April 10, 2015

Dialogue: Carlton D’Silva

by Amishi Parekh

After graduating with a B.Com. from University of Mumbai, a friend spoke to Carlton D’Silva, Chief Creative Officer at Hungama Digital Services (HDS) about an exciting new technology he’d come across, “It’s called the Internet and it’s something new. You might end up liking it!” The Internet seemed to offer Carlton a medium that encompassed his past experience, “So I just took a chance and said, Why not?”

Carlton had always been interested in sketching and design. While in college he completed a Diploma in computer graphics, learning everything from 2D, 3D modeling to animation. He even took up a short stint at a cell animation firm while completing his studies. Carlton started his career at a company called Internet Resources, which was taken over by the same team that now runs Sharekhan. He worked there for about four years, and during that time was introduced to one of the clients, Neeraj Roy, Managing Director & CEO of Hungama Digital. Carlton joined hungama.com in 1999, where he’s been ever since.

Hungama began as a promotions website, and it’s evolution can be directly mapped to the changing face of the digital space in India – From promotions to games to social media and mobile, to behemoth digital media aggregator. In 2005, Hungama Digital Services was created as a full-fledged digital agency and recently, the international agency JWT bought a stake in HDS.

Carlton D’Silva continues as CCO and has led the transformation of HDS into an award-winning digital agency. Carlton is one of those people who saw potential in the Internet from the very beginning, but he is self-effacing in the way he chalks up his success to luck and being at the right place at the right time. His solutions for brands such as Nokia, Mastercard, Nike, Mahindra and Intel, are testament to the fact that it has more to do with his unmatched energy and commitment to championing the digital medium. We spoke to Carlton about the current state of digital in India. What follows are excerpts from our conversation.


Carlton D’Silva

You have been working on the Internet from the very beginning, what was the industry like in the very early days?

In the initial days, everyone wanted to have a website. It was kind of like a fad, like owning a cell phone. They didn’t know what it could do for them, but they just wanted a presence on this particular medium. When I had joined Internet Resources it was like a factory set up. We used to do websites, practically one or two websites a day. And it used to be just basic websites, because there was no Flash, there was no HTML 5, there was no heavy multimedia. The only form of technology that was included on a website was your contact form. At that point in time, that was also evolution.

There was a whole phase of just “me wanting to be there on the Internet”, then “I am on the Internet so let me just try and do something funky so that I stand out from the rest”. And now it’s more about utility. After the multimedia-phase, there was a whole phase of “me starting a media property” of sorts. You had a number of guys coming up with their own websites, like indiamovie, timepass.com. All these media houses started creating their own properties, like Rediff – what they are right now is not what they started off being, it was more of a magazine, a newspaper of sorts. And then afterwards, you get into the social media phase when the platforms were coming up.

In the initial days, it wasn’t evolving that quickly because the infrastructure was very bad, I remember we used to use those modems, dial-ups. From what it was when it was just a fad, it’s now become a necessity for everyone. We surf the Internet on our mobile phones, Internet is following us wherever we go. We are checking in into places, and posting, so it becomes pretty much like muscle memory. That is a huge way in which it has evolved, from something that was just by-the-way, just another medium to something which is so entrenched in your everyday life.

What else would you say has changed apart from technology in these 15-20 years?

Initially part of what we were doing was evangelizing the medium. We don’t do that right now. I honestly believe that the skill sets in the country have improved to a great extent. It was completely Greek to people when I used to speak about what I do. Now, it’s [digital design] a profession, it is a job that you can actually look at doing. Before, it was learning on the job, taking your basic skills and nurturing them while you were working. But now even in art schools, like NIFT or in JJ School of Art, there are people who try to move towards digital art and multimedia. As a career also it is becoming a lot more evolved as far as quality of work which is coming out. Be it something as rudimentary as motion sensing, motion capturing, a lot of that has become so accessible right now that you can do more than what you started off doing. It’s opened up mind-space for everyone and you can really go berserk in your thinking. And your thoughts are not hindered by the absence of infrastructure.

Do you find that clients are specifically asking for a digital solution? Are they more receptive to exploring what’s possible?

You have a gradation of clients and their knowledge, but from where we were then to now, it’s a huge change. It’s no longer the last few slides of every presentation, which a mainline agency runs. With clients where their core target group is a digital-savvy individual, it seems to take center stage. It’s not only that digital has become an amplification medium. It could be your main medium of choice and over time, for the remaining brand managers who still think that digital is not very assertive or not the medium they should be advertising on, it will change. Nowadays you have a much younger group of brand managers stepping up and it makes it a lot easier, because they are accustomed to being on Facebook, they are accustomed to social media, to innovations, and it’s a lot easier to sell to them because they are more aware of what is out there.

There still seems to be a way to go till we can say that we are at the global standard. Why do you think that is, and what areas can we work on more?

