We have a culture of excellence at the agency: Dheeraj Sinha

exchange4media caught up with Sinha, CEO of Leo Burnett - South Asia and Chairman of BBH India, on the sidelines of Goafest 2022

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: May 11, 2022 8:41 AM  | 4 min read
Dheeraj Sinha

From being an author of two bestsellers to successfully running Apollo 11 - India’s first tech innovation hub in the advertising sector - to winning the ABBY’s Agency of the Year, Dheeraj Sinha has his hands full.

The CEO of Leo Burnett - South Asia and Chairman BBH India is on cloud nine after Saturday’s win at Goafest 2022.

“This is a testimony to the agency that we have been building for the past four years. That we have won for brands across - Jeep, Spotify, P&G, CarDekho, Amazon, Twitter and so on means that we now have a culture of excellence at the agency. This also shows the depth of talent and client relations that we have,” Sinha exults.

According to Sinha, the agency remained resilient during the pandemic, even returning higher profits than before. He credits the growth to Leo Burnett’s technology innovation lab Apollo 11 that was set up eight years ago.

Apollo 11 is now known for resolving business problems with the help of technological products, rather than advertisements. For instance, Apollo launched a device called Street Eye for Acko to alert commuters about submerged potholes on roads during the monsoon, helping one to walk and drive safely.

The lab turned out to be a game changer, especially during the pandemic when the entire business world leaned towards technological innovations.

“Apollo has had very young and high energy tech people since pre-pandemic days. That’s why we had solid digital offers for each client. The pandemic mandate was different for each of our clients. We launched Leo Digital as a horizontal, not a vertical. Besides, we upskilled our people in all agencies,” Sinha explains.

“Apollo was the brain child of Rajdeepak Das (CEO and Chief Creative Officer of the group) and the vision was to have a hardcore innovation lab. The lab has data scientists and product engineers from NID, IITs and MICA among others,” says Sinha.

He further says that another objective behind having Apollo 11 was to radiate energy in the rest of Leo’s agencies. “As a nucleus, it helped our agencies to become more energetic and equipped to handle data and technology-led businesses.”

Asked about the evolution in the market during the pandemic and the ad sector undergoing consolidation, Sinha said, “The only friction was a lot of work but people were happy to do it. When people were losing their jobs in the lockdown, we neither fired anyone, nor did we cut salaries or bonuses. In the year 2020, we delivered 1,000 pieces of work and won 130 businesses over Zoom.”

Sinha also spoke on how consumer behaviour has always been changing and trends that he foresees.

“Small medium entrepreneurs have suffered during the pandemic. People have lost their jobs and there is a lack of liquidity in the market. Commodities prices have gone up. Hence, a short-term impact of the pandemic will be there. Yet, the shift to digital will continue for a longer time. However, D2C brands will have to go offline.”

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of ecommerce, leading to a growth surge for direct to consumer (D2C) brands. According to Statista, India has 190 million online shoppers, up from 110 million in 2018. The D2C market in India is worth about $1.9 billion, as per an estimate by Technopak. Now, many digital-first brands who found a footing solely through apps, websites and e-marketplaces, are launching physical stores to drive the next phase of their growth.

“While D2C brands may have benefited from going online, they today are looking to adopt a hybrid model and leveraging the offline channel to drive sales on their online channels,” Sinha pointed out.

Plum, mCaffeine, Mother Sparsh, MyGlamm, Bombay Shaving Company, mattress brands such as Wakefit, SleepyCat, Flo Mattress, and even seafood and meat e-tailer FreshToHome, have either launched stores or plan to do so in the months ahead.

Sinha explains, “Earlier, they used to build brands offline first. Online platforms used to come later. Since the cost to build an online brand is relatively cheaper, many players started off as e-commerce players. They are now launching offline businesses. We have seen Mamaearth and many other brands going offline.”

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