It is rightly said, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Vikas Tiwari from the Baibaha village in Uttar Pradesh had a dream and has been able to successfully turn it into reality. He now has his own creative studio – ‘whatastory.in’. The team has already worked with big companies like Zee Telugu, Intex, ICRISAT, etc.
Vikas is a man of many talents. He is a poet, a story writer, a photographer, a graphic designer, an animator and an absolutely stellar entrepreneur. Inspired by the dedication and thought process of the great painter Pablo Ruiz Y Picasso, the 24-year-old designer-turned-entrepreneur, Vikas is working on his passion for creative graphics in Hyderabad.
Vikas moved to Kanpur which was the nearest city from his village, at the age of 17, in a bid to turn his dreams into reality. Working 16-18 hours at a stretch every day, Vikas enrolled himself in an academic course and got a part-time job and also worked on freelance assignments that required him to make animated videos and do graphic designing.
There wasn’t much scope for animation in Kanpur which is why Vikas moved to Hyderabad and worked for two years in a reputed ad agency. With everything going well for him, he thought of starting his own venture. It was then when Vikas left his job and embarked on a new journey.
A team of three to five people in a not more than 8/10 size room laid the stepping stone two years ago, and now, the venture is going to have its first international office in Dubai, besides the two main centers in Hyderabad and Kanpur.
He is currently based in Hyderabad, running ‘whatastory.in’, which is currently dealing with 300+ clients from the world. ‘whatastory.in’ is an agency that creates creative designs and videos for its clients but also partners with them to make effective advertising and marketing campaigns.
I had an interesting conversation with Vikas about his career as a young entrepreneur. He talks about his journey from how he established a small startup in Hyderabad to having an international office in Dubai.
Q. How and from where did you get inspiration for your work?
My source of inspiration has been people and the real world around me. I don’t basically hunt for design inspiration, but I keep eyes on the latest market trends.
Q. Why did you keep the venture’s name ‘whatastory’? Is there a specific reason behind it?
Yes. I believe everyone has a story and who knows what could inspire people or touch someone’s heart. ‘whatastory.in’ intends to work on the wackiest of ideas and put all our efforts into presenting it in the most beautiful manner possible.
Q. What makes you a good leader in a team where most people are your age?
My experiences and amiable nature, I guess! I have always been a driven person and have worked proficiently on all the opportunities that have come my way, and I expect the same from my team. I always encourage my team members to share their ideas. When I commit a mistake; I sit and identify where I lack, spend time with people who are senior to me and more experienced than I am, to get it sorted. Hence, I never step back from any situation.
Q. Do you have any funny story to share?
There is no funny incident as such. However, in my initial days, there was one such incident when I lost a client. This incident happened when I was a beginner in the industry, and I had only worked on one freelance project. I accidentally misspelt my client’s name. When he brought it to my notice, I had asked, “What’s in a name?”
I lost that project because of my mistake. So, a piece of advice for others – avoid making mistakes and double check your work for errors and if it does happen; one should own up to it, apologise, rectify it, learn from it and move on.
Q. What is the next big project you’re working on?
As of now, ‘whatastory’ is in its budding stage, growing each day. We have recently cracked a deal with Mytrah Energy, who is also now, one of our biggest clients. We are also planning to enter into a retainership with names like Dr Reddy, ICRISAT, etc. We are going to make another TVC for Zee too.
Q. Is it a challenge to stick to what the clients have asked for and also, at the same time, allow your creativity to flow into the ideas that you work on? Who do you listen to?
Yes, many times! If anything like that comes up, then we discuss and explain to them why we are doing what we’re doing. More often than not, they allow us to do at least half of the things we propose to them. Thus, we put some of our ideas and incorporate their ideas as per the project. I remember once, I made a proper story and storyboard for a company for a live ad shoot. They were happy with my process. But the very next day they rejected my idea. So, one never knows what the client has in mind.
Q. What are your strengths?
My highly efficient team tops the list of strengths as they are not just magnificent in the work they do, it’s also because they’re as good in their personal lives as with people around them at work. My family, and last but not the least, Rama Iyer, who has been a great mentor and has supported my work. He listens to and welcomes every new idea no matter how many I pitch in a day, in fact, he imparts his knowledge to make the ideas even better. He helped me a lot in starting up the venture too.
Q. How supportive has your family been?
My family is my pillar of strength. They love me unconditionally and have supported me in every phase of life. I come from a joint family who live in Baibaha. Though they don’t really understand what I do, as they have never seen anything like this before, they believe in me and want me to do well in life.
Q. How did you get your first international client?
My first resume designing assignment came to me from Martin Kandra, who is an American national and now, a good friend. He had asked me to design a three-page resume for his job, and I gave him an eight-page brochure. I gave that ‘extra something’ to him, and he loved it. I guess that’s how I build camaraderie with my clients. Many of his friends now contact me for similar work.
Q. How do you usually get clients and what is your creative process?
We have adopted a simple formula on which our team works i.e. Research – Propose – Convince. We make sure we do our homework and pitch new and efficient ideas to our clients so that they avail our services first. Our team has put all its efforts into each project that we’ve done. We are active on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter where we share and promote our work. These social media sites help us get more assignments from across the world.
Q. What is a typical day at work, like?
I am active most of the time on Hangouts or Skype. Since we have clients from other countries too, we need to be active 24×7. My usual day starts with checking emails, assigning work to team members, discussing client requirements and the cycle continues.
Q. Can you tell us a few organisations that you’ve worked with so far?
We have a great clientele, and they love to work with us.
Some of the organisations that we’ve worked with, so far include Zee, Intex, GrabOn, Geojit BNP Paribas, Summit BHC. We have worked with a lot of startups as well.
Q. What’s your vision for ‘whatastory’?
We want the bar of advertising and creative engagement to rise even higher in India. We don’t just design because we have to; we design with the intent to engage more people in creative designing where they experiment with their own ideas.
Q. A piece of advice you’d like to give aspiring artists?
One must experiment with ideas in the market. Never give up without trying out an idea for once.