The reason for that is the approach that we have towards this medium is completely lopsided. The digital team will probably get to know of this particular campaign at the nth hour, they will have limited amount of time and budget to actually execute something of this nature. So you know you are not going to get the best of people working on campaigns.

People know that we have the skill sets here, otherwise we would not be getting any work from countries outside of India. If you are looking at graphics also, most graphics and animation in many Hollywood films are done out of India. There is the capability, the talent is there, and it’s just that you need to be on the same leveled playing field, and you’ve got to have a sizable budget to let that creative come out in the best possible manner.

The time factor is the greatest hindrance to us reaching a particular level. If you look at some of the really good campaigns which are done in the international markets, they have in excess of three months to create a campaign, whereas in India, we have maybe a week to create a campaign. From where we started off in 1996 or so, to where we are right now, there has been a huge change as far as design goes and obviously knowledge, through the internet, learning tools, software, all of that keeps changing. And as and when things get better and more usable you will get more work which is on par with international work. I do feel though that a lot of work is at par, but not as much as I would love to see.

How do you keep up with all these changes and this new technology? It seems like everyday there is something new.

We are continuously tinkering with technology. We have a team called HDS Labs, which essentially takes new technologies and tries to make products, whether it is something like a motion-capturing engine or whether it is targeting radio frequencies or whether it is on-ground activations. This team is not involved in our day-to-day client updates and retainers. They bring in the best pieces of technology out there and create products which will help brands in the future, help brands gather a lot more data which can be used to market to individuals in a better and smarter way.

There are times when brands come to us and we come up with a solution through technology, or we already have these products in store and we see which one fits that particular brand. Everyone wants to look like a brand which is forward thinking, and the means to that is to include technology in whatever you are doing. So technology is pretty much the center of what we are thinking.

Do you ever feel that you have gotten stuck in your way of thinking after all this time?

At times you do tend to get stuck in your own ways of thinking of sorts because time has moved forward, the target group has changed. What they believe in, the stuff that excites them is a lot different from what you think will excite them, that’s why I have a lot of young people on my team. The average age in our office is about 24 or so, and I am constantly learning from them. For me the process of learning never ends, and the best way to learn about the medium is to be around the people who live and breathe it. That’s one of the reasons why you will always have a young bunch of individuals working in this particular medium. People here will evolve, they will move forward, and they will hire younger individuals because they are the new age consumers also.


Art schools don’t teach programming and coding. Programmers don’t learn art. How does one develop talent?

Being that my skills were in Art, where I gained a bit over the rest was the fact that I started coding too. When you are in an environment that is passionate about what you do, you tend to pick up each other’s skills and that exchange of knowledge is very important in building the thinking ability of both the programmer and the designer. In this medium it is so important for the programmer to have a designer’s mind while coding and a designer to have a coder’s mind when designing. Both of them need to be in-sync with each other else the end product will just not be what was conceptualised.

Which digital agencies are doing good work these days?

I see some good work coming out of a few established agencies like 22feet and Indigo Consulting. The Mainline Agencies too are beginning to make their mark like iContract & Grey Digital.

Digital is known for a high rate of attrition because there are so many young people constantly looking for the next big thing in their careers. How do you deal with that at Hungama?

At Hungama, the attrition rate has not been very high purely because we set up a good, healthy environment to work in. To retain good people in your company you need to set up an environment in which they believe they can grow, where you don’t put down their way of thinking but nurture it. If you look at our senior management, each of them has been around for about ten years in the system, which is an anomaly when it comes to a creative resource in any medium. We have a very open work environment, no one has cabins over here, we all sit down in a very casual manner, everyone has access to everyone. Even when you come into the office you don’t know if there are segregated teams, but actually there are segregated teams. But you have access to what each and every one of them are doing. If you create a good atmosphere then people are not going to be leaving unless they get a huge salary hike, and the only way you can get that is to jump ship. But I have had a lot of people who’ve jumped ship only to came back after about a year, or 6 months. You are spending 80% of your day here and if you are not going to like that 80% of your day then there is no use in spending it in that place right? So I think, it’s creating a very nurturing and fruitful environment so that you can grow, you can learn and you can become a lot better at what you are doing.

Do you have any advice for young designers starting out and interested in digital design?

My only advice would be, pick a stream and then follow it. It might not be the best stream in the initial phase, but stick to it and strive to do better in it. This [Digital] is a very cutthroat medium. If you are not the best at what you are doing, chances are you will not make it anywhere. So you have got to be really, really good and the only way to do that is to have focus. The problem with the digital medium is that you tend to get sidetracked very easily. There are many things which you can do, and you start doing something which you wanted to do all your life and then you see something else which is a lot more interesting and you give it a try. You aren’t giving 100% to both of those. So my advice would be stay away from temptation and pretty much do whatever you are focused on doing, so that you can be the best at it.

A version of this article was published in Kyoorius 21.читать чужую переписку вкскачать plumo накрутка сердечек вконтактевконтакте через анонимайзер без ограниченийанонимайзер вконтакте входвзлом почтового ящика rambler

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