Maxus yesterday announced the appointment of Kartik Sharma as Managing Director for Maxus South Asia. In his new role, he will take over the reins from current Managing Director Ajit Varghese from January 2014 as Varghese moves into a new regional role as CEO Maxus Asia Pacific.
Sharma moves up from Managing Partner, Maxus and will report to CVL Srinivas, CEO, GroupM South Asia and Varghese.
Sharma talks at length about his approach and preparation for the new role, taking the leap of faith, his advise to the person filling in his shoes, and dreaming big...
How are you approaching your new role? There has been speculation for a while on your appointment…
It is a process. Apart from me, the management has to look at other candidates as well. I don’t think there was speculation really; the process just took longer.
We will continue to do what we are doing. The Maxus global vision will not change with a change in leadership. Our vision remains to be 10 on 10 on client delivery. The brand and client challenges are at the core. We will remain ambitious and continue to deliver.
As you look back at your journey in Maxus so far, what have been some of the game-changers?
There have been game-changers nearly every year from the time I joined Maxus in 2007, and each one helped us to grow and strengthen even further.
2007: We were in for a rude shock when we took stock and realised that we were not doing well at awards. A few like-minded people sat and brain stormed as to why we were not winning at award shows; we realised we had to rewrite everything we had been doing and formed something called ‘Creativitis’, which stemmed from the belief that each person is creative. More often than not, we find ourselves getting into a sceptical mode and saying ‘I am not creative’. We also did a lot of research and discovered techniques and patterns that gave an impetus to creativity. The result of all this is we have been significantly winning since 2008.
September 2007: Hutch became Vodafone. The brand transition was brought about by the roadblocks strategy. Everybody looked at us differently from then on.
2008: IPL happened; we consulted the client before the creative agency. There was no format, no previous benchmark.
2009: Efforts in ‘Creativitis’ showed; we won metals at Cannes for our work on Tata Sky and Nokia. The clients as well as the industry started looking at Maxus with a greater interest.
2010 – 2011: We embarked on the beginning of our journey of putting digital at the heart of everything we do. The results of this were visible from 2013 onward. Nestle and Vodafone were the most talked about brands this year.
How are you preparing yourself for the South Asia role?
My focus till now has been delivering excellence for one office, which will now be taken to a new level with the new role. This includes setting up of objectives, in a manner of speaking it is like writing your own future, which takes a leap of faith; you need to dream big.
This is not something you can prepare for on a daily basis, either you do it or you don’t. It involves, taking on a huge responsibility, coupled with the ability to take risks, and being bold.
There are high benchmarks set by Ajit Varghese, which are inspiring and not easy to live up to either. The advantage that I have is being part of the same office and experiences of past collaborations that we have worked on together.
What is your advice to the person who will fill in your shoes?
That is still under discussion. The key to success is knowing people. You can’t do anything without people. You need to know your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your team, so that you can overcome the weaknesses and build on the strengths. The key aspect is building relationships with people; this can truly make or break things.
The person should who steps into my role should have PACE (Passionate, Agile, Creative, and Entrepreneurial) qualities, which are a must as a Maxusite, and an understanding of our vision of delivering 10 on 10 for our clients.
This year has been significant for Maxus with wins such as Tata Tea and retaining L’Oreal after a pitch. What do you think is working well for the agency? What are the changes you would like to make to take the successes to another level?
• It is the Maxus culture of PACE in action for the clients, where the client sees a passionate team; all our business wins are the result of this application.
• It is being grounded and as real as possible, which is Maxus’ culture.
• Being honest and saying and doing what is right for the client; ‘yesmanship’ has never been Maxus’ culture.
• There is constant conversation on how we can improve ourselves and our performance and not to brush issues under the carpet.
We will be finalising the plans for 2014 soon. The aim is to further gain momentum in whatever we are doing.
Sharma has been a part of Maxus since 2007 and has looked after the West region from Mumbai. He has worked across key client relationships, including Vodafone, L’Oreal, Tata Sky, and Shoppers Stop, to name a few.
After completing his MBA from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in 1995, Sharma joined HTA (now JWT) as a Media Planner on the Unilever business. He moved to Lintas as Channel Planning Director from 1997, where he continued to work on Unilever, in addition to clients such as Bajaj Auto, Raymonds, etc. In 2000, he joined Mindshare, where he was Planning Director from 2000-03. He was in Madison from 2003-07, heading Madison Media Research Center.