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A ‘pivotal moment’ as FCB Group India acquires digital-first agency Kinnect

By Amit Bapna, APAC editor-at-large

April 26, 2023 | 9 min read

The Drum sits down with FCBKinnect’s management team and FCB Group’s CEO at IPG’s Mumbai office to find out more about the deal and what the rebranded agency brings to the group offering.

The Team behind FCB Kinnect (Chandni Shah, Rohit Ohri and Rohan Mehta)

The Team behind FCB Kinnect (Chandni Shah, Rohit Ohri and Rohan Mehta)

The Covid-19 pandemic has been blamed for delaying many things, including FCB Group India’s acquisition of digital agency Kinnect.

This week, the IPG-owned agency announced it has taken a majority stake in the independent digital agency in a move it describes as ”a pivotal moment for the group”.

The deal sees the digital shop – which has 400 people spread across offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore – rebrand as FCBKinnect. It will be led by Kinnect’s co-founders Rohan Mehta and Chandni Shah, as CEO and COO respectively.

The acquisition is the result of talks that initially began in late 2018, with the two agencies initially working together on clients before deciding to formalize the agreement.

“We were about to sign a formal deal when Covid-19 happened,” Rohit Ohri, chairman and CEO of FCB Group India, tells The Drum. ”This deal would have come through much earlier if the pandemic had not happened.”

In 2021, FCB Group India acquired a minority stake in Kinnect with the objective of building its ambitions around technology and data-interfacing creativity, says Ohri, and that journey has been taken ”to the next level” with the recent majority acquisition and rebrand.

“In the post-COVID era, digital must be woven into every aspect of our operations and not treated as a separate channel. With nearly 40% of marketing spend now allocated to digital, Kinnect’s deep expertise in marketing technology will further fortify our digital experience in India," says Ohri.

"Kinnect boasts a dynamic team of professionals with a proven track record of delivering truly personalised digital experiences for some of the world’s most renowned brands. By augmenting our group’s digital capabilities at the intersection of creativity, consultancy, production, and operational services across our vast network, we are poised to make a lasting impact and foster unparalleled growth for our clients.”

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The journey to collaboration

Launched in 2011 by entrepreneurs Rohan Mehta and Chandni Shah, Kinnect is regarded as a leading digital-first independent creative agency. The digital shop has collaborated with FCB on integrated campaigns such as ’Out & Proud @Work’ for The Times Group, ’Tata Tiago EV IPL 2023’, and ’Chatpat’ for SOS Children’s Villages India (the latter collected eight Cannes Lions in 2022).

The genesis of FCB in India is a much longer story. In 1961, ad maverick Bal Mundkur believed there was a space for an Indian agency that would challenge the stereotypes of the time so launched his own shop, Ulka, which fast become a formidable agency handling Indian-born giants such as Tata Motors, Amul, Wipro and more.

In 1997, FCB acquired a 51% stake in Ulka, which led to a complete buyout in 2007. FCB Group has three creative agencies in India – FCB Ulka, FCB Interface, and FCB India – along with many other operating divisions in media, healthcare, data and analytics.

FCBKinnect provides the FCB India Group with digital-first creative capabilities, content production, and data-driven influencer and third-party partnerships through the Kinnect Outreach platform.

Kinnect will also spearhead the group’s data, digital media buying and planning, performance production hub, commerce, performance marketing, CX, search engine optimization and online reputation management offerings, providing bespoke solutions across the entire marketing mix.

Why now and what’s next?

In the last few years, FCB Group has repositioned from its reputation as a sturdy but staid (boring, even) advertising agency to a highly awarded hot shop, delivering future-ready creative communications under the leadership of Ohri and the agency’s celebrated chief creative officer Swati Bhattacharya.

As Tyler Turnbull, FCB Global CEO, says, “Since our partnership with Kinnect began in 2020, the momentum FCB has experienced across India has been exceptional."

Meanwhile, Kinnect has also been gaining local and global recognition for its work, which has helped contribute to the agency’s rapid growth and expansion. The digital agency has worked with marquee names including HDFC Bank, Asian Paints and Amazon, as well as Procter & Gamble brands Ariel, Tide and Old Spice.

These clients have also helped the agency to rapidly expand its suite of services in innovative new innovative areas. “Influencer marketing has grown sizably for us, for example, with our specialized offering – we have a proprietary tool that can help marketers evaluate their influencer strategy,“ says Shah.

Ohri describes the quality of the work by Kinnect as “extraordinary“, citing the ‘Chatpat’ campaign, which was created in collaboration by Kinnect and FCB Group for SOS Children’s Villages India and was the most-awarded campaign within the FCB network last year. “To me, that was the example of two companies coming together to produce the best-in-class, as opposed to two companies coming together to average it out to produce a fully integrated work,“ says Ohri.

Turnbull says, "Rohan, Chandni and the entire Kinnect team have proven they understand how to deliver growth for brands by unleashing creativity across digital, performance, customer experience and influencer marketing. With Kinnect now an official part of our network, we can help transform brands around India and APAC to deliver timely and timeless results like never before.”

While the digital-first and innovative capabilities of Kinnect make FCB Group India’s motivations clear, Mehta and Shah are equally excited about the opportunities.

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“Being part of the IPG group would give us access and exposure to global learnings of the Group,“ says Mehta. “Often, there are acquisitive networks that do not do a good job of integrating the agency and retaining the talent, as it becomes a financial decision only. At FCB, it has been driven by the relationship and the culture – interestingly, people have stayed here for a long time, and that was a very striking thing for us.“

Shah believes there is a "true synergy of minds and cultures" between the two agencies. “When we were picking a place to join hands with, we were keen on somewhere we felt we could stay for a long time. And that’s why the culture and the leadership played a big role in helping us decide to go ahead with FCB group.”

Mehta continues: "With this partnership, we are poised to create even greater prospects for our talent and clients as we synergise our expertise in digital marketing with FCB’s unmatched creative capabilities. The future holds limitless possibilities, and we are excited to embark on this new chapter of collaborative success.”

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