G’Man: At a market level, I see it as four different buckets – China, South East Asia, Australia and India. Of these, three are completely new to me and they will come with different kinds of challenges.
Ravi Rao: The way I see it, there are three clear challenges ahead. The first is to bring the best of Mindshare as a trusted advisor to our clients within the framework of marketing... The second is to attract, nurture and grow talent. The third very clear challenge ahead of Mindshare in India is to take digital to a broader territory.
Even though it has been on the cards for a while, when Mindshare finally announced the changes in its senior management, the industry was abuzz with what the new roles would mean for R Gowthaman aka G’Man, who is slated to be Chief Client Officer, Mindshare APAC, and for Client Leader for Team Unilever, Ravi Rao, who replaces G’Man to be Leader, Mindshare South Asia. For Mindshare India, and hence for the Indian media agency business, the implications are immense as this means a change of guard for India’s single largest media agency.
In conversation with Noor Fathima Warsia, G’Man and Rao speak on how they see the challenges and the opportunities ahead...
Q. From leading an agency, and that too in one of Mindshare’s most important markets, you are now going to be in a client leading role for the region – how are you viewing this?
G’Man: The agenda for a role like this is to manage multiple stakeholders. In today’s market scenario, the client’s side alone has specialised functions such as research, digital, marketing, ROI, distribution, procurement, sales and such and it is important to be able to engage with each of them. For an agency like Mindshare, which is category blocked in most cases, growth can come largely by growing with existing clients and not new wins alone. This role can open a new revenue stream for Mindshare. I am not looking at this role as an agency leading versus client leading.
Q. Since you have been in the position that Ravi Rao now assumes, please give your views on why Ravi Rao, especially when you have a host of very senior people that would have been vying for this role?
G’Man: We are very fortunate and I am personally happy to have a battery of this kind of talent. Most of them were moved to this market three years back, and we have very senior people who are focussing on analytics and invention. Amongst the senior talent we have, everyone has their own plans, ambition and journey. Quite honestly, the decision to choose the right person for this role was simple – a client relationship leader was rightly suited to head the agency. Domain experts continue to lead domains and there is a lot to do there as well.
Q. Your role, in a sense, is reverse of what happens with G’Man – in a manner, from leading a client team you would now be leading an agency. What are the challenges that you foresee in your new role?
Ravi Rao: The way I see it, there are three clear challenges ahead. The first is to bring the best of Mindshare as a trusted advisor to our clients within the framework of marketing, which is what the agency’s proposition has been in the last three years. This is perhaps the single biggest challenge that lies ahead. The second is to attract, nurture and grow talent. In the current market scenario, clients require people who bring with them a multi-disciplinary approach and in the process assist in growing the client’s business.
The third very clear challenge ahead of Mindshare in India is to take digital to a broader territory. We can do a lot more in terms of mobile, owned and earned media and make it much more meaningful for advertisers. Right now, there are few and rare examples of how this medium can be used to grow the clients’ business, and there are ways to look at digital in a bigger way. In fact, digital happens to be one aspect but we have to see how we can bring more original thinking to new technology based offerings.
Q. While you have led South Asia in the past, this is a first APAC experience for you – what are some of the markets (apart from India) that you may be keenly looking to understand and work on?
G’Man: At a market level, I see it as four different buckets – China, South East Asia, Australia and India. Of these, three are completely new to me and they will come with different kinds of challenges. I look forward to working with the country client leaders and understand these markets better. On a broader level, I think the focus would be on the four Ps – People, Process, Product, Profit. While I have to still plan my life and how I would approach work, but these four Ps would be the guiding principle in a manner of speaking.