"Most people would say to go big or go home. Well, that wasn’t exactly what we did."
Alex Safavinia is the CEO and Creative Director of Kasra Design, an award-winning animation company specialising in 3D animation and explainer video production. He began his career as a motion graphics artist in 2006 and soon converted his passion into a fast-growing animation company by gathering up a team of talented graphic designers and animators.
But perhaps the most interesting part of Kasra Design's story is that it took its time to reach success. By going slow and nurturing each and every success, it was soon able to bring in big clients and accounts, such as Visa and Riot Games.
In this Company Spotlight, we are learning more about the incredibly ambitious Kasra Design and its talented CEO.
How was your company born and where are you based?
I did my undergraduate studies in Creative Multimedia. After graduating from the university, I worked in a motion graphics production company for a while before I began working as a freelance motion graphics designer in 2006. It was at the time when online commercials started taking a foothold in businesses. Brands and companies started to appreciate the impact these online ads brought to their businesses. Due to the growing demand, I started to receive more and more enquiries.
I was keen to get a share of the market. This has prompted me to hire more people to keep up with the projects and deadlines. We registered an animation company in Malaysia to secure more clients and long-term contracts. As soon as I acquired enough funds, I moved the team to a permanent office and things just took off from there.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
Most people would say go big or go home. Well, that wasn’t exactly what we did. We took it slow and steady. Going hard means we had to get investors – and that means we had to share our business or in a worse scenario, it means losing the business if things didn’t work out as quickly as expected. I chose the slower path by building the bits and pieces without external funds. While it took 2 years to see a proper revenue, it was all worth it. Since then, we expanded our business without having a single creditor or investor. Patience is key when you start a business, especially in B2B business.
The second thing that I learned is that marketing and client servicing work hand in hand. Let’s say if you spend tons on marketing but your service doesn’t impress your clients, you will not go anywhere. Client retention is important. Happy and satisfied customers will come back to you because they know where to get the best bargain and service, and they also refer more businesses. Having satisfied customers is not definitely a walk in the park, I know that. But if you don’t focus on it, you will have to rely solely on marketing but it will not work in your favor in the long run.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
We celebrated our first huge when we won the Best Animation award at Los Angeles Animation Festival in 2018 and then the Motion Design Awards this year (2022). Also, bringing on board big name clients such as Shell, Visa, IATA, League of Legends and more really made me and the entire team proud.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
We would like to expand our team to take on larger and more long-term projects, some of which are in discussion right now. Basically, the aim is to create numerous videos for our partners on a monthly-basis. I believe that is a great opportunity for the growth of our company.
Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?
We start with reviewing the materials and brief that we receive from the client. Then we lay down ideas on paper, mind maps, sketches and concepts. After that, we digitize these ideas in the form of a storyboard. Upon approval by the client, we will work on the assets and finally the animation itself. Sometimes projects require live-action shoot, we work with a partner videography team that helps us get the best footage possible. We also work with voice-over agencies to produce high quality voice-over recordings for our videos.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
Passion for animation is the key ingredient. When you love what you do, you don’t easily lose motivation. Looking up to some of the bigger players in the industry like Giant Ant, Buck Studio and ManVsMachine really inspire us to work harder and push the envelope in terms of quality and technical barriers.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
We had to adapt to work remote fully. Like many others, we wanted to reduce the risk of infection. So, workstations were moved to employees’ homes and we collaborated with each other online. To my surprise, the demand for our service increased during the pandemic. One reason was that many businesses adopted digital marketing to survive the lock-downs. Also, many video production companies were not available to take on the live action projects. So, animation became the way to go.
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
As mentioned above, we look up to a number of high achievers in our industry. To name a few, ManVsMachine, The Buck Studio, Animade, Ordinary Folk and so on. They are definitely the heroes of our industry because they craft beautiful and meaningful animations.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
Stand your ground to produce the highest quality possible (within your means). Clients can be difficult to manage at times and they would reject very good ideas. In most cases, with effort, clients can be convinced to make the right decision and follow the right creative approach. It is crucial because at the end of the day, the animation you produce for clients will be part of your portfolio. And the better it is, the faster you gain reputation in the industry and secure more clients.
Also, retain your good employees. Finding great artists is not an easy task. It takes time and resources. Training and prepping new employees are a task on its own so it makes more sense to keep your best employees than to hire new ones.
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)
We invested mainly in digital marketing (SEO, video, email outreach etc) and I can say 95% of our clients find us online or through the previous videos we produced for other clients. Around 50% are returning clients who prefer to work with us on a long-term basis. They also refer more clients to us as they trust our work quality and service.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
We hope more businesses will learn that animation is a viable option as a marketing tool. It is timeless, cost-effective and generate a good return on investment. Animation makes story telling a breeze, and it can communicate emotions and ideas in an easy-to-understand and unique way.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
As a creative director, I’d recommend the following websites to get inspiration and learn about the industry’s latest trends: