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Exclusive: Social Wavelength Raises Second Round Of Angel Funding

Mumbai-based Social Wavelength, a full-service social media agency, has just raised second round of angel fund from four investors including two existing angel investors Sunish Sharma and Jayendra Shah.

Sunish Sharma is a former managing director at private equity firm General Atlantic who has recently floated a separate PE firm along with two other industry executives. Jayendra Shah is a senior partner at accountancy firm NA Shah Associates and an independent director at media group Lokmat.

In June 2010, Social Wavelength had raised an angel round from Sharma and  Shah as well as a US-based high net worth individual. The three are repeat investors, while a fourth Indian investor has joined the consortium. The fresh round of fund was raised a couple of weeks ago.

The money will be used to expand operations to Bengaluru and Delhi; new technology tools and verticalisation of its services. The Mumbai-based start-up is looking to set up offices in Delhi and Bengaluru in the next three to six months and is on a hiring spree.

The company's founders were reluctant to disclose the quantum of fund raised and the names of other two angel investors.

"A lot of brands in India are recognising the relevance of social media –sometimes only after getting hurt," Sanjay Mehta, joint-CEO, Social Wavelength, told Techcircle.in.

Jayendra Shah, who is also the director of Mumbai-based Trans-continental Capital Advisors Pvt. Ltd, a boutique investment bank, has joined the board of directors at Social Wavelength.

It also plans to set up individual verticals for different practices such as investor relations, human resources and market research.  "Social media is not just for marketing - we need to appreciate that it is relevant wherever interactions take place. In short, beyond conversations with customers, there are many other conversations that are happening and where social media analytics can help," said Mehta.

Social Wavelength has attempted pilots for these three verticals and has begun hiring domain experts. By April, a swathe of new services targeted at three verticals will be launched.

The Start-Up

Social Wavelength has grown at a fast clip over the past three years. Founded in April 2009 by Sanjay Mehta, Hareesh Tibrewala and Mihir Karkare, the start-up began full-fledged operations only in July 2009. Tibrewala and Mehta go back a long way "the two had previously set up Homeindia.com way back in 1996. Homeindia.com was first a free online postal service targeted at NRIs and then shifted to e-commerce in 1998 with gifts.

Social Wavelength began developing technology tools to address key challenges of social media monitoring and marketing. It is now fine-tuning them. "We need to understand who is speaking, the influencers, locations, and across all social platforms. In order to get a better grip on this, we working on tools that can fetch conversations and offer high level intelligence. This will help brands get a better understanding of the social media pie with more insights," said Mehta.

Change has been a constant companion. Mehta says, "Initially, brands were looking to set up a social media presence but this is no longer the case – a Facebook page is standard. Now they know they need to differentiate, stand out, and be more creative. Consequently, we are increasingly becoming more of a creative agency. The idea is to evolve more creative campaigns for brands that will break through the clutter and be more meaningful for them."

Social media management has become more RoI-oriented today and brands are asking how it leads back to their businesses objectives, reduce costs, increase sales and retain customers.

"Social media is a great model for companies to connect with existing and potential customers. It will continue to evolve into an even more important medium for understanding customers in the years to come. Social Wavelength has built a unique model and a market leadership position for companies to better understand and leverage Social Media," said Sunish Sharma, angel investor in Social Wavelength.

The opportunity is huge "there are 38 million Facebook users in India and 12 million on Twitter. According to various estimates, the size of the social media market, excluding media buys, is at Rs 250-300 crore. Though this is still a very small percentage of the total ad spend budgeted by brands, it is growing rapidly and is expected to hit Rs 400 crore next year.

But what about competition from ad agencies? Many ad agencies also offer social media monitoring and engagement but since that's not their core business they choose to collaborate with agencies like Social Wavelength, according to Mehta.

"Unlike the structure in an ad agency, we realise that social media is on-going and needs dedicated resources. Also, ad agencies still think in terms of ad campaigns while social media is not really about hard core advertising – it is about building communities, conversations and online reputation management. The approach has to be value driven than pushing products," he added.

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