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Ashish Bhasin

Chairman India & CEO South East Asia | 19 Nov 2010

“360 degrees is the most abused term, in my view and I think it is completely archaic. As you have pointed out it is a crutch used by the old world creative agencies in pitches only. In reality they do not implement it. The new world, however, is beyond 360. The challenge now is 365. The trick lies in being in touch with you consumer 365 days of the year through various media, particularly using the ever evolving Digital and social media because the consumer is making choices about the brands he or she will buy 365 days of the year.”

Ashish Bhasin is the Chairman India and CEO South East Asia for Aegis Media, as well as - Director, Posterscope for APAC. As an industry veteran, Bhasin sits on the Board of Governors of MRUC, the executive committee of AAAI as Treasurer and several other industry bodies, besides being a member of the Cannes Lion jury, Dubai Lynx jury and other significant international bodies. He chairs the IOS (Indian Outdoor Survey) committee and is the Founder Chairman of Sydenham Institute Alumni Association (SIMAA).

Q. You had recently launched search engine marketing company, iProspect in India this October, how is this new launch shaping up?

iProspect has taken off very well, though it has just been a couple of weeks since we launched it. We are ramping up our team and they have already won search assignments from some of the largest multinational clients in the world as well as from several large local clients in India.

Q. Kindly brief us on the team involved at iProspect?

As the person in charge of our Digital Operations, Shamsuddin Jasani represents iProspect in the Indian Executive team. He has hired some of the best search professionals, many of whom have worked on the largest brands and companies in India. We have ensured that we choose the best in the market and across the search practitioners and we are very proud to have already got on board top class search practitioners in Mumbai and Delhi, which is helping us revolutionize the search business in India. Next year we hope to expand to Bangalore as well.

Q. Are there any more new initiatives or launches expected from Aegis Group in the near future?

Yes there are several initiatives and launches that you will see from the Aegis Media Group in India in the near future. The first of that will be in the area of Out-Of-Home and I hope to be in the position to announce that before the end of the year. Further, in 2011 you will see a lot of geographical expansion in our companies.

Q. Isn't ‘360 degree’ or ‘holistic planning’ only touted at pitches. Having said that, does the 360 degree strategy get implemented and to what extent?

360 degrees is the most abused term, in my view and I think it is completely archaic. As you have pointed out it is a crutch used by the old world creative agencies in pitches only. In reality they do not implement it. The new world, however, is beyond 360. The challenge now is 365. The trick lies in being in touch with you consumer 365 days of the year through various media, particularly using the ever evolving Digital and social media because the consumer is making choices about the brands he or she will buy 365 days of the year.

Q. Vizeum is a very young agency under the Aegis group umbrella. How is the agency shaping out?

Vizeum has had a spectacular launch and is shaping out really well under S. Yesudas’ leadership.

We are ending this year with 14 client wins in the very first year of it operations, which is commendable. Having said that, this is just the beginning and there is a long way to go and I’m sure that Vizeum will have the spectacular part to play for Aegis Media in the years to come.

Q. Similarly, what are some of the recent developments from Carat in terms of new businesses or people movement?

Carat’s focus through the year has been to ensure that all our clients get a world class product. Towards this, under Kartik Iyer’s able leadership, we’ve had extensive training of our key employees not just in India but in Europe and in South East Asia, by sending them for workshops, sessions and working live on clients. With this Carat India, has managed to earn kudos from some of the very large clients in our portfolio like Reebok, Adidas, Philips, BMW, Muthoot Group, Mattel, and Tourism Australia amongst others. It is no secret that two years ago the quality of the Carat product in India was not of world standards. The highlight of this year has been that with the introduction of the latest tools, technology and training. Wherever it has been necessary, we have brought in new talent from outside. After Sushma Jhaveri joining Carat Mumbai, we recently also recruited Rajni Menon and have taken on board, in a consultant capacity, Svetleena Choudhry whose last assignment was with the Adidas India marketing team.

Q. India has been a challenge market for Aegis. How’s the journey been for you till now? What are the challenges you faced?

It is true that India was a huge challenge for Carat and we were definitely performing below our potential for several years, in the past. This track record and reputation made the task even more challenging but that’s what made it fun. We were very lucky because we were able to attract some of the best talent and one of the first things I did was to set up a management team which was far more of a heavy weight than what the business merited. This turned out to be a worthwhile investment because it helped us quickly establish many businesses, faster than what we could have imagined. Shortly after my joining, we brought Kartik Iyer into Carat and his spectacular revamp of Carat is now well known. Soon after, we launched Posterscope under the leadership of Haresh Nayak, which has been most successful and he then went on to launch Hyperspace - our retail and creative venture and you will shortly hear more news in his domain, before the end of the year. Shamsuddin Jasani came in to launch Isobar, our digital company and more recently he added iProspect to his responsibilities. Debashis Das then joined in by bringing in Fresh, forming Carat Fresh, which is our Activation business and then we managed to attract S. Yesudas as Managing Director of Vizeum. It gives me tremendous pride and pleasure to see how we were able to transform one loss making company into the Aegis Media Group, having 6 successful companies, each doing very well in their own domains. Actually the recession helped us significantly because we were able to attract good talent as well as take advantage of the churn in the market. We faced several challenges from lack of infrastructure to lack of resources, but I am glad to say that working together as a team we were able to overcome all of them very successfully.

Q. In May 2010, when Nick Waters, CEO, Asia Pacific, Aegis Media had visited India last, he had mentioned that the group targets early next year to work on Nokia. So what is the status now for Nokia business to move to the agency?

Like Nick Waters said in his visit, we still continue to target Nokia very hopefully and we are optimistic that the business will move to us, though I cannot discuss any time lines.

Q. In India, we are seeing many existing Indian agencies launching new brands. In your view, how is it increasing the competition and do you view them as challenge?

I think the problem in India is that most Indian agencies are benchmarking themselves within India and hence not raising their standards. Particularly because of my regional role I can see that there are several areas where we as a country can do better. I don’t worry about competition because we have more than adequate armaments in our armoury to come out winners in this battle and this spectacular success that the Aegis Media Group has had achieved, particularly in the last year, has emboldened us further.

Q. Are you happy with the new business wins in India and the growth percentage?

I’m delighted with our new business track record, across businesses. Collectively as a group, we have won more than 62 clients so far in 2010 and I hope to add a few more before the year is out. We have had spectacular success in Out-Of-Home, Digital, Activation and traditional media across our companies.

Q. What is the year-on-year percentage of growth?

We are anticipating an unprecedented triple digit growth, though I cannot disclose the actual growth figures.

Q. How do you see Posterscope and Isobar from Aegis Group moving ahead?

I think both Posterscope and Isobar from our group will play a very important part. They have been launched from scratch and both have been profitable from day one. Posterscope have expanded to include Hyperspace and will shortly be adding on another business and has managed to introduce world class practices in a very disorganized market. Isobar, on the other hand, has grown to be able to launch iProspect as well. Today we are uniquely placed to be able to order the entire gamut of Digital services, including search, within our group. This is what makes Aegis Media so different from any other group. We are able to offer the entire solution to the client through our own brands, all under one roof and at the same time, since we are the only independent agency group, maintain equal relationship with all constituents.

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