‘Environment & sustainability are domains that chose us rather than the other way around’

Claiming two ABBYs last month, team Handyyman is carving a niche in the branded content space, especially when it comes to environment consciousness. Close on the heels of World Environment Day, exchange4Media catches up with Protiqe Mojoomdar, Founder Handyyman, to speak about finding his niche and delivering the concept of branding content to PSUs and foreign territories.

Two ABBYs and that too for content created about environment consciousness. How did you come up with Hawa Badle Hassu and Megha’s Divorce for Interdependence?

We are still reeling, I can assure you! These are our very first ABBYs and the double win made the Goafest experience quite, quite precious.. I hadn’t attended Goafest since 2009-10, which was during my last few years in conventional advertising (Publicis India), and somewhere nursed the hope to come back when nominated! SO this is really sweet.

Yes, environment and sustainability and climate change are domains that chose us rather than the other way around. Back in 2016 we started working on the platform ‘Hawa Badlo’ for GAIL India, creating content which was skewed towards the individual motivation to change the air, and living a cleaner lifestyle – one of the tenets being using cleaner fuel like CNG and PNG, which was the advocacy that GAIL wanted in their campaigns. Hawa Badlo was a social platform to engage and collect people from all over who wanted to make a difference. Our campaign started with the Hawa Badlo Anthem sung by Javed Ali and Harshdeep Kaur, and composed by National Award winning Bishakh Jyoti and lyrics by yours truly… which went viral and collected a lot of PR and awards for both its content (Artist Aloud Music Awards nomination) as well as its strategic thinking (SAMMY, Foxglove) and more importantly it started a conversation led by entertainment influencers and listeners.. This and a couple of other campaigns we devised (with Sanjay Mishra, Ranvir Shorey, Amol Parashar, and others) put Hawa Badlo in the news, and reached about 65 mn people in a span of 4-5 months.

That’s when we realised the power of this medium, and we started working on something that would stand the test of time (because here is a medium that has shelf life for your messaging and can accumulate audiences over a period of time) and really engage with the kind of people Hawa Badlo was made for, and also representative – because unless you see yourself in the story, you will never believe it. Hence was born Hawa Badle Hassu – the branding very much in the nomenclature, and the idea of an Autorickshaw driver, who seems to be going to all kinds of pains to educate his passengers even at the cost of their rude and unfriendly responses. Change can come, one Hero at a Time – was the tagline. He was desperate to change the world, because he was amongst the first ones to know where Earth was headed because of Climate Change.  Once we had the protagonist cracked – a driver who uses clean fuel but has to work in the worst conditions in a polluted city, that irony wrote the rest of the story! Later, of course we get to learn more about him when he gets kidnapped by people traveling from the Future! The client liked it, SonyLIV loved it and the rest is history. It was one of the top 10 watched shows when launched in 2019, touted as India’s first Environmental Sci-Fi Thriller, and did as well with the critics as with the audience and earned crores of earned media for the client because of the sheer novelty of the concept. Both entertainment and trade media covered it widely, and electronic media was very supportive because of the ensemble star faces – Chandan Roy Sanyal, Vikram Kocchar, Taranjit Kaur, and Smita Tambe! Hundreds of conversations, millions of reach and 3 months of non-stop press – proved that an idea when conceived well and executed well, touches everyone at minimum cost. What else does a brand want?

This idea wouldn’t work if it was not for the consistent and full-fledged support of the client, the dogged work by the cast and the crew in difficult conditions; this was true co-creation and I have always said that branded content can’t be anything but. Since it would take all your resources as thinkers and producers and all the client’s resources of finance and media weight and will power, to be able to achieve what we achieved with Hawa Badle Hassu.

But we didn’t stop there. There was a press article that had caught our eye in early 2019, about this huge Anthology film ‘Interdependence’ produced by the Art for the World, patronised by the UN and the WMO, which was bringing 11 film makers of the world together to create shorts on their nation’s environmental issues. The Indian film maker selected was Nila Madhab Panda, my long time associate and guru in film making (I debuted as Lyricist in his National Award winning film I am Kalam). So a tie-up was just a phone call and one strategic thought and an inspired co-created script away (involving GAIL, Nila’s team and UN Climate Advisors). GAIL finally ended up becoming a principal partner in the film, which World Premiered at Rome International Film Festival and Asia Premiered in IFFI, Goa in 2019. Since then the film has travelled the world through TV networks and festivals and garnered 500mn eyeballs and awards galore. Our Indian film was called Megha’s Divorce, which was a courtroom drama satire, based on Delhi’s Air Pollution issues, directed by Nila and starring Manjari Fadnis, Divya Dutta and Tannishtha Chatterjee. The process was a 6 month long scripting, filming, content marketing and involved shows and talks at world events like COP26, New York Climate Action Summit and a special show at the UN headquarters.

Now, this is the scale that we had dreamt of while entering the content space… and happily, we were able to prove to ourselves it’s doable and there are corporates that share this kind of vision. All the way, the learning and growth of our team in the domain, working with film makers from all over the world, partnering as Executive and Creative Producer in an international film and getting to work with the best talents in India, just became a fortunate part of our journey.

