Justwords Turns 11: Questions for Our CEO as We Celebrate Our 11th Anniversary

Justwords begun its life as a content agency in 2010, in the bedroom of its founder, Payel Mukherjee. What began as a very very tiny business, with one full-time employee and a couple of part-timers, has today grown up into a full-fledged content-driven digital marketing agency, renowned for excellence. 

This June, Justwords celebrates its 11th anniversary and marking this milestone moment, I sat down (virtually) with Payel to hear the full story, the learnings, the experience, the brand overall.

Here are some very interesting things she had to share.

1. In 2010, did you think you would reach till here, survive 11 years? 

Definitely no. I am so grateful to have reached this milestone, since many startups do survive the journey. It has been such an incredible journey – something I could probably write a book upon. But when you begin, you do not think whether you will survive the journey, you just put in everything that you have in your dream and think big. That’s what I did. The beginning was really great, and then came the low that almost shut us down.

We learnt from failure, changed plans, and emerged stronger. From 2013, there was no looking back.

2. What made you start Justwords? 

For the longest time I remember wanting to do my own thing but could not figure out what. I spent the first few years of my career in newspapers and I remember feeling restless and bored pretty often. But the one thing that always excited me was telling a good story and laying it in out in a good design. That stayed on with me. By 2008, I was working with a specialist media company where we were trying to find a good content partner for some projects. It was then that it hit me – good content was hard to find. There were hardly agencies that were willing to deliver content the way you wanted it and at rates you could afford. Also I found a growing number of brands wanting to reach to its consumers through online content. There was a gap and I dived in. Online content was going to be the next big thing and I didn’t want to miss that bus. I started Justwords in the summer of 2010 with just one client.  

Also Read: Clutch Features Justwords as One of India’s Top Content Marketing Agencies

3. How did you win your first client and your first pay cheque? Please explain in detail 

Our first official client was Westin Hotels. I had never done sales before and was just about learning the ropes of pitching to clients. An ex-colleague of mine had offered to help as a sales consultant and put me in touch with the GM of the hotel. They were looking for newsletters for some of their properties and we got the job. A lead was assigned from their end and we hired a remote designer to work out the designs. As the weeks progressed, the excitement quickly turned into nervousness and anxiety. The client’s team kept shooting down design after design, even though they were happy with the content. We, somehow, managed to execute the first order but we lost out on continuing business.

We received our first cheque after 3 months. I cannot say I was happy with the amount but it taught me something very important –

No matter how great your skills are, running a business is like running a ship. A great captain cannot do it alone. You needed a good crew to sail through.

Also you need to set expectations right about deliverables and timelines; so that later neither you nor your client feels short-changed.  

The first client experience helped us become stronger as a team. So when our first big ticket order came from Nokia, we proved our prowess. That got us started and provided the revenue to move further. 

4. In a time when agencies come and go, Justwords has made it to 11 years. What would you say is the secret of its survival over the years.

The biggest thing for any business is to know how to adapt to changing times. Failures are something that will come but the biggest thing is to know how to survive it. In 2013, we were close to shutting down. We had taken a business decision that was wrong for us and it was pushing us against the wall. The important thing was we realised it, changed course and went back to offering what was our core strength. As a company, we are always hungry to learn more, we pay enormous attention to detail, we usually give more than what a client has asked for in most cases.

Quality of work, commitment to delivery, and personalised attention is a great combo that has always worked for us. Clients stick on to us for years and we have grown simply through word of mouth and inbound marketing.


5. Is there something that you miss about the earlier days? 

I think when we were smaller, we were more connected as a team. We were just six of us, and we would have breakfast meetings and team outings. It was like a small band of friends who were working together. There was more chatting, laughing, complaining and talking. There was this trip we took to Hyderabad to pick up our second Google award and it was such a great trip. It was lesser people, hence lesser problems to handle. 

To grow and get the best people, we started going remote. We started adding people across the country to serve clients better. As more projects started coming in, we grew bigger and adding more people. 

It’s a little different now. We are bigger and are able to do things in a grander way I guess. It was definitely great being small and young, but there are different great things about being bigger and more mature. 

One thing I miss about being small was that I had more time to explore content marketing ideas and write, which I hardly get time to do today.

6. There is a lot of talk about creating the right company culture. Individuals will come and go but the culture will stay. Can you talk about Justwords’ company culture and what is special about it?

The Justwords company culture is built on 5 core values – enjoy the work you do and have fun while doing the work, respect the client and see how best you can solve the problem, respect each other at whatever cost, never stop experimenting, and do your best work. That is what defines our agency and we have made the effort to take people who really care about the kind of work we do and want to make an impact. If it was not for our team of old timers and the new brigade, it would have been very chaotic.

It’s the balance between work and life, old and new, professionalism and personalization that keeps us going.

7. In terms of work, where do you think has been the biggest struggle with clients?

I would say things have become more easier today than it was even 4 years ago. But even now, there are several brands or business heads feel they just need a magic content bullet that they can fire and get results. However, the truth is that such randomly planned content firings will not get the brand anything or anywhere. 

For content marketing to work, you need to think holistic and work with the whole content ecosystem – content creation (writers and editors), distribution (developers and marketers), reach (SEOs) and promotion (paid media and SEO again). Without this ecosystem, content marketing cannot be truly sustainable and successful. 

In India, the content marketing is still evolving as opposed to the west, where the understanding of content marketing is mature and highly developed. Brands, even medium-sized ones, still expect content to work without SEO, or SEO to work without social and great content.

We need to understand that each subset of the whole feeds into each other, connecting, intertwining, and mingling to produce the desired effect.

The good thing is we are getting there. Brands are slowly starting to believe that content marketing will make their business look trustworthy and get them more business, budgets are being increased for content marketing, and most importantly a whole lot of marketers are finally talking of content strategy linking to business objectives. 

8. What would you say is the core strength of Justwords as a content-driven digital marketing agency?

We are one of the few agencies that combines the strength of a good content agency – we have one of the best content teams in the country – and that of a good marketing agency – we have a great bunch of SEOs, creative people and marketers on board. So that is a definite advantage. 

9. Lastly, where do you hope to see Justwords in the next decade? 

Well, I definitely see Justwords growing bigger and bigger. We have a huge opportunity as more and more businesses are going digital, and so yes, we should be growing. We have a lot of people who have grown with us and that will continue to happen. I do hope we continue to add more talented and wonderful people in our team who can keep making our brand stronger and stronger.

We also definitely have plans to move into the learning sector, where we can share our learnings and train people, who want to become entrepreneurs, writers, editors, content marketers etc. 


About The Author

Shankar Sen

Shankar has years of experience as a content writer and is obsessed with analytics and marketing. He usually writes about online marketing and how it can help companies grow their ROI. An avid mountaineer, his dreams of living in Ladakh


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