He has a Masters in Computers Applications & Computer Science from Wayne State University (2001) and has expertise in the fields of Augmented Reality, 3D Depth Sense, Arduino, Ambient Media, Virtual Reality and Motion and Gesture Recognition. And Brand Identity. That last helps him put all the rest together to create some great tech-driven experiential marketing campaigns that make an emotional connect with consumers.
Which he has rolled out with a team of creative- and tech experts and designers, and has been doing since he set up the experiential marketing company Xenium Digital Pvt Ltd some eleven years ago. Xenium has been growing and setting the standards in the experiential marketing domain, bringing a confluence of traditional-communication and tech-driven campaign tools to help deliver great consumer connects to brands.
Meet Parveez Nasyam, CEO & Managing Director of Xenium Digital, which he created in 2007 and headquartered in Mumbai. Today, it is well established as an Experiential Marketing and Interactive Digital Agency that seeks to give memorable digital experiences to consumers by using advanced advertising technologies that bring brands to life.
The brand has now expanded their work purview in 3 divisions: Industrial AR/VR Applications, Experience Centres and Events and Activations.
I caught up with Parveez for an in-depth chat on how Xenium Digital came about – its journey from the early days, through the recession of 2008, and the growth, the biggest initial problems, the success and learnings that followed, his thoughts on the industry, and his advice for anyone who wants to start something. Read on.
Xenium Digital has been around for 10 years. What were you doing when you decided to go in for creating XD? And why did you decide to create Xenium Digital?
I started out in the business of digital signages in Hyderabad. It was a way for me to combine art and technology. I loved the idea of being able to realise my vision, and only wanted to move ahead from there. I believed that technology, content, and interaction would be the way forward. Bringing these aspects together we created one of India’s first digital interactive agencies in 2007, Xenium Digital.
What’s your education and background like? Are you from an entrepreneurial family?
I have a Bachelorette in engineering but dropped out of my masters in computer applications in order to pursue my entrepreneurial ventures, which at that time did not seem like a good decision, but my family has been very supportive throughout my entire life. They have been the backbone of my success.
I come from a political background which taught me to look at situations with an optimistic point of view at all times. Also, I was mentored constantly by my father on how to be a people’s person, which helped me tremendously in working along with my team to execute successful projects and maintain great relationships with my clients.
We are planning to set up a full fledged experiential marketing agency in Singapore, and another one in New York. By leveraging the global cost arbitrage, we will try and expand to other countries around the world as well. Our headquarters will remain in Mumbai as it is here that we are about to inaugurate South Asia’s largest experiential studio called ’The Fusion Innovation Lounge’. The carefully curated technologies on display shall be futuristic and give brand heads a better idea as to how technology can boost their connection with the customers: Parveez Nasyam
You launched in 2007, which was a booming time. What was your starting corpus, infrastructure and the team like? When did you get your first client? What was the launch of the mid-2008 journey like in terms of the team, clients?
With a starting corpus of Rs.1 lakh, a small apartment and only 2 other people. This entrepreneurial venture taught me one of my most important lessons in life: make the most of what you have and don’t anticipate a lot from the things you think you are about to receive. Disappointment is never a factor in business; it’s only the failures that teach you to succeed that matter. The first client we ever worked with was Disney, with whom we did an activity for their movie, Pirates of the Caribbean.
Some of our other memorable campaigns back in the day were when we had painted the entire town red for Vodafone as it was transitioning from Hutch.
We were increasingly channelling our focus on keeping content and technology in sync. For us, brand communication is the key. Our efforts had paid off in 2008 when we did a Wimbledon campaign for HSBC that won many awards, but as we were the sub-contractors for a major advertising agency with whom the brand was associated, we were not allowed to take credit for it.
And then in late-2008-early-2009, we saw a terrible crash all around. What happened with XD when you, like the others, hit the downturn?
Yes, that is very true, there was a terrible crash all over the world and we practically had no work or any clients during that time, but sometimes it is important to step out of the game and look at the entire scenario from a different perspective. It gave us time to innovate and improvise. We got a chance to look at the emerging new technologies around the world such as the shift from motion sensors to depth sensors and to be able to create concepts based on that solution, our extensive research during that time propelled our business to an entirely new level when the market stabilised.
What was the growth like, thereafter, until today, ten years after? How many clients have you got now? Clients that have remained with you for a long time…?
As the market normalised, the business grew exponentially, as we were one of the first interactive agencies, our work was unlike anyone else’s in the market.
Today, after 10 years, we are proud to have successfully executed multiple projects for 200+ clients. We work very closely with brands such as Vodafone, Google, L&T, Reliance and many more with whom we have been associated from the very beginning.
Xenium Digital’s offerings include new technologies and how the brands can utilise these technologies to deliver an impactful brand message. The focus is on consistently making the brand experiences more immersive by making them more creative.
These days almost every brand activation campaign has experiential marketing as an important component in their activities. Retail outlets have started to set up permanent installations to showcase their products to the customers. Experience has always been the king and we are just building an interactive kingdom around it.
Experiential marketing is something every marketer or brand seeking to directly connect with its audiences, employs. Do you need to educate marketers about this category of marketing?
Marketers mirror the reactions of their customers, it’s a lost cause for brands if they step into the industry and create ads that are technologically advanced along with being creatively brilliant, but cannot convey the brand message.
