Arun Iyer, Raja Ganapathy and Vineet Gupta’s Spring Marketing Capital is helping build disruptive brands of the future

Raja Ganapathy, Arun Iyer and Vineet Gupta of Spring Marketing CapitalSpring Marketing Capital
  • The skin in the game marketing capital firm aims at helping disruptive startup founders on their marketing journey.
  • The agency has already worked with 17 brands including Byju’s, Cars24, Epigamia.
  • The Spring team is currently formed of around 25 professionals from varied fields
  • Spring is looking at investing $1-2 million each on 15 startups within the next three years.
Earlier this year, Raja Ganapathy, former Chief Marketing Officer of Sequoia Capital India, Arun Iyer, ex-chairman of Lowe Lintas and Vineet Gupta, ex-group Chief Executive of DDB Mudra came together to form what they like to call a skin in the game marketing capital firm, Spring Marketing Capital.

Nine months down the line, the trio has already worked with an impressive roster of new-age disruptors, 17 to be precise, which includes brands like Byju’s, Cars24, Epigamia. Spring had already reached its target that it had set for the year, within its first six months of existence.

Along with the three founders, the Spring team currently is formed of around 25 professionals from varied fields. Interestingly, most of them had already quit their previous jobs and come on board, even before the organization had a formal name, and even before they had received their offer letters. It is perhaps this eclectic bunch of professionals from varied backgrounds who have helped give the organization an edge, making it very different from other agencies out there. “It's very difficult to break down our organization into departments. It's almost like we are a bunch of 25 consultants, each specializing in certain fields, working together, which makes us unique. We are different from other agencies, in fact, we would fail terribly if we tried and behaved like an agency,” says Iyer with a smile.

How it all came together


It was almost two and a half years ago when Iyer and Ganapathy first discussed the idea that was fine-tuned over numerous weekends. Gupta came on board a year back and things slowly started falling in place.

“The first idea that we discussed two and a half years back is nowhere close to where we are today, as typically what happens at any startup. It's only last year after Vineet came on board and we devoted a year of weekends to this task that the idea firmed up,” shares Ganapathy.

Iyer has been a part of the advertising world for over 20 years, 16 of them were spent in Lowe Lintas. For the last six years out of the 20, he was the Chief Creative Officer and the Chairman of the company. So what prompted him to take the leap? “What helped me personally, is that by the end of it, I didn’t feel like I was learning anything new and growing. That hunger coupled with my interactions with Raja, Vineet and all the people who have come on board really helped me take that leap,” he says.

For all three of them, a lot of the charm of the idea lay in the fact that they would be an intrinsic part of a new-age brand’s journey that was endeavoring to disrupt the segment. “While I was doing some parts of what I am doing here at Sequoia too, there I wasn’t able to see the entire journey. There, I was involved in problem identification, the business strategy and the go-to market and then someone like an Arun or Vineet would take over. Despite being a part of the process, I wasn’t in the room. Today, our involvement with these companies is far deeper. I’ve been working with Byju’s since 2015, but this year’s Disney campaign has been really special.”

Agreeing to Ganapathy, Gupta adds, “There’s a huge difference in being able to solve a problem as an outsider and an insider. The way our previous organizations and relationships were structured, you were seen as an outsider. These brands actually see our entire team as an insider and they know we have their best interest, and that makes a lot of difference.”

Spring’s Modus Operandi

Having worked with close to 17 brands already, Spring is on a roll. However, the unique structure of the organization gives it an edge. It calls itself a marketing consulting firm with an investment arm. Spring works closely with founders and helps them on their marketing journey. They will also invest in these startups in their Series A or pre Series A stage. However, they will be co-investors, along with other VCs, instead of being primary investors. And till now, all the startups Spring has worked with have been in-bound. Either they have been approached by the founders or have been referred to by VCs.

Explaining how their investment arm would work, Ganapathy says, “Right now we are a pure play consulting firm and the investments will happen next year. If I were to look ahead and predict, we are probably looking at five investments a year, leading to 15 investments over the next three years. We will look at investing between $1-2 million per company, which is around 10% of an investment round.”

Why will they think the model, which does not still exists anywhere, will be a success? Ganapathy says, “There's genuinely a gap in the market for founders who have raised a series A or a Series B funding and are thinking of building a brand, embarking on a marketing journey for the first time. There is a gap in that space in terms of partners who are willing to do it. Secondly, the uniqueness of three different people like us coming together will help.”

Raja Ganapathy on what makes Spring Marketing Capital different
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Raja Ganapathy on what makes Spring Marketing Capital different
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The vision for Spring

Currently, Spring is working closely with founders and aiming at addressing their marketing problems, using the medium that is best suited for each problem. Their mantra? No two pieces of work coming out from Spring should ever look similar.

Gupta says, “A lot of people compartmentalize their teams but we’re not structured like that at all. We're very solution-focused and the solutions come from the nature of the problem. We will never push a solution because we are good at something.”

“What excites us about this is that we are helping founders on their journey, giving their business a structure and process, and making sure that building the brand becomes a part of the journey they are in, from a business point of view. And that is at the heart of what we do,” says Ganapathy.

So where do they want to take Spring in the next few years? “The honest answer to that is, we don't know,” confesses Ganapathy. “I know this sounds shocking because a fair number of people have trusted us but the truth is, what we are trying to do is something very unique. And it would be foolish to think that we will be doing this for the next two decades of our life. We will be doing some version of this. But it all depends on the success of this model, which we believe will evolve with time,” he add.

“We want to hold on to the philosophy of being an insider and the skin in the game way of working. What forms it takes, we will know as we go along,” adds Iyer.


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