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Bang Bang Films Takes the International Route to Building a Brand

Anthony Vagnoni
With an Asian expansion on tap and its Jack in the Box content division growing, Bang Bang aims to be India's post-modern production house.

So just where is Bang Bang Films' Co-Founder and Managing Director Roopak Saluja today?  Good question. He's always on the move, it seems. SourceEcreative tracked him down in Delhi, but it could just as easily have been London or Mumbai or New York or God knows where.  When we caught up with him, he was just back from Phuket, where he attended ADFEST.  The resort was nice, he adds, and he brought his wife and young son, who'll soon be joined by a little brother or sister.
When we say things are growing at Bang Bang, we're not kidding.
Saluja, who started the company in 2006 with veteran Producer Kirk Dias (who happens to be Indian, despite his surname), brings a diverse background to his work. A true internationalist, he's lived in 10 countries, speaks eight languages and has a lengthy resume of agency work in Europe, where he spent six years at Y&R in Hungary, then a few more with Ogilvy in Paris.  He's got an MBA from the INSEAD business school, helped launch the Motorola "Hello, Moto" campaign globally and brings an account-side perspective to his work with agencies and brands.
Bang Bang, Saluja says, is dedicated to the internationalization of the Indian media and entertainment sectors.  Their plan is to tap into a global pool of directorial, artistic and technical resources, both on an exclusive and freelance basis. It's been one of the leaders in importing international talent to the Indian market, and is one of a few shops in India to have a co-representation and production deal with a major US and UK-based production company, Believe Media.  The two shops recently joined forces on their first production, a Tata  Motors spot shot in South Africa by Director Gerard de Thame, who's based in London.
The job was a breeze, reports Believe Media EP Bryan Farhy, even though it was their first project together and de Thame's first ever for an Indian agency and client. 
"Bang Bang was as buttoned up and professional as we had predicted," says Farhy about the shoot. "They took great care of Gerard, and supported him on the same level as we do here in the States.

In addition to its co-production aspirations, Bang Bang has also picked up on the growing trend of marketers to look for outside-the-box solutions by forming Jack in the Box Worldwide, its content creation company, two years ago. To date they've produced high profile projects for brands like Puma, Forever 21, Esprit, Conde Nast and others.  (For more on this, check out our news story here.)
"This basically marks our transition from being a 'doing company to a 'thinking and doing company,'" Saluja explains about the Jack in the Box role. "On a strategic level, the lines between communications and entertainment are blurring greatly-so much so, in fact, that producers of content won't be able to differentiate between the two. We've taken those two elements and introduced technology and new media insights; that kind of sums up where Bang Bang Films and Jack in the Box Worldwide intend to be in the next few years, at the crossroads of communications, entertainment and technology."
Right now, he admits that the company's revenue stream is slanted towards traditional TVC production, but he expects that to change, for a variety of factors. One is the fast track that Indian agencies and clients seem to be on when it comes to adopting cutting-edge marketing techniques already popular elsewhere in the world; already, Bang Bang is capturing some of that market with its Jack in the Box unit. 
The other move designed to continue their shift to a more balanced volume of work is their planned expansion to Singapore, which according to Saluja is well in the works. "Right now we're talking to people, looking for the right person to head up the office there," he says. The goal is to use that office as a base from which to work for agencies and clients across the Asia/Pacific region.  "What we're trying to do there is build an Indian brand with a global presence in the production community."  If it flies, he believes they'll be among the first Indian production companies to successfully expand beyond India.
Dias, the other half of the dynamic duo at Bang Bang, is a production lifer who worked with a number of top Indian production companies before teaming with Saluja to co-found the company.  He's got close to a thousand commercials, a couple of hundred music videos and a couple of features to his credit. Apart from being the production backbone of both Bang Bang and Jack in the Box, he steers operations at Bang Bang as EP, while Saluja focuses on strategic development and new business.
The company's commercials work runs the gamut from glossy fashion and beauty work for brands like L'Oreal to a snappy, song and dance spot for the Indian airline Indigo, to work for Fiat, Pepsi, TVS, Philips, Old Spice, Johnson & Johnson and other big brands. While geared towards the Indian consumer, the work has the polish of most European or American TVCs.
One reason why is that the company works with international talent in key areas, from the director to the DP to stylists, art directors, set designers, etc.-many of whom Saluja likely crossed paths with during his days running pan regional accounts at Y&R and O&M.  He sees the influx of foreign talent as something that's going to help elevate the Indian product across the board.
"There are a lot of international directors who come in, shoot and leave," he says. "Before we started doing this, no one was talking much to foreign directors. Now, everyone wants to have a foreign talent on their roster."
But there's more to this than bringing in a hired gun, Saluja says.  "You have to do two things-you have to keep the agency happy and you have to keep the client happy. We've managed to do both, but it's not easy. You have to support these directors with the right resources and the right crew. There are plenty of examples of directors who've come in to shoot Indian jobs and have not found that to be the case."
Bang Bang has exclusive relationships with some directors for the Indian market, and in other instances they work with freelance talents. What they've found is that as this process matures, more and more brands are open to working with a foreign director, as long as the project is something that would benefit from an outsider's perspective and vision.
Their outlook for the rest of the year is good, Saluja says, but he's paying close attention to some of the nuances of the marketplace.  "The competition for work has increased, which means we need to be on our toes," he comments.  "We went from being a small, new company to a relatively more expensive albeit larger company in a very short time.  Going forward, we need to be more nimble and stay on top of the demands of each job."
He predicts the Singapore launch will be a big boost for Bang Bang, "as it will give us a larger geographic circle. It's a smart move, in that it mirrors the global footprint of our clients," companies such as Unilever. It's also fast becoming a hotbed of advertising creative activity, with shops such as R/GA opening there within the past year or so.
So what's next? An office in London? "It could happen anytime!" Saluja laughs. "But Los Angeles might be more of a possibility. It's the perfect place for us to concentrate on content development."
This brings him back to his earlier comment about being at the crossroads of marketing and entertainment; he feels strongly that this is the time and the place for an Indian production company with deep roots in the ad game to make its mark working across platforms on a larger stage. "Whether it's brand-focused or our own proprietary intellectual property, our goal is to build a culture of content creation here and take an idea from just a seed all the way through to the final product."
Let's check back with him in 9 months and see how he's doing.

 Chapter 1: Footcandles...       Chapter 2: BangBang...       Chapter 3: Gobsmack...       Chapter 4: showcase...