India has been lagging behind; exits part of ‘planned’ change: dentsu to e4m

In its first and detailed statement exclusively to e4m, dentsu India claims more senior-level execs are set to join the agency

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Sep 9, 2021 7:05 PM

Amidst speculations and chaos over a series of senior-level resignations, a dentsu India spokesperson on Wednesday claimed that the exits were part of the plan as the agency’s transformation was running behind schedule in India.

“This is a planned journey for dentsu India. Nothing unexpected. In fact, you are going to hear about a few more people movements within the country network, including the joining of some very senior-level execs,” the spokesperson told e4m.

While no one from the senior leadership is speaking to the media, the dentsu India spokesperson, in response to queries shared by exchange4media, explicitly claimed that the company needed “new ways of operating, more connected ways of working and refreshed leadership” as part of its transformation journey.

The network has been hit by a series of senior-level exits in the last few weeks. Haresh Nayak, president, Posterscope APAC, was the latest to put in his papers on Wednesday. In the past few days, many of his former colleagues, including Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO, dentsu India, Shamsuddin Jasani, Group MD, South Asia, Isobar, Rubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect, Gopa Menon, COO, Isobar, Vivek Bhargava CEO, DAN Performance Group, Gautam Mehra, chief data and product officer, APAC, and CEO, DAN Programmatic; and Agnello Dias, CCO, Taproot Dentsu, also chose to leave the group.

However, the company continues to be unperturbed about the situation and is repeatedly calling it part of its “planned transformation” journey.  

Meanwhile, the industry corridors are abuzz with speculations regarding the exodus, hinting at lack of compliance, a possible internal audit, and internal politics.     .


Building dentsu India 2.0

The company claims that as part of its transformation towards dentsu India 2.0, there will be more movement within the brand portfolio and teams. “This is all part of our plan to bring India in line with a fast and positively transforming dentsu.”

The new dentsu will ensure that its brands work in a manner that is more efficient and avoids duplication. Talking of new hires, the spokesperson said the company has a strong local leadership team with senior pivotal hires like Vinod Thadani as Chief Digital Growth Officer & CEO, iProspect; Anita Kotwani as CEO, Carat; Ajay Gahlaut as Group Chief Creative Officer; and Rohit Suri as Chief HR Officer, South Asia.  

As per the official statement released by dentsu, Suri will focus on the company’s 'India 2.0' transformation journey and will accentuate the leadership agenda and talent pipeline.

Apart from new hires, the company is also expanding the role of some existing leaders, such as Divya Karani, CEO, Media India. Immediately after Nayak’s departure on Wednesday, dentsu aligned its OOH business into Aplifi under Karani.

With Shams, Rubeena, Vivek and Gopa moving out, industry sources claim that the agency is expected to poach talent in the digital domain and Thadani perhaps has to cover up for too many. “Digital has been dentsu’s strong area. They would need more strong hands to help Thadani up the game,” claimed a senior industry leader.

In its official claim, dentsu, corroborated the same, “We continue to invest in digital as a platform for growth in India and bring strong leaders to further enhance our digital-first thinking and capability through our service lines.”


Acquisition vs integration

dentsu India, in the last one decade, has made several major acquisitions. Industry insiders believe that the global plan to integrate the brands might have led to a clash of visions. “The merging of brands has not gone too well with many CEOs. This is particularly true for the creative brands wherein they are expected to put everything under one single global brand,” said a senior industry source.  

Another senior industry leader asserted that the move to merge smaller acquired companies that had their own identity and specialisation under the bigger brand has not gone too well with many CEOs who chose to walk out in the last few weeks.

Responding to these concerns, dentsu India maintained that it will retain the local-market specialisms as platforms of differentiation and growth. “However, the optimisation of the brands and operational structure will result in changes to the way the business operates, as well as the removal of duplicate roles,” it claimed.

It further explained that through a more focused portfolio of brands, the company is simplifying, integrating, and making its operational processes more consistent.

The company also claimed that the creation of three global service lines (Creative, Media, and CXM) and other transformation activities will make it easier to do business with dentsu. “Simplifying our structure will enable us to anticipate and respond quicker to fast-changing client needs and market environment,” the statement added.


The client side

Chaos and uncertainty is the last thing a client would want from its agency. With reports of team leaders walking away, how is the company dealing with the crisis? If industry sources are to be believed, many dentsu clients are currently in the wait-and-watch mode.

“No matter how much the agency may deny, such movements are bound to impact clients. However, it would be too early to gauge if the impact is momentary or long term,” a senior industry person claimed.

Meanwhile the denstu India spokesperson maintained that clients are excited about the transformation. They vehemently claimed that while making these pivots, the company is keeping its client relationships and the continuity of client service central.

“Clients need partners with agility and ingenuity to help them make meaningful progress in a disruptive and dynamic market. Our transformation is rooted in our commitment to serving our clients better now, and in the future,” the company claimed in its statement.

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