10 Bandarful Years

July 3, 2024
Prashant Chari

If this were a movie, it’d be a great time to start rolling the credits.

When we started Teen Bandar back in 2014, we set out to create an agency that “connects people in politics with their constituents using digital media.” 

The journey has been tough. We’ve taken several detours, but we begin our 11th year on the back of having driven some of India’s key political narratives in the just concluded election cycle.

From our very first deck.

If this were a movie, we'd have a great three-act structure.

Act 1: Setup

At 26 and 25, Savio and I decided to quit our jobs to work on a political campaign in 2014. Our bosses both thought we were crazy and coincidentally, both told us to come back to them when we got over this harebrained idea in a couple of months. There’s simply no career to be made here. It was during that campaign that we decided to start Teen Bandar. Immediately, we started pitching to potential clients, and one of them took a leap of faith and entrusted us with their campaign in the assembly elections.

We didn’t realise it then, but the people we met would be critical to our journey going forward. Our first client taught us to deal with hard taskmasters.

It was slim pickings after this, though. We’d hired our first employee and our first intern. We did most things together. Hanging out at Marine Drive on a Friday evening. Saturday lunches and half days. The four of us even shared two desks!

Unfortunately, the economics were simply not working out, even after branching away from politics to do more ‘stable’, ‘sustainable’ corporate work. Our first employee quit to move cities just when we had about one month of runway left. Two years into Teen Bandar, we were at our first major existential crisis.

It was then that Savio pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He got a lead for the newly appointed CMO at INOX multiplexes. We pitched and got a 30-day trial. That 30 days became 3 months. The 3 months became 6, and so on. Before we knew it, we were at the cusp of 4 years with the brand.

Cox & Kings, Paytm, PayU, and Jio also followed. And by 2018, we outgrew our first office and had to shift base. After experiencing the highs of our first account and the lows of not knowing where the following month's payroll would come from, we were finally in a good space again.

With the 2019 election season fast approaching, it was time to set our sights on the political arena we started our journey pursuing.

Act 2: Obstacles

We looked back to where it all began and commenced discussions with potential clients in the political space. This was our first love, after all. Save for a small campaign on national integration, we struck out. After a couple of rounds of positive discussions, we couldn’t come to agreeable terms with a client we really wanted to rope in. The person who had been put in charge of driving the conversation with us seemed cold to the idea of bringing us on and we were also unwilling to make certain compromises asked of us. They say that if you truly love someone, you have to be prepared to let them go. Perhaps it was time for us to let go of politics.

Our corporate work continued. Then Covid struck. The day we began a new inning with an existing client, setting up a dedicated team working out of their offices, was also the last day of work before lockdowns were imposed.

Another client froze payments, leaving a huge outstanding balance up in the air. The leads we had for new work went cold. But just one other client stuck around. They kept our team afloat in the initial months. But to be honest, we had more people than we had worked for. Yet, it was important to us that we support our team at a time when the going is tough across all sectors.

As we adjusted to a work-from-home culture, we were given a chance to work on new campaigns and accounts. Piece by piece, we were working towards going back to normalcy. One of our early contacts in the political space reached out, wanting to make a series of explainer videos around the Covid policies of the government. We dipped a toe back into the space that we were so passionate about.

One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we found ourselves talking to a legend, whom other entrepreneurs look up to. He had been tasked to evaluate agencies to work on the communication for a political entity. Little did we know what path that meeting would set us on. That pitch on July 28, 2021, led us to build a team to take on the political communication challenges of our era.

Act 3: Resolution

A year later, on July 29, 2022, we were given an opportunity to pitch for our biggest project yet. After securing the mandate, we had to get ready to hit the ground running for the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Teams had to be hired, logistics figured out, a logo and design language developed, an anthem song produced, and much more. And at the peak of all this hustle and bustle, I was smacked down by Covid.

Over the course of the Yatra and the months that followed, we found our rhythm. We set a Chinese wall between our corporate and political teams. And credit where it is due, the team on the corporate side proved that even Savio and I are dispensable and that they’d be able to hold up their end without much of our inputs being needed. Our work on brands like T-Series, Amazon and others is testimony to this.

Like a good sequel, the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra was poised to have higher stakes (being so close to the general elections), it was traversing tougher terrain (East to West vs South to North), and had greater stakes. It took some getting used to, but by the end, the momentum propelled us right into the midst of peak election season.

After ten years, we finally had an opportunity to work on a national-level political campaign in 2024. Our teams were deployed to every corner of the country. In the midst of one of India’s hottest summers ever, we brought the heat to the campaign, delivering everything that was asked of us. The results speak for themselves. The narratives we helped craft and execute became the most talked-about takeaways from the elections.

From 2014, it would seem as though life has come full circle for us at Teen Bandar. We are back in the political arena, working on that core initial mission of connecting people in politics with their constituents. And we’re doing it on the biggest stage democracy has to offer globally.

In these ten years, we’ve seen our dreams disappear before our very eyes a couple of times. We’ve been brought back from the brink a couple of times. My biggest learning through this all? Stick around for just one more day. You never know what’s around the corner. Sometimes, a 1% chance is good enough, while 99% is actually much further away.

We now have some ideas on what we’d like the next five, ten years to be. But as we continue this journey, be sure that we’ll stick to it just a wee bit longer than makes sense, because when opportunity knocks, we’d better be at the door!


The most frequently asked question for Savio and me about Teen Bandar is - Who’s the third bandar? It’s our team, our clients, our well-wishers. To all of you Bandars, thank you and hang on for the ride. 

The last 10 years have taught us that if you are good at what you do, you surely have a seat at the table. But to constantly occupy that seat you have to work hard and persevere. Execution > everything else. You ain’t seen nothing yet!