It is the customers who need to get comfortable around these technologies in order to encourage the marketers to create the content that can utilise these new mediums.
Grohe, Google Sandbox, D’décor, Myntra and HCL experience, Mercedes, Yahoo, L&T, Audi, Tata, Vodafone, Zee TV, Star India and Intel are some of the brands we have worked for.
What is aiding the growth of experiential marketing in India?
A developing country, even though it catches up with the trends a bit later as compared to other developed countries, it is only because a large number of the population is still in areas that are inaccessible to the full spectrum of technologies that this world has to offer.
Which only means that once the market latches on to this medium, the rage will spread like wildfire. Of late that has been the case, and people are being more receptive towards experiential marketing. This encourages brands to invest in this domain.
Our line of work ensures the campaigns we create are a visual delight. The absence of celebrities or brand ambassadors makes the technology that we use, the star of the show.
Yes! Indeed, but keeping track of innovation in various technologies, is like chasing a firefly through the night, you will eventually lose track. There is something new popping up in every nook and corner around the world. It is more important to capitalise on the technologies we currently have, as opposed to showing off a half-baked gimmick that cannot relate to the brand at all. We will end up promoting the technology as opposed to the product.
Which trends in technology are powering experiential marketing?
Technology is not just about AR or VR, there many other brilliant manifestations of our imagination that come together to give brands the ‘WOW’ factor they are looking for.
Technologies such as projection mapping, ways to engage senses other than touch and smell, are contributing to experiential marketing.
Xenium’s technology revolves around the paradigm of Reality Computing, which seeks to integrate the digital universe into the real world by crafting interfaces that makes it possible for users to interact with technology through, as I said, the use of touch, sense and movement, instead of conventional wires and keyboards.
And using integrated campaign components such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Simulation and Holographic projection and 3D depth sensing, to appeal to the human senses by engaging participation and natural interaction.
(Editor’s note: Watch this Augmented Reality Demo video by Xenium Digital:
(And nere’s another video, this time, an Augmented Reality Fashion Show: Xenium Digital performed a unique Augmented Reality (AR) application to showcase animals on the ramp along with models. A tiger, panther and cheetah walked together with celebrities Bipasha Basu, Mallaika Arrora and Suzzane for the brand “Magnum”. Watch the film below – Editor)
(And now, back to the chat with Parveez Nasyam)
Geo-tracking of potential customers is driven by cookies. How much will the impending death of cookies-based marketing hurt the experiential marketing platforms? What should they do to prepare themselves for the major shift upcoming and even underway, i.e., from Cookies-based marketing to people-based opted-in marketing?
It is a well-known fact that 3/4th of the mobile devices do not allow marketers to track their cookies at all. Marketers are already pushed into a corner by the users that they are trying to target.
Safari added to the injury by revising their privacy policies restricting the marketers even more.
All this has ensured that campaign budgets are already being directed towards people-based marketing, tracking those who have voluntarily provided the user information across multiple devices and platforms.
Keeping all this in view, since campaigns are now directed towards people and emphasis is given to tracking offline sales, I believe experiential marketing has received an unexpected push which will propel the adoption by brands even further.
Let’s talk about the Xenium delivery chain. What are its important parts? What is your mix of outsourced:inhouse work?
Strategy & Conceptualisation, Technology, Content Development & Programming, Execution. The strategy defines what needs to be done, the rest follows.
There are projects where the concept requires us to team up with technologists and artists. We are constantly innovating in-house in our lab, which employs the expertise of many great minds — some in-house, and some (external) consultants.
Learning and inventing is a major component of the work we do, which is why we are not rigid in sticking to a particular delivery chain. We believe rigidity, hampers growth.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced when trying to start Xenium? How did you overcome it?
When I started Xenium there was no one else in the industry who provided digital interactive solutions. The technology was just catching up with the people in India and investing in this domain was not exactly a priority as the ROI wasn’t substantial. It was only when we would demonstrate our offerings to brands and showcase the user interaction via technology when clients would be convinced that it was worth their money.
What are the main skills and values you want in people wanting to join you?
The only two things we look for in the people we work with are: their passion towards the work they do by utilising the skills they possess, and the hunger to constantly improve as they work with us towards a brighter future.
We have investors from the US. We are planning to set up a full fledge experiential marketing agency in Singapore, and another one in New York
By leveraging the global cost arbitrage, we will try and expand to other countries around the world as well. Our headquarters will remain in Mumbai as it is here that we are about to inaugurate South Asia’s largest experiential studio called ’The Fusion Innovation Lounge’.
The carefully curated technologies on display shall be futuristic and give brand heads a better idea as to how technology can boost their connection with the customers.
What advice would you share with others planning to start something of their own?
The focus should not be entirely on the hardware; instead, it should be on solving a business problem. Whichever industry you choose to work with, thorough research and genuine knowledge about the competition is essential. Be it advertising, industrial applications or retail-based solutions, make sure you stay updated about the latest trends in the market. Looking at the solution from a customer’s point of view is as essential as understanding their end behaviour.
Last question. For now. I know you’re a tech-savvy guy and you keep yourself well updated on industry developments. What else do you do to unwind?
I like to keep myself updated about all the latest technologies. I also enjoy interacting with people. I’m an avid foodie too, and extremely fond of travelling – I love taking off on long drives. And playing golf.
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