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Tim Love

Vice Chairman, Omnicom Group | 12 Mar 2010

I don’t know any holding company that honours India like Omnicom does. They call APAC, Asia, SE Asia, we call it India. Even my card mentions APIMA, which basically means Asia Pacific India Middle East Africa. Although that in itself might not mean a big deal, but I do believe that it’s the path that counts. Japan and China are investing in India in a big way, but you don’t see that unless you are looking at the region way differently. Our vision is not of the vision of the present, but of where we see things going in the future. It is estimated that by 2025, India will be the second largest economy and that to my understanding merits being paid attention to.

Tim Love, Vice Chairman, Omnicom Group and CEO, Omnicom, Asia Pacific India Middle East Africa (APIMA), is the man in-charge for helping Omnicom and its clients to be more collaborative and effective at global brand-building. His diverse experience in building some of the memorable brands has given him an unusual perspective as a true citizen of the world. He is also an active member of the advertising and international business community. In his career spanning over 35 years, Love has held senior client relationship positions in the US and abroad.

Tuhina Anand of exchange4media caught up with Love for a freewheeling conversation on Omnicom’s plans for India.

Q. Where do you see the Omnicom Group placed in the scheme of things in India today?

I think we are well placed. We have a good and credible infrastructure in place in India, if one were to compare with some of our competitors, who have historically been here much before – mainly those agencies that have had Unilever business or Cadbury’s, because of which they got an earlier start in India. Therefore, in terms of maturity in the market, they have come further along. Our companies are smaller and newer, and some would say we are at a disadvantage. I would say we are leaner and have a great mover advantage as we don’t need to build the infrastructure from the 1970s to 80s. We realise that the most important thing is to focus on talent. We want to be a preferred place for young students getting out of school and people in the advertising business. Omnicom has a fine reputation in this regards in the rest of the world, and we are building that reputation inside India too.

Q. Was India not enticing enough earlier, and now you think that things are changing, prompting you to have a wider presence here?

Pretty simple, it’s a service business and you tend to go where your clients need you. Not having many Unilever business in our history meant that we were not being pushed to being in India. Same is true for other advertisers like P&G or GM, who came early to India and are companies that we haven’t worked with. What has changed now is that our clients are all interested in India. India matters from economic point of view and in terms of learnings one can draw from its culture. The learning that we are getting out of India is fantastic. The market is developing very quickly and changes are happening at a faster pace here.

Q. So India matters?

I don’t know any holding company that honours India like Omnicom does. They call APAC, Asia, SE Asia, we call it India. Even my card mentions APIMA, which basically means Asia Pacific India Middle East Africa. Although that in itself might not mean a big deal, but I do believe that it’s the path that counts. We have started something and we just believe that in view of the region it should be expanded to Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, because we see so much synergy and consumer learning that can happen from these areas. I grant you that it is a strange view if you are sitting in London or NY, because you don’t see the way the world is unfolding here. Japan and China are investing in India in a big way, but you don’t see that unless you are looking at the region way differently. Our vision is not of the vision of the present, but of where we see things going in the future. It is estimated that by 2025, India will be the second largest economy and that to my understanding merits being paid attention to. I think we are doing that slowly, but surely.

Q. Omnicom brought the media brand OMD and later creative agency BBDO. A late decision perhaps...

It’s not a late decision, but we were late compared to many others. It’s sort of like saying that we are late compared to the British Empire and I am not being critical, but stating a fact of history. We moved in and made partnerships with people and businesses in India that were predicated in helping our clients. Until you had clients that were interested in having a capability in India, we are not going to build it. And it has been true for all the other agencies too.

Q. How has the response been to the Group's agencies, if you were to sum up?

Great. What really changed was the meltdown of 2008 and it’s not just the severity. I have lived through few recessions, but what was different this time was that it was interconnected and everybody was in the same boat. I went to Brazil, NY, Peru, China, Japan and then North America, and it struck me that everybody was kind of complaining about the same thing and suffering the same way. In prior recessions or even times, you could fly to a country and the pace of devaluation would pinch and then if you took a plane and went to another country, things were fine.

I think, now people are realising that India matters, and it matters because of scale, rich culture and then of course, its ‘as you go, so go we’. We are all on the same boat.

Q. Any plans of further mergers and acquisitions that you are looking for in India?

We are always looking to do what is right for our clients and make sure that we take advantages of opportunities to improve our talent.

Q. Any particular area where you would be looking at focusing on for mergers and acquisitions?

I can’t really say that. But, if one were to look at the opportunity, then it would be talent. To partner with talent that helps us improve our ability in our offering to our client. It could be in any discipline. Don’t think there are any big holes right now as we have credible infrastructure and are happy with our partnerships here.

Q. What are the three things on your priority list for India?

They are kind of related. For me, in the whole region is to help Omnicom companies to be more globally sensitive and in a way India brings this to our skill sets. The more we get involved, the more sensitive and global India would be. At the same time, what we offer India is a sense of organisation that is strong, well established and well trusted. We are in a good financial position and in a good position to invest in India and capitalise and share with India. I am not a financial person, but I know that our debt position is in a good position as compared to our competitors. While everybody was hurt last year, we have done better that some. We want to retain old client, but also bring in new ideas that are in tune with the times. The last is to attract talent. I want creative people, who are interested in ideas, to feel that Omnicom offers to them a better place to do what they like doing – to create ideas and to turn those into innovations where their ideas will be realised. We have been consistently topping the Gunn Report for the last three years. That’s important to some clients, but its important for our creative talent as it is an important industry measure.

Q. Two things you would like to change in the way business is done in India?

We are working in different time zones as there is a need to be sensitive to people and their needs. It’s a simple thing to do, but an important way to balance work-life.

Also, I would like to see the continuation of confidence that I am seeing in Indian businesses. It’s a historical thing, where things were heavy on discussion and light on doing. That, I think, is changing here. The new generation does not go into discussing strategy, but believes in making it happen, and it’s apparent all around. I think I have more to learn than to come in and tell, and also America has more to learn from India than tell.

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