The analogy of changing the engines of a plane while in flight is what CVL Srinivas CEO South Asia GroupM popularly known as Srini, uses to explain how GroupM has embraced change and pursuit of new disciplines without sacrificing its core competencies or market share, when we quiz him on the next level of growth for an organisation the size and scale of GroupM in India .
Srini who has earned the moniker of a disruptive thinker from his colleagues, has found a new trajectory of growth for an entity that already is a market leader in the Indian media agency space.
In a freewheeling chat Srini talks about GroupM going through a silent transformation, and creating a solid data & tech nucleus that holds together media and content services. Winning several interesting mandates from client that go beyond the traditional boundaries of media agencies and more ………..
As a market leader, what is the next level of growth that you are looking at?
We have stayed ahead of the curve by investing in newer practices that benefit our clients. In the past few years we have re-crafted the media agency model by moving from a trading centric to a data centric organisation. By being a data centric and digitally charged agency we are able to unlock a lot more value for our clients.
Securing the best price on media is only a portion of what we do. Equally important today is how we can use our scale in data to find or create valuable audiences and technology to do so efficiently.
Agencies that have failed to invest in technology, data, diversified skills will find it hard to stay in business.
With the recent announcement of (m)Platform the world’s most powerful collection of data, technology, and expertise enabling audience addressability and accountability across all media we are well positioned to take our product to the next level.
We see Digital and Data dominating our next phase of growth. They are helping us re-engineer not only our agencies’ services but also our trading, content, activation, rural marketing practices.
You have often talked about the Agency of the Future model. Is this now operational?
‘Agency of the Future’ isn’t one static model but a perpetual beta… of an organisation adapting to change. From managing throughput 10-15 years ago, media agencies today have a wonderful opportunity to move up the value chain to positively impact their
clients’ business. The GroupM platform that supports our agencies here has undergone a silent transformation in the last 3-4 years. We have created a solid data & tech nucleus that holds together the media and content services. This has led to us winning several interesting mandates from clients.
Do you formally announce these ‘interesting mandates’?
These assignments are strategically sensitive and very important for our clients; they cannot be discussed publicly. Moreover, we prefer our work speak for itself. You would have noticed the complete domination of GroupM agencies in terms of winning new clients, growing market share year after year (as per latest RECMA we have further expanded our lead in market) and topping industry awards.
Going forward do you believe ad- spends pre-dominantly more data led?
While it will be more data led and on digital platforms, agencies need skills to capture data, derive the insight and weave the story… all very seamlessly. Clients face the challenge of working with too many agencies and in too many silos. There is a huge transmission loss as a result. Going forward, integrating the value chain with one lead agency partner who can hold things together will become very important.
You have launched a new vertical for ecommerce and digital, what is happening with that as a specialist division?
We put together an ecommerce consulting practise as part of our data centric vision and offer clients looking at ecommerce a suite of services. Our first couple of assignments have just been signed up, including a very large one in which we conceptualised, created and help manage a service.
When we look at agencies under GroupM umbrella, we have not been hearing much in terms of business wins……..
Our agencies won over 70 new clients this year so far. And like all previous years have a 90%+ strike rate in pitches. We stayed out of a few pitches this year either because the terms were not favourable or because we were not taking part globally. Given our position and diversification, we fortunately don’t need to run after every opportunity. Also, we continue to have a 99% client retention rate.
What will you consider you biggest achievements and what is next?
As an organisation, we can feel proud of our embrace of change and pursuit of new disciplines without sacrificing our core competencies or market share. In fact, all of our performance metrics have shot up simultaneously! The analogy of changing the engines of a plane while in flight is appropriate and we’ve flown faster while doing so.
We’re also proud to have launched the WPP data alliance in India. This will gain momentum in the months to come. Xaxis, our programmatic platform is being scaled up with a lot more tech led innovation. We have the full support as always of our regional and global management.
You said that there was momentum for digital that was building up and it is still important for print to stay relevant, what is your take on it?
By end of this year digital will account for approximately 13% of the ad spend in India. Some would say this is still far lower than what it should have been. D. ShivKumar (of Pepsi) put it very well at the MMA Forum where he said, ‘marketers look for truck- loads of proof points when it comes to spending on digital, not realising that the proof points are behind them’. Along with MMA, GroupM is working to evangelise mobile marketing in India. We recently released the Mobile ecosystem & market sizing report that throws up several interesting opportunities for marketers.
Traditional media will continue to play a big part for the medium term. TV continues to grow and will soon account for 50% of the ad spend in India.
Print’s share has declined and is definitely facing the heat from digital. It is important for Print to stay relevant in a market with our kind of diversity. Advertising in print is still yielding results and one cannot dismiss the medium completely.
The past one year has seen two major developments that should positively impact the print businesses. IRS is back on track and we should have the results out in 2017. And ABC getting into digital measurement. This will go a long way in helping publishers make the transition from one format to another.