Working with a PSU giant like GAIL for branded content is in itself a unique proposition- how did you go about with the pitch and what according to you has been the clincher?

GAIL is the youngest of the Maharatnas (PSUs) and has a fantastic Corporate Communications team, savvy and aware of the latest in digital marketing and content. They have invested themselves in workshops and Google trainings to be updated with the industry. Rarely do you find clients educated like that, where most of our discussions have been productive, fruitful and always moving forward. We all know the constraints the team is working with as a PSU (financially and otherwise), and strategic thinking to conquer the odds, has been how we have gotten this far. But once an idea is liked, there is enough energy that is put behind making it happen, even in the event of possible rejection!

Hassu took a year and a half to materialise, Interdependence more than 6 months, and our next campaign was approved in 2019, but is releasing on World Environment Day 2022!

The pitches have over time become easier and less time consuming as there is a certain trust that develops after successful campaigns, but the child-like energy, the glint in the eye and keeping the eye on the target, and wanting to better the last campaign in terms of creative impact and numbers – are the drivers, I’d say.

But I think being a PSU and having the support of the Ministry, they have the power to effect great campaigns and garner real change.. and I am happy to report that they have the will to do so as well.


Do you have plans of working with other PSU or further your slate of content with films that speak of environmental consciousness?

We love working with people. Content is about people and what they like and what stories they’d like to hear or tell. There is something that separates content thinking in terms of both strategy and creative, from hardcore selling. You can think and execute pure ideas, and the brand or corporate can be present as an essence, as an idea or as an entity that is part of the story ( we have been able to do all 3 with Hassu for instance). And we find, that be it a PSU or any other brand, we have never found a dearth of people wanting to tell pure stories.

Environmental consciousness now runs in our blood, we feel obliged as creators to propagate this cause, fuel living room conversations and public debates about it. We try to use all opportunities to engage and larger media to enter mass consciousness – we are on the brink of a very difficult century, we cannot afford to look the other way, so yes, as creators and film makers, we have the duty to reflect today’s times. And it honestly helps in amassing the kind of cast and the crew we are able to for our content, as everyone is touched by this awareness, and the will to create change at an individual level. Honestly there is so much content that can  be generated in this domain, that we don’t need to look at any other genre, given the opportunity and choice!


The branded content market is growing at a fast pace coupled with influencer engagement, marketing campaigns are very different from what it used to look 10 years back- where do you see Handyyman in this ever-growing market?

Handyyman was born at the cusp of Advertising and Entertainment in 2016 when I started recognising the potential of Content and its inevitable foray into the world of brandthinking and strategic marketing. The smartphone penetration numbers in India alone, was indication enough.

And we couldn’t be more proud that we won in the 15th glorious year of the ABBYs when it’s tied up with the prestigious One Show. And we won in the big CONTENT niche that we chose to establish Handyyman in, with firm footing. A category that was born about the same time as us, in most award shows across the world while we were learning and growing up!

We are doubtless slow, but gradually amassing our learnings and taking firm steps to align ourselves with global vision in content marketing and creation, we are of course also producing pure play entertainment content as well. But we would be happy working with people who believe in strategically driven content, content that works hard for a brand, short or long formats, and integrated robust campaigns. We love Youtubers, influencers and short content, however we have not really developed skill sets for creating volume, we have been rather at the value end of the spectrum. We have had strategic partnerships with media/OTT houses, and invested in great depth and width of teams and talent across writers, directors and musicians. We also believe Audio content is one of our forte, so we want to develop our team in that vertical. Music is an industry I belong to as lyricist, so we have plans in that area as well.


Do you have any campaigns lined up for World Environment Day or have you worked on content specific to this day?

Yes, glad you asked, because we do! It’s a short film called ‘Saasu ki zarurat hai jaise’ and yes all puns intended! Its trailer is already launched, happy to enclose it.. would love to see what people think about it. We forget to think about our old and how we have made the environment unliveable for them, so it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the world we have created for them, and how it’s easy to lose perspective.


Do you feel branded content is the way forward for communication for Environmental consciousness as opposed to pure play advertisement?

The fact that I deviated from hardcore advertising and set up Handyyman before even content, OTTs and podcasts had become part of our lives, should indicate how firmly I believe in content and the power it has to win over audiences, change perceptions, generate marketing ROI and bring about persuasive communication. And I think Environmental awareness is low and even less patronised in this country, so yes Branded Content is an answer.

And everyone is affected by it, everyone is suffering, everyone can do something or say something useful and everyone is going to regret not doing something about it. Look what we are doing with an Energy PSU brand. We have Environment-friendly content ideas for water brands, cola brands, insurance brands, hotel brands, luggage brands and shoe brands … you name it. We invite all of them to come forward to co-create with us.


Do we get to see season 2 of Hawa Badle Hassu ?

That is literally a million dollar question. Haha, we left Hawa Badle Hassu S1 at a cliff hanger, people kidnapped Hassu via a portal and vanished. Who wouldn’t want to know what happened to them?


You can watch Handyyman’s latest campaign ‘Saasu ki zarurat hai jaise’ here

 Happy World Environment Day !







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