INDERJIT SINGH: THE RISE OF THE CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT INNOVATOR
THE LEADER BEHIND AN ADMIRABLE COMPANY 2023
Bringing visionary ideas to life
Inderjit Singh is all about ambitious leaps of visionary ideas and a single-minded – some would even say monomaniacal – focus on delivering on these visions, come hell or high water. You can’t expect anything less than the unconventional, the bold, sometimes even the wacky from this passionate, irrepressible entrepreneur. Inderjit and his maverick team at White Canvas walk in the door every single day, embarked upon an almost quixotic, yet exhilarating, mission of building a small boutique agency into an innovation and ideas-led business that is more than the sum of its parts. White Canvas is not yet another digital marketing agency, in Inderjit’s telling. Instead it is a Customer engagement innovation partner to its clients. Inderjit believes that at the end of the day, shorn of all the marketing jargon, customer engagement is where the battles for customers, profits, mindshare and loyalty are won or lost. Companies can engage – or perish, and White Canvas helps companies flourish. It is the passion to make a difference to people’s lives, be it his clients, his team members, his business partners or the society at large, with ideas and solutions that push the envelope of possibilities and yet make a palpable, discernible impact. It is the constant quest to connect the dots, however seemingly disparate and far flung, to paint a bigger picture on an unconventional canvas.
On India’s biggest upcoming challenges
Underpinning White Canvas as a cutting-edge agency of innovative ideas and flawless execution is Inderjit’s 13-year experience in the trenches of India’s competitive marketing communications field, where Inderjit has worked with both marquee names that comprise India’s corporate Who’s Who as well India’s very own ‘Mittelstand’ of small and medium businesses.
This overarching immersion has provided Inderjit with a unique vantage point onto Indian business’ diverse market challenges that span the entire customer journey, and imbues his entrepreneurial philosophy, ideology and practical approach as he grows and nurtures White Canvas into an ideas and innovation driven creative powerhouse.
Mr. Singh sees no upper bound on possibilities and opportunities in this brave, new world, as companies of all stripes go back to the proverbial drawing board and collaborate with agencies like White Canvas to distil and deploy the lessons learnt and to make sense of the new paradigms coming into play.
This is concretely evident in the marketing communications domain, where a new consumer has taken centre stage, with a radically different set of expectations fuelled by an always-on, constantly- connected digital world, be it work, consumption or entertainment. This new consumer has to be engaged smartly, intuitively and unobtrusively, leveraging the best that digital platforms and channels have to offer while mitigating their baleful side effects like surveillance, attention abuse, misinformation and loss of trust.
Growing through the pandemic and beyond
Inderjit’s journey has been marked by the inexorable hustle of an entrepreneur who is not just about the balance sheet, but also about making a positive impact
Like all such agents of change, there is a poignant origin story that underpins that passion. Inderjit started out repairing TVs and ACs as a humble tradesman, and the natural bent for out-of-box thinking and finding unconventional solutions that are the hallmarks of a born tinkerer inevitably evolved into a journey of disruption in the marketing services space, where White Canvas is defining and owning the domain of customer engagement innovation.
Of course, that does not mean that the entrepreneurial sojourn has been a smooth ride. In fact, far from it. An avid biker, Mr. Singh is well acquainted with the challenges and rewards of long-winding roads that define long-distance journeys.
White Canvas was born in 2018, just on the cusp of what would turn out to be one of the most tumultuous periods of change and convulsion, as Covid-19 and geopolitical upheaval within the ensuing two years would amply testify to. But Inderjit Singh belongs to the breed of intrepid entrepreneurs and change makers for whom there is not a single dark cloud that they cannot descry a silver lining in.
This is borne out viscerally in the way Mr. Singh navigated White Canvas through the roiling rapids of the Coronavirus epidemic, when everything that had been built assiduously with blood, sweat and tears since 2018 was in imminent danger of being washed away into oblivion.
The dislocation of business and the debilitating exit of talent during the nadir of the epidemic meant that White Canvas had not only to be saved as a viable business but resurrected as a veritable phoenix from the ashes. A small loyal core of clients that stuck around through the upheaval, and an infusion of new, fresh talent in the wake of the epidemic-induced attrition enabled the the birth of a rejuvenated, vibrant agency that was ready to take on the challenges of a post-Coronavirus world of profoundly changed societal and business context, driven by the pervasive spread of digital technologies.
Resilience, persistence and sheer doggedness in the face of challenges that a recalcitrant virus threw in Mr. Singh entrepreneurial path are now the operating system of White Canvas.
Making the personal experience a professional learning
Forged in the crucible of challenging circumstances, Inderjit brings a lens to the world and his work that is a fascinating blend of stoic forbearance, ‘roll-up-your-sleeves-and-grab-life-by-the-collar’ philosophy, and a work ethic that is disciplined, indefatigable and unstoppable.
White Canvas operates on a simple yet profoundly ethical thesis of doing business. It’s not just about the conventional goals of profits, prestige and power. It is about running an enterprise that makes a positive impact on the world and the community that White Canvas is situated in, creating not just jobs but purpose, profits that are shared and reinvested, and a company that is built to give back to the community through its integrity and action. ‘We are a human-first company. Period’, declares Mr. Singh emphatically.
