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'We play the role of WPP in digital marketing'

February 17, 2011 12:51 IST

EBS Worldwide will close 2010-11 with revenues of Rs 64 crore (Rs 640 million), within seven years of entering this business, is interesting.

It makes the Mumbai-based company, arguably, the largest provider of interactive marketing services out of India. It has offices in London, New York, Mumbai and Noida.

These offer three services. One- one-to-one interactive/digital marketing services across the globe; two - remote studio facilities for artwork and design of anything from annual reports to ad campaigns and brochures only for global companies, and three - it helps companies automate their marketing departments.

EBS is majority owned by Group CEO and founder Chris George</B> and his team. The rest is split between IL&FS and several individual shareholders, including Mahesh Murthy and Ranjan Kapoor. George spoke on how the company works.

You started as a music retailer (, what made you turn to marketing services?

We were doing very well with music retailing and in three years (by 2003) we hit Rs 15 crore (Rs 150 million) in revenue.

However penetration was an issue in India. So we took the CRM/technology know-how and applied it to another industry. In 2003-04 banking and insurance had exploded.

All the companies were in a tearing hurry, those guys wanted to achieve what the US taken decades to achieve.

Their targets were like one million mailers, two million SMSes, can we track them, analyse them and so on.

They needed everything, process, technology and creative. This was non (advertising) agency kind of work though the agencies were not interested.

So we had a lot of agency guys join us under design and production and then worked on the tech and processes. Our first client was HSBC Bank; we handled their credit card loyalty management programme.

Today more than 75 per cent of our revenue comes from interactive marketing. Between 2004 and now, there has been a year-on-year growth in the share of one-to-one in marketing budgets, it is close to 35 per cent of the total.

How does the remote design and outsourced marketing bit work?

It is a bit like an ERP solution. We have a suite of automated products for marketing departments that ensure cohesiveness across all advertising messages across the world, say in colour, font, and design.

So if a campaign for Avaya is created in Hong Kong, it doesn't have to be recreated in Singapore.

We license our software tools to Avaya which in turn licenses it to its complex web of resellers and dealers. They then use our software and templates, customise the campaign and use it in their regions.

There are three levels to marketing services. At level one, you are still defining the whys and hows of the brand.

At level two, you have imbibed those but need processes to execute it. At level three, the whole function needs to be automated.

For us, India is at level one, therefore the market opportunity outside is greater.

Isn't this an awfully fragmented and low margin area? In fact most of the larger companies have been bought out by Publicis or WPP...

We have chosen to be in those businesses which are driven by technology, where there is no commoditification and no international presence. The companies that have been bought out have been struggling.

One of our trips is to play the role of WPP in this space. So we are alright acquiring companies or growing organically. The sooner we hit Rs 100 crore [Rs 1 billion] (in 2011-2012) the closer will be to owning this space.


Vanita Kohli-Khandekar