Kieran Akhtar, Co-Founder of digital content production company, Rococo World tells us why he's applying for Future Startup Now Founders

Tell us about you?

I am a self-shooting film director. I have a knack for opening doors to inventive notions in whatever I commit my time towards; enjoying a dedication to filmmaking, inside and outside of my business ‘Rococo World’, as well as an interest in curating and exhibiting film programmes and live performance events. Strong influences in my creativity and work can be found in the fantasy and sci-fi genres which I expose myself to; in film (Pan’s Labyrinth), television (Westworld), anime (Attack on Titan), video games (Kingdom Hearts) and novels (Game of Thrones).

Focused on championing diverse cinema and LGBTQ+ representation, my personal goal is to promote creatives through collaboration; designing my business as a platform to expose new and different artists. I am passionate about showcasing talent in films, screenings and live events; creating innovative digital content, leading marketing strategies for my business and developing a series of nights with Sophia's Bar & Lounge as Rococo World Stage.

On a side note, I practice yoga, play the flute and bansuri, paint with oil pastels, learn Hindi, develop my cooking skills passionately, attend live performances including musicals and theatre, learn about Indian history and record produces music. My business partner James Lee is responsible for sharing the load of the business work, leading the post-production stages of filmmaking and developing Rococo World’s online platform. This business partnership is the perfect channel to pursue the hopes and passions for both of us.

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Tell us about your business?

Rococo World is a digital content production company, a business established in January 2019 as a partnership, producing music videos and focusing on curating a community of talented creatives. Both James and I noticed a need for aesthetically-unique video production services from musicians who wish for supportive digital content that helps them market and promote themselves.

Our business purposefully creates digital content tools (mostly music videos) that serve as the musician’s personal bespoke advertisement. A unique advantage of collaborating with Rococo World is the acceptance of a person from any background; for example, we encourage LGBTQ+ artists but aren’t exclusive to this, meaning that even if they don’t identify as LGBTQ+ we won’t turn them away, and if they don’t wish to “come out” then they are not pressured to either. Adding to this, we work affordably and ergonomically, to suit the needs of the business and clients.

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Beginning with music videos and other visual content for musicians, we have expanded into fashion photography and have begun curating live performance events; the events are designed to help collate and promote new music video releases, as well as provide a physical space for the musicians we collaborate with. Through our digital content creation, online platform establishment and event producing, we aim to reshape the way high-end art is digested. Considering the distaste commonly prevalent when the thought of “pretentious art” is mentioned (often catering for the upper classes), Rococo World aims to bridge this gap and meet the needs of the times we are in by focusing on simplicity and accessibility. As filmmakers, we know that our work can carry powerful personal and political messages for audiences, giving new insights to them and helping to mirror our own cultural identity. An enrichment can be gained from appreciating art in performances, the internet and life in general, and it is this mingling of things that Rococo World hopes to adventure into.

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What's been your journey with your business so far?

Beginning as sole traders there was some traction, and clients were gained through a social-network that Kieran already had. Working alongside James, the music video production sky-rocketed; the organic progression of successes in digital content creation services has in-turn grown into this business partnership. With the help of Future Startup Now Bootcamp and Prince's Trust, we were able to direct ourselves to reign in on business management and focus ourselves on the intrinsic reason for wanting to make music videos. This is for the most part, our observed disconnect between content consumption and artistic appreciation especially on social media, or simply phrased, the excess of online content that did not inspire us. A core principle that came from this realisation is that Rococo World strives to create enriching content, that caters to a large variety of tastes, in a digestible format that meets basic needs. This is achieved through implementing simple but effective concepts, and trying to take experimentation in creation to a point where it is also commercially viable

Through experience, we have learned that diversity enhances content by making it more reflective and representative of the times we are in. As we continue to build foundations, we are developing an ever-expanding culture and artist hub. The more events we can put on and the more diverse our online platform becomes, the wider our scope and vision-for-all reaches. Our key lessons over the past 2.5 years of test trading are: due to the need to have a suitable time frame for release which brings maximum benefit to both Rococo World and the musician, we have learned to be patient with releases that are out of our control; therefore, ensuring that there is a regular output of content allows a consistent exposure; to fill these gaps in releases we maintain our passion for our art forms and dive into passion projects, where appropriate; and finally, sustain a realism for the time and effort required to produce a top-quality product, making sure costings reflect this.

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What made you apply for Future Startup Now Founders?

I applied to Future Startup Now Founders to propel Rococo World to the next level that the business is reaching. I have always aimed to make a difference in the world and create positive change and I enjoy managing through positive leadership, finding a natural flare for business management, and so wish to carry on progressing with this venture. Rococo World has been developing its practices for the past year, since Future Startup Now Bootcamp, and this is the perfect time to catapult the business into new heights, having completed a Business Plan and temporarily re-organised the business onto an online-only format in the second quarter of 2020. After receiving guidance and coordination through Prince's Trust's Exploring Enterprises, Rococo World has built the necessary foundations to launch onto a grander stage, helping us become more viable to receive financial investment through realising more convincing business possibilities. This course appears to be the ideal next-step in the several support systems and mentorship programmes that I have completed so far; having benefited from Future Startup Now before, I know if this is anything like last year, that this opportunity could help to stabilise me and the business.

What three things about this programme do you think will benefit you most?

  • The advice I will receive from the training sessions in the Founders course is incredibly exciting and something I am greatly looking forward to receiving. The knowledge I gained in Future Startup Now last year heavily benefited the development of my business and I am sure this course will further Rococo World's advancement in terms of business practices.
  • The network of professionals and industry leaders that I will gain access to is a great addition to an already amazing opportunity. With their guidance, I am excited to achieve further successes. I hope to prepare Rococo World to adapt to the tides of these times and feel I will gain a lot of support, especially in this uncertain period of the Covid-19 era.
  • The potential to pitch for £5000 of kit is additionally another strong incentive for me to continue to push my business plans closer to a position where they are worthwhile to be invested in.

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What would you say to anyone looking to apply for Future Startup Now Founders?

Put your best effort into every stage of the process; from the application and note-taking during training sessions, to getting all your business plans and administrative notes in order. If you do this in advance you will be best prepared for the opportunity ahead, having the highest chance of succeeding and gaining the most from the experience. Have a clear idea of exactly what you want to achieve through the scheme, whilst remaining open to any pieces of advice which are unexpected or challenging along the way. Share your thoughts and plans with anyone you meet; everyone’s perspective can benefit your development an it’s better to get potential customer or audience opinions sooner rather than later.

Words by Kieran Akhtar.

Images © KIeran Akhtar.

You can connect with Rococo World via Instagram, Kieran on Twitter and Instagram and James on Instagram too.