Mr. Singh wants to position White Canvas as a pioneer and an ethically-oriented leader in the ‘customer engagement innovation’ space, where White Canvas becomes the preferred partner for companies racing to re-establish long-term engagement with all their key stakeholders- customers, suppliers, regulators, interest groups and larger society constituents.
Walking the success tightrope
Mr. Singh’s bold new vision has already started yielding results as witnessed by White Canvas’ significant new Client wins as well as expanded mandates from existing clients.
As the core agency business grows, White Canvas’ ambitions are taking wings in tandem, as it expands its services footprint to become the definitive ‘one-stop’ customer engagement innovation partner for its clients and prospects.
With the propulsive tailwinds of an established, thriving agency business, Mr. Singh is already working on his next passion projects, establishing new beachheads in the domains of studio production (White.Studio), marketing technology and platform development (White.Labs, influencer marketing (White.Buzz), digital customer experience and listening (White.CX) and two innovation marketing technology product platforms, Creative-as-a-Service subscription business aimed at global markets (Canvas.IO) and Hyperlocal Marketing Platform (White.Local).
Laying out the thinking behind the expansion strategy, Mr. Singh says ‘truly integrated execution of holistic customer engagement initiatives required assembling all required domain skills under one roof, providing a unified platform of thinking, delivery and insights. The initial response from the market and our clients has been supportive enough for us to embark upon the next stage of our evolutionary journey. The ultimate aim is to firmly establish White Canvas in the mindscape of our target decision makers as the pioneering omni-solutions agency for an omnichannel world’.
Mr. Singh explicated on the 3i strategy driving White Canvas’ evolution and expansion of its solutions universe. Simply put, 3i is ‘Ideas. Innovation. Insights’. As clients operate their businesses in the face of a gamut of existential challenges, ranging from their brands and marketplaces to supply chains disrupted by unpredictable geopolitics, they will demand path breaking ideas, an innovative approach to execution that helps differentiate the Clients’ positioning, and insights into the performance of their initiatives and the return on their marketing investments. With its 3i approach, White Canvas is placed to be the perfect strategy and execution partner that its clients are looking for.
Making that motivation count
White Canvas’ turbocharged growth and the expansive ambition come with a flip side. A business whose key locomotive and asset is talent with a capital T, Mr. Singh believes that people brimming with passion and imagination are the only true growth capital in any ideas business, and nurturing and retaining this capital will be the crucial difference between success and failure, leaders and laggards.
With this in mind, Mr. Singh is executing a comprehensive, two-tiered people strategy, with generation of career opportunities for young, budding, ‘teachable’ talent, mentored by a strong, second line of leadership in corporate, strategy, creative and art domains, building a robust in-house talent pool as a key imperative of his growth plans.
This brings us to organisational culture. For Mr. Singh, the talent imperative segues seamlessly into organisational culture. One is incomplete – and even pointless – without the other. Being ‘human first’ lies at the heart of the culture that is being forged at White Canvas. ‘Human First’ is about treating everybody – be it team members, clients and denizens of the larger community around White – with respect, dignity and empathy.
Cascading it down to day-to-day operationalization of an organisational culture, Mr. Singh says that there are three aspects that adversely affects a team culture – risk aversion, weak customer focus and siloed mindsets. Mr. Singh is obsessed with ensuring that these adverse traits have no place in the way White thinks, behaves and operates.
Mr. Singh personally works with every single team member to instil the values that are core to the White culture – the freedom to imagine ambitiously and to fail; an obsession with customer success, and the deliberate, mindful breaking of barriers between teams, so that ideas can flow freely and work gets delivered collaboratively to client’s expectations.
But the ‘human first’ philosophy also has a personal wellness angle that aims to nurture the ‘whole’ human being, walking through the door everyday into the White workplace, encompassing physical well-being and mental health initiatives.
A future in retrospect
To understand Mr. Singh’s intrepid vision for the future, let’s visit him on crisp, cold December 2022 morning in Mumbai, huddled with his client servicing team in his WeWork outpost. Mr. Singh is brainstorming customer engagement ideas for an infrastructure sector client. Java is flowing freely, and so are ideas. While his team is busy hashing out some usual, conventional ideas, Inderjit throws a curveball – “how about Metaverse? Let’s see what we can do for our client stakeholders in this cutting edge space of mixed digital reality”, declares Inderjit nonchalantly. His team stops in its track, grappling with the lobbed curveball, and catches its breath – suggesting Metaverse for as hoary and convention-bound sector as Infrastructure may sound to some as too much of a stretch. But if you call yourself a ‘customer engagement innovation agency’, then this merely par for the course.
Driven by passion for ideas and innovation, White Canvas is inexorably charting an ambitious trajectory to market leadership under the visionary tutelage of Inderjit Singh. Mr. Singh lives by the Lao Tzu maxim, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’, of course with a typical, idiosyncratic twist befitting Mr Singh’s outlook. For him, each single step is an exponential step that helps White Canvas leapfrog convention and competition. Mr. Singh is undoubtedly a man in a hurry, on a mission of building an enterprise founded on passion, purpose and people – profits will no doubt follow naturally.