Pratap Bose is in the news for his recent exit from the DDB Mudra Group, after a six-year stint. The erstwhile COO’s departure undoubtedly leaves a gap in leadership within the DDB Mudra Group, as Bose was also a member of the operating board.
The affable Bose makes no bones of the fact that his exit stemmed from a four-year extension granted to Madhukar Kamath, CEO of DDB Mudra Group. However, he has offered to be available to Kamath for any counsel for the next few months. While industry sources indicate that Bose was promised a position to head the agency, he chooses not to comment on that aspect.
What is the difference between working for an independent agency and a holding group?
I understand both sides and why it does and why it doesn’t work. If you are an independent company, you can be mavericks and decisions are taken in three hours time. You call for a board meeting and a decision is taken, you are nimble-footed and agile, you can take risks as it is a very entrepreneurial environment and you are not answerable to anyone beyond a point. There is good and bad in it, people that have an entrepreneurial spirit are immensely successful that is why Mudra Max was immensely successful in its first three years.
When you work for a large network, you cannot do those things and your corridors of freedom get narrowed to a large extent, but not in a negative manner. If you are part of a large network that operates in 150 countries, you have to have very tight systems and protocols to be able to run it on a global scale. The amount of learning that takes place, processes, systems, global alignments are huge advantages as well.
You have worked with both WPP and Omnicom group, now part of POG. What are the inherent differences in their approach?
The good thing about WPP is that it is extremely focused and run as a very well-oiled ship, I think Sir Martin Sorrell really has a tight grip on things. The amount of times he travels around... and he is always available, he is a whizkid in terms of finance. It is a controlled entity, but Omnicom is just the opposite - it is loosely held and people are far more willing to collaborate.
I am not saying one is better than the other, both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Is IPG your next destination?
I haven’t spoken to IPG yet, I haven’t taken a decision though I am meeting a few people. Typically, I would like to take a decision within the next two months.
Will your next job be heading a media agency?
The creative process itself excites me a lot, I love the creative process; it gives me a great sense of joy and satisfaction and that is what I brought to the DDB Mudra group and to DDB Mudra Max. In whatever we do, my brief was to people: solve the client’s problem in a creative manner so that his business succeeeded.
Now, in the pureplay media space, I am not saying you can’t do it, the opportunities are always greater on the other side of the fence. When I say creative, it does not mean an agency - it means that space. To be selfish, I like the traditional creative business, the digital creative business, I like to be the generalist, not the specialist. I hate to be slotted.
Perhaps you could start your own company, where you can do everything...
Could be a possibility.
What would you call the highlights of your stint at DDB Mudra Group?
I created the 800 pound gorilla in the Experiential, Engagement and Media space for the Omnicom Group in India... Built a team of 500+ people across verticals like Shopper Marketing/ Trade Marketing, Digital, Mainline Media, OOH, Events, Promotions, Retail, Rural marketing, creating a focused Youth offering, and seamlessly integrated these functions into the mainline agency. Partnered with the creative team to make DDB Mudra the most awarded Indian Agency of the year at Cannes in 2011/ 2012 and helped DDB Mudra Max be the ‘Specialist Agency of the Year’ for three years in a row, apart from a haul of over 500 + awards in the last few years.
Can you share some interesting anecdotes during your stint at DDB Mudra Group?
Work apart, in my six years at DDB Mudra Group, I became a better marriage counsellor, took some of my best wildlife photographs, my love of art turned me into an art collector and above all I realized that I have to pick the things that give me the most happiness and often, have to follow my heart to make that happen.
Would you change anything in hindsight when it comes to your stint at the Mudra Group?
I think we lost a lot of the entrepreneurship spirit and the fun in the agency post the acquisition and the laughter in the corridors disappeared. We should never have let profits so utterly dominate our lives.
What does the next one month look like for Pratap Bose?
A month to take stock of what I really want to do, and do the things that make me happy without a care in the world.
Will the wild creatures see more of you now than before?
Yes... I have neglected them for a while, and it’s time that I went out and said hello!
Which are the hottest creative agencies in India right now?
Ogilvy and Lowe are way ahead of everybody else right now in the creative space, especially on film.
Which are the hottest media agencies in India right now?
Shashi and IPG are doing very well; the agency has seen the greatest turnaround in the last year. Madison continues to be consistent. Mudra Max has become a force reckon to with and GroupM continues to be the big daddy of them all.
You were given a mandate to put DDB Mudra Max on the map in terms of engagement and experiential, and were fairly successful. Where do you think Mudra Max is poised now?
I was given the mandate saying, ‘Look we are an advertising agency, the future is everything but advertising... so come and grow that pie to scale’. That was the drive on which we built the business, brick by brick and wall by wall in our small office in Mahim. That was the happiest of our times; we had no business, but with huge money that Mudra had invested in us, we had everything to win and everything to lose, that’s where the journey really started. The first few years were crazy, at times fun... there was a lot of spunk and character and in times of adversity, you always do well. We were on a mission. The brief was really to build everything around the non-advertising space.
When Madhukar told me the future is not in advertising, it struck a chord of resonance with me, which is why I took the job. We came in with a huge zeal and a mission to achieve. Reputations were at stake with high expectations. The agency’s growth stabilised after four years; until then it was all about aggressive growth ...the last two years had been more about consolidation, and singling out business, there was fabulous integration within the group. As a group we all put our arms around each other, and rallied around everybody. DDB Mudra Max is now consolidated and doing very well.