckily for us, a digital-first team, it happened seamlessly overnight. Our digital-ninjas went from working in dressy clothes to pyjamas in no time. There were a few infra-related problems, which were luckily identified and addressed before our nation went on lockdown.

Challenges we faced and how we overcome them:

Adapting to WFH: 

WFH is not just about setting up a computer and a working internet connection but also a matter of trust, understanding, and communication between the agency and its people. We set out some ground rules and offered a lot of flexibility to people wherever possible. Our second-in-line commandos picked up the responsibility of being in touch with each and every member of the agency, ensuring they were comfortable in delivering the same sort of work in a whole new environment.

Our clients were informed about us moving base from office to our homes and were assured that work would continue to be as normal as possible. Since the pandemic affected everyone equally, clients were empathetic and understanding to allow us some time to settle in and start delivering things.

Dealing virtually without the personal touch: 

In one-on-one interactions and conversations, we trained the teams to deal with teams and clients virtually, putting in a lot of emphasis on being empathetic and non-judgemental in a time like this, allowing people to adapt and thrive in the new situation at their own pace. A lot more focus came on communicating via emails and messages, giving way to people to learn how to do that well.

Ensuring the well-being of employees: 

Stress levels were running high, the ability to manage homes and office work both became overwhelming and we could see some signs. We arranged for the group and personal mental health sessions for our teams. We ensured routine group meetings with the entire agency – to maintain the culture and connect with everyone even though virtually.

Squishing qualms about job security: 

Trust and openness are most important in a time like this and we built that right upfront. We kept honest communication channels open for everyone and kept them informed about how we are doing business-wise.

While we pushed appraisals by 6 months, we ensured that salaries continued to go on time and no downsizing was done. Extreme measures to keep honest communication channels were made, to ensure every voice was heard and taken care of.

Business Sustainability: 

Since some industries were affected severely, we lost clients in the F&B, Retail space – leaving a sense of uncertainty within the teams. However, by working hard together, we were able to close some good clients even during the pandemic. Proactively pitching to existing and new clients and working on thought-provoking campaigns, we were able to sail through the pandemic without having to take any drastic measures for surviving.

To sustain our business, we paid more attention to clients that were thriving during the pandemic – OTT/entertainment market, Pharmaceuticals, and the Tech Education sector. Since their businesses took a jump in the pandemic, our work with them continued to thrive and scale-up in the last year, helping us keep in line with our growth plans.

Looking ahead:

The term ‘people’ also stretches to our agency partners and respected clients without whom SoCheers as an entity wouldn’t have reached where it is today. People are who kept the agency going through the pandemic and they are the ones who will remain core in our growth in 2021: Mehul Gupta

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2021 in our industry. It’s like we are just getting started. Other than the industry-related developments, if there’s one thing that I want to consciously keep the focus on is our ‘people’.

The term ‘people’ also stretches to our agency partners and respected clients without whom SoCheers as an entity wouldn’t have reached where it is today. People are who kept the agency going through the pandemic and they are the ones who will remain core in our growth in 2021.

The pandemic in general has made us rethink the existing processes and social elements. Rather than reliving this phenomenon with dread, let’s perceive this as a learning experience so that we can prepare ourselves to live better professional and personal lives in the future and be ready for whatever is thrown at us.

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