Will 2015 be the year of Harvest for JWT India?

Gustavo Martinez, Worldwide CEO, JWT on the company’s aggressive growth plan, strategy for acquisitions and the 2020 agenda in India

e4m by Priyanka Mehra
Updated: Jan 19, 2015 8:49 AM
Will 2015 be the year of Harvest for JWT India?

An aggressive acquisition plan, introduction of new units within J Walter Thompson, are some of the elements of JWT Worldwide CEO Gustavo Martinez‘s gameplan towards making the company rank among the top 3 global networks worldwide. The agency has created a stir in India with its recent appointment of Worldwide Media CEO Tarun Rai, a former JWT executive coming back as South Asia CEO and replacing Colvyn Harris who has been with the agency for 35 years.

A few months ago the agency was also in the news for leadership changes across the agency’s key offices, and a few senior level exits in India.

“It is important for us, every year that we wake up and re-invent ourselves as top management, we are going to capitalize on what we have, in terms of terms of talent and leadership, the client is looking for leadership and experience. We have earned this kind of capability and credentials in the market, but we need to update our capabilities and our talent, through acquisition and hiring people and provide these to the key markets and clients,” commented Martinez.

The agency aims to have a 50:50 distribution between organic and inorganic growth in order to achieve this agenda in 2020. The top management have specifically determined and defined the organic and inorganic targets. The agency plans to achieve the non- organic targets through acquisitions and new business, and organic targets through the optimizing the agency’s capabilities on the existing client portfolio.

Does this indicate more acquisitions in the pipeline after Social Wavelength and Hungama in India? “We will always have space and funds for particular acquisitions.  India is a relevant market for us and is one of the key markets, so if Colvyn / Tarun bring us specific companies, which align with our growth strategy we are going to  have time and money to make acquisitions in India. India is our top priority,” says Martinez.

Martinez also indicates that there may not be an immediate acquisition in cards for the Indian market as the agency now has wide-ranging services but an acquisition is a strong possibility globally and might just be around the corner. 

“We are different from other networks; we are not making acquisitions just because of the volume. Now we don’t need volume. We could need capabilities, different talent or we might to want to try to fill a space that we are not in. These are going to be the three important criteria for an acquisition in India,” he points out.

2014 the year of hunting; 2015 the year of harvest?

Martinez is also crystal clear about his agenda on India, given the fact that the agency didn’t see any significant infusion of business wins in India in 2014.

“I am very ambitious in India. My agenda is a growth agenda. We  have defined it with Colvyn and other top managers of the company what we call our 2020 plan. In this 2020 agenda, we define different sectors where we are going to focus on sectors like retail, luxury and the financial sector, wherein we may have a smaller presence in comparison with other sectors, after this we define our targets. We have already started the hunting plan. Even though 2014 was not fantastic for infusion of new business, it was the beginning of the hunt. 2015 is going to be I hope the year of harvest,” he says passionately.

“With a company like JWT in India where we have so many clients, where our portfolio is so extensive, clearly we have organic and inorganic targets. With an already extensive portfolio, imagine if we try to further it with our new approach; we are aiming to increase our revenue by 30-40%,” he elaborates on the agency targets.

Will customization that we saw in the case of Pepsi (Power of One) and existing one for Ford see the introduction of more personalized divisions for clients in 2015?

“That is a demand of the market and we are also part of a bigger group called WPP. We have a strategy of horizontality where we have this team WPP. Definitely JWT is going to play a strong role in this horizontality team,” he says. 

The question that begs to be asked is the new leadership change going to turn 2015 into a year for harvest for JWT India?

A few excerpts from a freewheeling chat with Martinez.

What are the 5 lessons you have learnt from Bob Jeffrey?

The reason why Bob and I had such a seamless handover is because we are very similar. We connected extremely well since the first time that we met. We have the chemistry that makes this job a fantastic job. And makes me one of the happiest guys in the world. More than lessons we share the same kind of principles that we try to apply to the business, I am learning lessons from everyone. Every morning that I wake up and have the chance to work with my collaborators, my peers, my friends in this organization, I am learning a lesson every day. My principles are

A) Try to be curious every day: curiosity is at the centre of our job

B) Collaboration: we need to try to collaborate as much as we can

C) Be courageous: make calls, we need to take decisions, we need to try to change people, and create some non-comfort zones for our top managers, try to move them from their position and give them broader expansion contrary to just one market, but also humble and generous.

One of the early appointments you made last year was to bring on board Matt Eastwood as Global Chief Creative officer, clearly filling in a gap, is that indicative of hiring a chief creative for the India market as well, since JWT India hasn’t had a Chief Creative officer since March 2013?

You need to ask this to Tarun Rai because he is going to be the new Chief of India. My take is the same when I was hired, Bob(Jeffery)  said Gustavo your hands are free and you have total freedom to do whatever it takes. As soon as I joined, I decided to hire a CCO and I was so lucky to find Matt Eastwood. I need to give time to Tarun to know the people inside JWT and make the proper decision. He needs to see, understand people and make his evaluations and decide. I started in February and hired Matt Eastwood in April. These things don’t happen overnight.

You have been looking for a successor for Colvyn for a year now which has led to a lot of speculation in the Indian market on his successor………

This market likes to speculate too much. That is one of things I discovered, it is full of speculations and gossip.  There was a clear plan at our end, we started this planning 11 months ago. It was diagnosis, implementation, action; as simple as that.

We also announced new leadership in New York two weeks ago. Last year I announced a new leadership on the creative side, and now the India part of our plan has been implemented.

Colvyn is going to be a part of my global team, developing growth and that means acquisitions, clients, new ventures, units and new offerings to our clients. It took me eleven months to define this plan. And now we are starting to implement it.

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