So we’ve come to the last column of the year and before anything else, thanks for your support. For the last column this year, some of you wanted me to cover small companies/organisations/creators who use digital in a smart, unconventional way. How they bring together content, communities, collabs and so on. Here goes.

I met 145 EAST a month back, on a trip to Kolkata. Nestled in a quiet lane in Jodhpur Park, 145 is a ‘design collective’ which spotlights the humble gamcha, familiar to most East Indians as a sort of headgear/towel/wearable for the masses. Their aesthetic is very Kolkata-Western, and you could easily wear a 145 dress/skirt/shirt to a Cannes opening or a South Mumbai divorce. Who could have imagined the gamcha elevated to such fashionable creations — from trendy palazzos to sarees and reversible bustiers. I thought the prices were a little on the higher side, or at least the fashion-conscious metro buyer, though. OK for NRI bongs of course.

145 was founded to help local weavers and artisans and took off during Covid. I met the team at their office/studio, and I have rarely felt such positive, fun energy — what’s interesting is they create their own content, which is the best in India in their category. In a few other categories too — they could teach big content agencies a thing or two. It’s very cool, cultural and has kick-ass nuances I could instantly relate to. For instance, their take during Pujo on everything from cuisine to old homes leaves you with a sense of nostalgia and longing.

Purpleblue House are Delhi-based and India’s first Sci-art-driven Creative Lab. So what’s sci-art? And what do they do, are they yet another ad agency?

“Sci-art” is a term that combines science and art and is an interdisciplinary practice that merges scientific exploration and artistic expression. In sci-art, artists collaborate with scientists or draw inspiration from scientific concepts, data or methods to create works that engage with scientific ideas in a creative and often visually striking manner.

For example, for their work on a health food brand, PurpleBlue took a deep dive into the world of flora and fauna to understand the plant ecosystem, which brought alive the vibrancy of microgreens and ended up defining the colour palette.

What I find most interesting are their conversations with scientists, looking for possible connections. From discussing data computation in gastronomy with an IIT scientist, Dr Ganesh Bagler, to studying the implications of SciArt in sectors such as food and nutrition, agri-tech, architecture, renewable energy, they’re as good as a research hub as a communications agency.

How can I not mention Orry, the clown prince of Indian influencers? I think Orhan Awatramani killed it this year. The only thing that came close was the SRK blockbuster, Jawan or Pathan. Or both.

Orry represents the collective desire of a new, testosterone-fuelled young urban India that is impatient to become famous, even if it’s doing… nothing, really. But mark my words, Orry’s time is limited and the same moochers who gave him a free ride are the ones who’ll drop him once they find him no longer useful. He’s in dangerous territory, has not built any value.

Next, adult toys. I think 2023 was the year adult toys really cracked the online market. They were all over Insta with saucy, sarcy, in-your-face humour.

A few brands creating a lot of buzz online (pun unintended) are Lovetreats, IMbesharam, MyMuse and Kinkpin. All of them create fabulous online content — no idea how good or bad the products are though, you’ll have to ask around. I think the target audience are in their 20s mostly.

So that’s it. Great content is becoming easier to create; smart, evolved communities are mushrooming, and niche is blooming. And it’s going to get better next year. What more do you want?

Have a great 2024!

(Shubho Sengupta is a digital marketer with an analogue ad agency past. He can be found @shubhos on X)