I never work backwards from the rewards: Kainaz Karmakar, CCO, Ogilvy
In e4m’s Power Sharing series, every week, we interview the joint heads of creative at ad agencies to understand the challenges for them
Kainaz Karmakar, CCO, Ogilvy India, is known for campaigns like HUL’s ‘The Shower’, Savlon’s ‘Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks’, Dainik Bhaskar’s ‘Achchi Zidd’, Titan Raga’s ‘Don’t Get Married’, MLNS’ ‘Beauty Tips By Reshma’ that have brought innumerable accolades to her agency. It was thus not surprising that Ogilvy India decided to elevate her to the top role earlier this year. But did Karmakar ever imagine that she would have to share the CCO position with two other equally deserving creative leaders and friends, Harshad Rajadhyaksha and Sukesh Nayak? She explains their equation and more in a freewheeling chat.
What was your first reaction when you were told that you are going to be made the ‘joint’ CCO of Ogilvy India?
The three of us handle the Mumbai office smoothly. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We complement each other. Most importantly, we want the same things for Ogilvy-- great work, great talent and great results. I am happy to have Harshad and Sukesh with me, or as I refer to them fondly as H&S.
When you were climbing up the corporate ladder and of course dreamed of reaching the top, did you ever factor in the possibility of having to share the top role with someone?
I am a floater, so I don’t plan my future much. This has really worked for me. Focus on the task at hand. Give it everything you have. What happens next, depends on how the stars align. I know this sounds like a loose statement but not planning has always got great results for me.
I never work backwards from the rewards. So, I never thought about my place on any ladder or who I am sharing it with. Frankly, I would rather be in a spa than balancing myself precariously on a ladder.
How do you divide responsibilities at the agency, who takes care of what? Are there set roles?
The three of us continue to work with the Mumbai office actively. The north is handled by Sukesh. The south is handled by Harshad and me. This is just for ease of operations. For all major steps, in all offices, the three of us connect. Even otherwise, we are constantly in touch on our chat group, sharing work and worthy gossip.
Also, are there any shared duties, and what happens in the event there is a difference of opinion among the three of you, who wins?
The three of us take joint ownership for all of Ogilvy. Like I mentioned earlier, the division of clients is just to avoid duplication of operational responsibilities. We take each other’s opinions on everything that matters. Disagreements are a part of any relationship. How you resolve them, decides the course of your relationship. I am proud to say, we resolve them quickly and beautifully, because when the three of us are in rhythm, Ogilvy wins. That is the win that really counts.
What do you always agree upon and what do you almost always fight about?
I only fight with them when they want to meet early morning to discuss something. Both the boys are morning people and I am an owl.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a partner at the top in the same seat?
It is the same as having two siblings. You are never alone in a crisis and you have someone to hug on either side, when you win. The disadvantage is that you have to share your cookies with your brothers.
Would you say that Ogilvy performed better after the three of you were given the joint responsibility vs. when you had one leader?
The three of us are a cog in the wheel that is Ogilvy India. The agency is indeed thriving, but the credit for that goes to every team member, every leader in every department and every client.
How have the clients reacted to this power sharing system?
Ogilvy had dual leadership even before us, so this is not breaking news to anyone. All that our clients are looking for is the value we can bring to their business. How Ogilvy does this, is not something they interfere with.
They always say, for the team members, it is always easier to follow the vision of one leader, and every leader has a different style of working. How do you overcome the confusion that comes with having three different ways of functioning?
We have one vision for this place and all teams are aligned to that.
Do you look up to any duo, or any leaders who have been in a power sharing role at any of the organisations you have worked with in the past?
The duo I admire has nothing to do with power sharing in an organisation. I admire the partnership that Piyush and his brother Prasoon share as two creators. The way they join forces to make great brands on the back of great work is something to imbibe and learn from.
Personally, do you think other creative agencies should have one CCO at the top or a joint leadership like in your case?
Choosing leadership for an office is like a medical diagnosis. It should be based on the individual case history of that organisation.
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