Santha John, Managing Director, JWT Mindset, Hyderabad established Mindset Advertising with Ram Gadela in 1998. In 2011, JWT acquired a majority of stake in Mindset Advertising and the agency was rechristened as JWT Mindset. During her advertising tenure, John helped launch not just AP’s first cellular company, but also the first International school in India.
As she assumes a new advisory role as Chairman, Emeritus, from January 1, 2014, John speaks to exchange4media on her approach to the new role, things to unlearn and the terrific talent in India
You will soon take on a new role. Your thoughts…
I am still a shareholder, apart from being the Chairman; hence, JWT Mindset will continue to be emotionally and professionally attached to me.
What are some of the things that agencies should keep in mind while building and developing the client base?
One thing that is most important in our business is to listen, listen and listen. To honestly put yourself in the clients shoes, especially while suggesting budgets, and have the courage to stick to retainers fees is critical. Many clients ask you to vouch for the outcome or ask you take a cut or bonus if it works. It’s a tough question to answer but if one is paid a retainer, then the recommendations at least cannot be from a self-serving motive.
On building and developing a client base, I would say that first of all accept that this is not 30-second TV commercial market, and then find out what you can do for the client. For example, we do below the line, internal and external communication, retention strategies, recruitment advertising, road shows, etc.
What is the contribution of JWT Mindset to the JWT India team?
The major point is that we have established a presence in Hyderabad, which no other MNC agency, barring one, has been able to achieve. The agencies have come and gone – the latest, I think, was Mudra, before that it was Everest, Ulka, Karishma, Rediffusion, and O&M. O&M had set up shop, downsized, enlarged, and downsized many times before finally closing shop. We were completely aware that as an organisation that has built up a huge reputation and connections, we could not contract and expand. That is what we have achieved and, in fact, Colvyn Harris has publicly appreciated us for this.
Being in the creative field, what is your take on the talent available in India?
The talent in India is no doubt terrific. There is no difference between India and other countries. It’s just that we do not execute well, and that is because we don’t put the money behind it. Especially in markets such as Hyderabad, there are certain budgets that people are stuck with; while a budget of Rs 1 crore used to be very big earlier, now it Rs 10 crore seems to be the maximum. There seems to be almost a ceiling, regardless of what the media and production costs are. But if the client feels that every film needs to be done within Rs 20 lakh, then what can one do? Thus, while our execution is bad, our ideas are as good as anyone else’s.
What are some of the things that you need to unlearn?
I need to learn to relax and enjoy my family life, apart from starting a new venture in Life Coaching. I have had the honour of undergoing training by one of the world’s top ten Life Coaches in London and this is continuing through Skype and periodical visits.