Gautam Bhirani was 27 when his ambitious business tanked. But the failure ultimately worked in his favour. It taught him everything he needed know about entrepreneurship. “For me it was my MBA”, says Gautam! The failure didn’t stop him from realizing his dreams.
Having worked in advertising space for nearly a decade, he was well-acquainted with the trends. But he wanted to be a trendsetter in industry- that’s how he founded TagTalk, his brainchild!
What is Tagtalk?
Tagtalk is a hyperlocal social networking ecosystem driven by Internet of Things (IoT), the first of its kind in the world, which blends with urban landscape and lifestyle.
“Tagtalk connects people, places, creators, content, things & data through our connected display network across most trending locations, which is driven by the community itself. It’s a Live Social TV where the content is created by millennials themselves”, says Gautam who plans to release the Tagtalk app soon.
As an entrepreneur, Gautam admits that hyperconnectivity has changed a lot of things including our attention, the most scarce and crucial resource today. “Today’s digital and traditional advertising struggles to truly connect with consumers. In an overly complicated advertising ecosystem, media providers either cast too wide a net or are way too intrusive, turning off consumers,” says Gautam.
Gautam always goes the extra mile in his niche. He is disrupting Indian advertising space through his display network. The idea is to grab the attention of people, mainly millennials who are active users of online platforms, in a unique way. In his opinion, it is not easy to seek the attention of millennials who have been hijacked by smartphones.
So he put years of his experience in advertising industry into building a non-intrusive platform. Creating an amiable platform for a hyper-connected population was indeed a challenge. How did he overcome this?
The way he projected the idea deserves a pat on his shoulders. Gautam went a step ahead and designed Tagtalk in a way that goes in harmony with the millennial’s online and offline hypersocial lifestyle.
His disruptive innovation is going to change the whole advertising scenario, both offline and online. But how does cashing in on a idea that depends on millennials become relevant today?
“Millennials are a particularly sociable generation. This sociability is expressed online as well as in real life, particularly in the arenas where online and offline activities and circles of friends overlap,” he answers.
One thing that redefined the way people connect today, according to Gautam, is the surge in the number of eateries, cafes and pubs in last two years.
TagTalk basically connects both offline and online lifestyles of the hypersocial millennials by connecting their favorite places, friends and creators.
Brands can make use of this user-generated content (UGC) platform to display ads. “It enables brands to target the connected millennials real-time in a non-intrusive & in a trusted uncluttered environment in a delightful way,” says Gautam.
Tagtalk’s connected smart displays are popularly known as DOOH (Digital Out of Home) as they carry out advertising to reach the consumers while they are outside their homes. Although there has been a lot buzz over DOOH, Gautam thinks it still grey as it falls between traditional and digital advertising that are both procured differently by people from different skill set.
Gautam is well-aware of the challenges ahead. Until the industry tries to embrace the transition and build a ecosystem with digitally inclined talent, DOOH occupancy and revenue will be relatively low, he says.
But he reflects positively on the changes that Tagtalk brought within a short span of time and he has high hopes on transforming it into a major platform to create brand awareness.
“Our platform is all about hyper social millennials and their favourite places. They have turned it into a rage for us on social media which brands and digital marketers have made a note of,” he points out. Driven by its immense potential in the industry,digital marketers are taking on DOOH by integrating API’s, Social Media and HTML.
Gautam got tremendous appreciation from South Asia for coming up with a unique platform like Tagtalk. He feels Tagtalk could open new and more extensive avenues in countries like China, Singapore and Philippines.“If I had a chance I would launched it first in South Asia,” he says.
Who Supports Gautam?
Entrepreneurship is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is a risky domain.
So parents usually discourage their children from dipping their feet in it. But Gautam feels he is fortunate to have a supportive family that always stands by him.
“I am fortunately blessed with wonderful parents who believed in me and never stopped me from dreaming and discovering myself,” says Gautam.
He was brought up in a service class family where he got sensible insights on life. The family did not spoil him much. Gautam and his sister were set free at the right to establish themselves in life.
“The fact that I didn’t have anything to fall back worked in my favour where nothing ever was taken for granted. I have been financially independent for last 15 years, and my parents have always supported my vision and never questioned my instinct,” he recollects.
Looking back, he feels his parents gave him the biggest gift in life – Freedom! “They gave me the freedom to dream, discover & learn from every experience and thanks to them I am living my dream now.”
What keeps him motivated?
Gautam believes it’s very important to keep your focus intact to achieve life goals. His daily fitness regime helps him delver his best each day.
“I have been training since the age of 12, I have played professional cricket for 5 years and been a state level athlete too,” he reveals his passion for sports.
As a fitness enthusiast, he also practices calisthenics (body weight training), which helps him remain calm during turbulent times. He finds inspiration in travelling.
“Every time I travel I not only rediscover myself, but it feeds and nourishes my soul. It takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me try new things, meet people from different cultures and learn from them,” he says.
A Socially Responsible Entrepreneur
Apart from entrepreneurship, Gautam is also keen on supporting the rights of animals. He admits that he would have definitely devoted all his time to animal welfare if he wasn’t an entrepreneur.
“I have been actively involved in animal welfare and have been contributing to animal shelters for a while now. It’s been a dream to open an animal shelter and fight for cruelty against the voiceless,” he says. He also points out that the laws are not capable to protect animals.
A Piece of Advice
Entrepreneurship is not child’s play for Gautam. He knows what it takes a lot of effort to be a successful entrepreneur. He has often went beyond the usual levels of expectations
Gautam remembers the one boldest decision he took in his life. When his business needed a scale up in investment, everyone advised him to consider seed funding. But he listened only to his instinct and funded the entire project by himself and turned into an investor.
From this rich experience comes his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs – Entrepreneurship may sound exciting, but it doesn’t come easy. Till one is successful it’s a lonely battle, so instead of chasing people, chase your dreams.
Here’s how Gautam would like to define business:
Structuring, Institutionalizing & Commercializing a service that solves a purpose.
From being a failure in business to becoming the head of TagTalk, Gautam’s entrepreneurial journey resembles an epic story.
When he started in 2009-10, Gautam’s business was the first organization to build a network of connected infotainment displays using 3g in India. He was featured in Economic Times & Zee Business, which was quite surprising for people who had turned him down.
“There were quite a few people who never took me and my plans seriously. That entire episode changed people’s perception. My parents had mixed feelings too, they were delighted and shocked the same time,” says Gautam as he signs off!
Being a thalassophile, Gautam loves ocean. That’s the way he unwinds himself from the hustle and bustle of the busy life. Like a sailor who is in pursuit of the magic on land, he is on is way to unlock more opportunities for Tagtalk!
The ultimate goal of entrepreneurs should be to solve problems or bring better alternatives to a crippling element in the market.
Gautam Bhirani took Indian advertising industry by storm with TagTalk, an effective way to display ads and target the right consumers, with emphasis on a UGC platform. He came up with a disruptive innovation amid the numerous hurdles.
So the only thing that matters is how passionate are you in delivering your ideas. If you keep that spark intact throughout your entrepreneurial journey, people start believing in you.