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Behind the scenes at Reliance Jio Platforms’ in-house agency

The agency started out as 'Business Of Ideas' which was set up by Bhat in 2011, before it merged with Reliance in 2016.

Jio Creative Labs, led by Aditya Bhat, is the advertising and communication arm of Indian telco Reliance Jio Platforms. He takes The Drum behind the scenes of the in-house creative agency for India’s largest player in the market

Reliance Jio Platforms is India's largest telecommunications player. That position gives it a huge customer database, and a dominant position in related consumer spaces such as retail, entertainment, and even social. With such a range of commercial interests, its in-house agency, Jio Creative Labs, gives paramount importance to operational flexibility.

During its brainstorming sessions, for example, corpoate hierachies are suspended and all ideas treated equally. It's a fitting hallmark for a an agency which started out named 'Business of Ideas' when it was founded by Bhat, back in 2011.

“The most experienced employee in the organization will have the same amount of say as an intern because we strongly feel that a good idea can come from anyone. It is not bound by the number of years you have behind you,” explains Bhat.

“For a creative agency, the structure is partially influenced by the kind of industry they are catering to. But in any case, it needs to be fluid over rigid. The workings of such agencies have to be adaptable and ever-shifting like a river rather than inelastic like a stick for creativity to flow. We try to stick by this flexible structure in the way we operate.”

The name change, which occurred when it merged with Reliance in 2016, wasn't a corporate crackdown, but merely due to a naming conflict; the telco giant already owned a film production company with the same moniker.

Bhat says when finding new talent, he primarily looks for three things. First is the prospective candidate’s passion for the creative industry, something Bhat puts a premium upon. Secondly, Bhat considers their self-motivation – whether they have the determination to see a task through. Lastly, Bhat says he wants to hire staff with the willingness to constantly learn. This is because, in an industry that is continuously evolving, there’s always time to learn new tricks.

“In our organisation we push the senior-most employee as well as the freshest employee to keep learning, to keep being curious. Each person should be open to grasping new perspectives and growing together every day,” he says.

“We look for past agency experiences based on the role we are hiring for. But we are not very adamant about hiring people only with an agency background. Someone in a non-creative industry may have a creative knack. Therefore, we evaluate their passion, motivation and their openness to learn and stay in touch with creativity.”

Put together, this trio of values aims to find candidates that suit the Creative Labs’ way of working, which is to ’have no modus operandi.’ Bhat believes that in such a volatile creative agency, every creative problem is unique in nature and the solution it requires also has to be different.

As the creative solutions need to be tailor-made to fit the problem effectively to solve it, Bhat explains each brief needs to be looked at with a fresh perspective. It also must be looked at with more than one set of eyes to gauge the essence of the problem and have different solutions ready for it.

“‘Never Repeat Ourselves’” is something that we follow religiously,“ says Bhat. “We constantly work to come up with new and fresh ideas and avoid repetition. Therefore, we understand that every solution has to be brand new, distinct and customized according to the problem at hand.”

His prime example is ’Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan’, Jio’s seasonal campaign promoting its coverage of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The campaign was produced in-house, but has been altered each year it’s run.

“Jio’s IPL campaign has a high recall value among other campaigns that are advertised during IPL. We launched the campaign in 2017 and since then, it has scaled massive heights with every passing year.

He adds: “This campaign is special because it was built from beginning to end by our team, fully conceptualized and produced in-house and the love and acceptance that people have showered on it has encouraged us to take it a notch higher year after year. This year we escalated it to a different level with respect to the set, the lyrics, the relatability, and the big line of celebrities that have been featured.”

With Facebook’s recent $5.7 billion investment in parent company Jio Platforms, there’s more work on the way. Being adaptable to change will definitely come in handy.

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