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Spark ní Beyond


...throughout our journey, if there was one question we found very  challenging to answer, it is: "So, what do you do exactly?"

The Venture
Spark n' Beyond is a wholesome and unique creative agency,  which is much different from an ad agency as defined by common perception.

The idea is to  build a business on several applications of creativity. Spark n' Beyond chose  three of them - marketing communications, theatre and creativity-stimulation  workshops. In their language, they CREATE, CO-CREATE and COACH TO CREATE.  CREATE stands for the theatre troupe they are building right now. The team is  eager to create and present to the world their first play, which will be a  refreshingly new interactive theatre experience for the audience. CO-CREATE is  the branding stream where they co-create brand images and marketing campaigns  with their clients, offering their creative talent and customer insights to the  clients; and the third stream COACH TO CREATE is a workshop module, inspired by  the Edward de Bono types.

They have  improvised a lot and built workshop modules on stimulation of creative thinking  to schools, colleges and B-schools and corporate. They are functioning in full-swing  in the branding domain currently. Their workshop modules are ready to be  launched after a year of careful research and development; while the theatre  domain is waiting on the wings to fly out soon enough.

The People and the Beginning
Meet Gomathi Shankar, an MBA (Marketing)  graduate from SIBM Bangalore (2011 batch) and an engineer by graduation. He  comes from a middle-class family in Tamil Nadu, and has set up a creative  agency - Spark n' Beyond along with four other friends in Chennai. Besides  entrepreneurship, he also happens to be an aspiring writer and a passionate  creator.

When Gomathi entered MBA, he had ideas of  setting up his own business a few years down the line. He was also partly  inspired by Rashmi Bansal's 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish', which was gifted to him  by a professor. One fine evening, when he was casually gulping down the mess  tea, he got a call from a senior friend (from his Undergraduate times), working  then in DE Shaw. He was bugged with the idea of starting up a creative agency  and he wanted to check if Gomathi would be interested. It was naturally a  tempting offer for a creatively oriented guy like him.

One thing led to the other, they formed a  team, pooled in some money, made some tough decisions and there they were. As  Gomathi puts it, "If  not for that call, I would have jumped into the pool after a few years."

...On Mentoring and MentorEdge
The Spark n' beyond team attended the  MentorEdge sessions in Chennai last year when they were all set for the plunge  and making last minute decisions of starting up. A  few days after the session, they had actually started servicing clients from an  office in Chennai.

Gomathi says that  the most valuable mentorship they received was from Mr. GD Sharma, a veteran HR  professional and a very encouraging person. He particularly liked the idea of their  workshops and promised to help them further in developing it. Even after the  MentorEdge session, the team was in constant touch with him. They sought his  opinions and help about customizing the workshops for the corporate and his  views helped them a lot in understanding how the corporate people approach such  workshops and what they expect out of them. Even now they continuously seek his  support on that front.

The entire team is  also grateful to Mr. Arvind Ahuja, who was very encouraging for their idea. They  claim that his support provided a welcome moral upliftment for all of them.

He further adds  that mentoring has helped them in formulating their product offering to suit  the target customers and in understanding the nitty-gritty of conducting  professional workshops for professionals. As he puts it, "Mentorship sessions have also helped us immensely in presenting our  business idea, which is quite a different one, in an acceptable manner to a  variety of audience. Throughout our journey, if there was one question we found  very challenging to answer, it is "So... what do you do exactly?" It has  been hard to quickly explain what we do, but after making the effort, most  people have appreciated our idea so far. We even went on to present our idea to  an esteemed jury in 2010 Economic Times 'Power of Ideas' Challenge in the  penultimate round and the initial mentorship sessions helped us a lot in  finding the right way to present us to the world."

Goals for the Spark n' Beyond team
The short term  goals for the Spark n' Beyond team are:

  1. To strengthen the clientele  portfolio of our branding domain by adding brands from more sectors and  geographies in India.
  3. To launch our workshop programs successfully to  educational and corporate institutions in customized versions.

At the same time,  their long term goal is to integrate the three exciting domains and thereby  becoming an integral part of people's lives in satiating their creative  appetite. In Gomathi's words, "The world in the near future will witness a huge  demand for original content in a variety of mediums and for a variety of  applications and Spark n' Beyond should stand in the forefront addressing that  demand."

The Learning
When asked about the three major takeaways from the Mentoring  process, Gomathi accounts the following:

  1. Practical  wisdom in running a business hands-on in terms of planning, financing,  marketing etc.
  3. An opportunity  to associate with an industry veteran and to be able to develop the idea with  his inputs and support.
  5. A sense of reassurance and self-confidence  developed in presenting the business idea to an elite audience and draw their  interest.

The Spark n' Beyond team believes that mentorship is an extremely  essential ingredient in any start-up mixture. Though not always accomplished in  a structured manner, every aspiring entrepreneur would search for mentorship in  his own way informally by interacting with peers and fellow entrepreneurs.  Structured mentorship offers him a chance to rub shoulders with people who have  experience in mentoring others to success. They further mention that every idea  gets shaped or fine-tuned to another step towards perfection with each  meaningful mentorship session. It also opens doors to a network of veterans,  and in future it could be a great asset just to know some of them.

Gomathi remarks that  upon being successful, they would themselves definitely mentor an aspiring entrepreneur someday. At the same time he also  adds that, "To  reach that level, I would give myself a period of minimum 2-3 years to explore  and imbibe entrepreneurship. I  would like to offer mentorship in terms of marketing the business idea,  starting up in teams & its practical pros and cons and in product  design/new product ideas etc."