Driving internal growth, not eyeing acquisitions in India: WPP CEO Mark Read

Piyush Pandey will bring a great sense of creative energy to Ogilvy and CVL Srinivas has a valuable role to play in making WPP collectively successful in India, says Read 

by Nawal Ahuja
Published - Feb 9, 2019 10:57 AM Updated: Feb 9, 2019 10:57 AM
Mark Read

India is the seventh biggest market for WPP; this year India is expected to be the fifth biggest economy, and there is tremendous potential for WPP to grow, says WPP Chief Executive Officer Mark Read in an interview to exchange4media on Wednesday during his maiden visit to the country after taking on the CEO position. He was in Jaipur to attend WPP’s annual event ‘Stream’ that was held from February 6 to 8.  

Emphasising on the need to grow internally, Read stressed on the importance of organic growth to break out of any business. “I’d rather grow things internally than make acquisitions. We’ve made a large number of acquisitions in India over the last five years, most recently The Glitch. There are times when business moves outside and there are times when it comes back. It’s not my job to be happy with where we are so I’d like us to do even more.” 

With Piyush Pandey taking on a global creative role at Ogilvy, Read said India has an important role to play for WPP creatively. “There’s also the growth of Indian multinationals outside the UK. India has a really important role to play creatively. Piyush Pandey taking on a global creative role at Ogilvy – I think that’s fantastic. As we grow, if our traditional business is in communications, there are other areas of experience like e-commerce and technology, where I think we can help clients – particularly on the commerce front. And I call it commerce, not e-commerce. That’s an area where traditionally we’ve been focused on marketing, where we can help our clients with sales. With sales and marketing becoming more integrated since they take place on the same devices, there’s big opportunity for us.” 

Regarding Pandey’s role within WPP, Read said every CCO has a different approach and that would generally depend on their personality. “I think Piyush will bring a great sense of creative energy to Ogilvy, help rejuvenate the creative culture and be a role model that will attract talent to the business.” 

On Pandey’s involvement in running the various aspects of the creative business across the world, Read said they all shared the equal responsibility of making the organisation great. “I think he’s going to chair Ogilvy’s creative council and help them collectively direct Ogilvy’s efforts.”

Talking about WPP Country Manager –India, CVL Srinivas’s role and responsibilities as the operational head of WPP in India, Read said having someone like Srinivas in the market will make a lot of these things easier.

“Srini will do in India what we are doing globally for WPP. He has a really valuable role to play in making WPP collectively extremely successful in India. It’s about making sure that we have the best leadership. Having someone like Srini in the market will make a lot of these things easier. I have been talking to many of our bigger multinational clients, and they want us to coordinate activities in India and resolve inevitable issues that may come up.”  

On the possibility of bringing in a structure where the WPP country head is also the operational head of all units, Read said he didn’t want to go that far. “I think both — having a strong WPP and having strong grounds, strong cultures — is very important in this context. We said we want our culture to be open, optimistic and extraordinary. We focus on the word ‘open’, meaning we should partner with our clients, with our partners and with each other. So, if we have a culture of people working collaboratively, there is no conflict.”

Read said that along with strong leadership teams present in India across units, Srinivas as WPP head has a key role in helping WPP find best people, help attract talent into WPP and make people in the rest of WPP, outside of India, know what’s going on.  

He said WPP aimed to bring technology “back at the heart of WPP”. “We have tremendous technology assets and Srini will help make those visible,” Read added.  

Bringing Sameer Singh as the head of GroupM, Read said, was a valuable move in the direction to have people with experiences of areas “where the growth is”. “You typically find people who have a lot of management experience, but I’d rather have someone who has an understanding of the future and growth. You give them the opportunity, I think that’s a good thing to do.” 

When asked about the prospects of furthering the already successful run of GroupM, the media agency business of WPP, in the country, Read said that despite WPP having a strong business there were areas where growth could still be achieved. “We’ve taken important steps, but we haven’t taken as much advantage of the various technology skills that we have in India – MSC, Hogarth, our production centre in Chennai, Ogilvy, PennyWise…when we think of India as a technology base for the world, like others have done. That’s a big opportunity to grow our business in India.” 

Instead of duplicating resources, Read said WPP would look to work over the next year or so in order to have one platform that supports all WPP companies globally. 

“We have a strong Digital business and the one thing we’re trying to get rid of, here at WPP, is this word Digital because I don’t think it is helpful to understand the world. We don’t have analogue consumers and Digital consumers,” he said. 

Read said WPP was attempting to bring businesses together. “I think ideas have to go across analogue and digital. We’re trying to bring businesses together, such as JW Thompson and Wunderman. It’s to integrate the solutions so they don’t need to go to a certain digital agency. If they go to a so-called digital agency, then who will do the so-called analogue marketing? So the world has become much more integrated and consumer experiences move from analogue to digital very quickly, and the time has come to bring those two worlds together. Eliminating the word digital is a good way of getting them to think about how they should be much more integrated.” 

Read further said, “I want to have a strong WPP, and strong brands inside WPP, strong Ogilvy, and a strong GroupM. Maybe we need to have fewer brands like we had in the past, but we need to have strong brands inside WPP.”

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