Mumbai-based Social Wavelength, a full-service social media agency, has just raised second round of angel funding from four investors including two existing angel investors Sunish Sharma and Jayendra Shah.
Sunish Sharma, a former managing director at the private equity firm General Atlantic, has recently floated a separate PE firm along with two other industry executives. Jayendra Shah is a senior partner at the accountancy firm NA Shah Associates and an independent director at the media group Lokmat.
In June 2010, Social Wavelength had raised an angel round from Sharma and Shah, as well as a US-based high net worth individual. The three are repeat investors in the current round while a fourth Indian investor has also joined the consortium. The fresh round of funding has been raised a couple of weeks ago.
The money will be used for expanding operations to Bangalore and Delhi, developing technology tools and verticalisation of its services. The Mumbai-based start-up is looking to set up offices in Delhi and Bangalore in the next 3-6 months and is on a hiring spree.
The company’s founders were reluctant to disclose the quantum of fund raised and the names of the other two angel investors.
“A lot of brands in India are recognising the relevance of social media – sometimes only after getting hurt,” commented Sanjay Mehta, joint-CEO of Social Wavelength, while speaking to Techcircle.in.
Jayendra Shah, who is also the director of Mumbai-based Trans-continental Capital Advisors Pvt Ltd, a boutique investment bank, has joined the board of directors at Social Wavelength.
The company also plans to set up individual verticals for different practices such as investor relations, human resources and market research. “Social media is not just for marketing – we need to appreciate that it is relevant wherever interactions take place. In short, beyond actual conversations with customers, there are many other conversations which are happening and where social media analytics can help,” explained Mehta.
Social Wavelength has attempted pilots for these three verticals and has begun hiring domain experts. By April, a swathe of new services targeted at the three verticals will be launched.
The Start-up’s Journey
Social Wavelength has grown at a fast clip over the past three years. Founded in April 2009 by Sanjay Mehta, Hareesh Tibrewala and Mihir Karkare, the start-up began full-fledged operations only in July 2009. Tibrewala and Mehta go back a long way – the two had previously set up Homeindia.com way back in 1996. Initially, Homeindia.com was a free online postal service for NRIs. But it shifted to e-commerce in 1998 and started selling gifts.
Social Wavelength started developing technology tools to address the key challenges of social media monitoring and marketing. The company is now fine-tuning those. “We need to understand who is speaking, the influencers, the locations, across all social platforms. In order to get a better grip on this, we are working on tools that can fetch those conversations and offer high level intelligence. This will enable brands to have a better understanding of the social media pie with more insights,” said Mehta.
Incidentally, change has been a constant companion as far as brands and customer interactivity are concerned. “Initially, brands were looking to set up a social media presence, but this is no longer the case – a Facebook page is now standard,” said Mehta. “Now they know they need to differentiate, stand out and be more creative. Consequently, we are increasingly becoming more of a creative agency. The idea is to evolve more creative campaigns for brands that will break through the clutter and be more meaningful for the,” he added.
Social media management has become more ROI-oriented today and brands are asking how it leads back to their businesses objectives, reduces costs, increases sales and retains customers.
“Social media is a great model for companies to connect with existing and potential customers. It will continue to evolve into an even more important medium for understanding customers in the years to come. Social Wavelength has built a unique model and a market leadership position for companies to better understand and leverage the social media,” said Sunish Sharma, an angel investor in Social Wavelength.
The opportunity is huge as well. There are 38 million Facebook users in India and 12 million on Twitter. According to various estimates, the size of the social media market, excluding media buys, is at Rs 250-300 crore. Although this is still a very small percentage of the total ad spend budgeted by brands, it is growing rapidly and is expected to hit Rs 400 crore next year.
But what about the competition from ad agencies?
“Many ad agencies also offer social media monitoring and engagement. But that’s not their core business and they choose to collaborate with agencies like Social Wavelength,” said Mehta.
“Unlike the structure in an ad agency, we realise that social media is on-going and needs dedicated resources. Also, ad agencies still think in terms of ad campaigns while social media is not really about hardcore advertising – it is about building communities, conversations and online reputation management. So the approach has to be value-driven rather than pushing products,” he added.