Returning to Rediffusion after 20 years is a sort of homecoming: Sandeep Goyal

Mogae Group Founder and Chairman Goyal opens up on why he leaned towards Rediffusion particularly, how the merger will resonate culturally, and more

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: May 20, 2021 9:30 AM
Dr. Sandeep Goyal

It’s been two weeks to the news of media and advertising veteran, Sandeep Goyal’s Mogae Consultants acquiring Rediffusion, India’s oldest surviving advertising agency and one of the largest independent ones, from Co-founders Diwan Arun Nanda and Ajit Balakrishnan. But the phone has not stopped ringing since the news of him taking charge has gone out among clients and potential employees. Goyal, who was president of Rediffusion from 1997 to 2001, has taken charge as the managing director of the group while Nanda will continue to mentor the agency and stay in as the chairman. With things beginning to pick up steam, we caught up with Goyal - a media entrepreneur, businessman, author, and adman at heart - someone who dons multiple hats with aplomb. In conversation with exchange4media, he opens up on why he leaned towards Rediffusion pafrticularly, how the merger will resonate culturally, whether it will lead to a shift in services within the portfolio of the combined entity, and more. 

Edited excerpts below: 

What sparked off the idea of the acquisition? Why did you lean towards Rediffusion specifically?

Returning to Rediffusion after 20 years is a sort of homecoming. I spent my best years as an advertising professional at Rediffusion. Even when I first joined the agency in 1994, Rediffusion was an iconic brand. The magnetism and the pull of the brand remain as strong today. Mr. Nanda and Mr. Balakrishnan imbued the agency with a DNA of excellence. Also, the agency has always had a big-game mentality. Some of India’s biggest brands, including Airtel, Maruti, Pepsi, and many more were birthed by Rediffusion. So, the agency has always created and nurtured big brands and made them even bigger.

In its 48-years long journey, Rediffusion has had its ups and a few downs. The future at Rediffusion remains bright. You will be seeing a lot of Rediffusion and Everest in the weeks to come.

After the acquisition comes to effect, will there be a shift in services within the portfolio of the combined entity? Does it look like it will lead you to change the hiring policies as well?

This is too early to beget an answer. I need to spend some time figuring out what our clients want from us. The future structure will be decided basis feedback obtained. Besides, Rediffusion and Everest already have dedicated entities for Healthcare and CRM/Loyalty Management. Mogae is present in many parts of digital and mobile. We own more than 50% in a joint venture with Zeotap in programmatic and SAAS enabled data usage; we own a stake in Sync Media; then there are entities like The Mob and Torque PR where we have a substantial stake too. Then there are domain leaders like the Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) which give our offering a distinct advantage. Also, we signed a JV with Versa of Australia for Conversational AI. Few agencies have depth similar to ours.

What will this acquisition mean for both Mogae and Rediffusion? What kind of expertise will Rediffusion bring to Mogae?

I don’t think you need to look at this from this perspective. All group entities will come together to provide ‘communication without lines’. In 12-18 months, our suite of offerings will be one of the most comprehensive in the industry. In the years that I was away from the advertising business, I was the biggest evangelist of Mobile First. Also, I got into data monetization much ahead of the curve. At Rediffusion, our endeavour will be to provide out-of-the-box solutions. Most importantly, I am hoping to reshape the box itself!

How does the prospect of taking over an agency you worked at years back feel?

It is both nostalgia and warmth. There are still at least 30-35 employees in the company from the time I last worked here 20 years ago. So, it seems like home.

But the biggest bonus of my return has been the opportunity to work again under the leadership of our Chairman, Diwan Arun Nanda. Mr. Nanda is a doyen of Indian advertising and still one of the sharpest minds in the industry. Already, in the past two weeks, I have seen him in full action on both strategy and creativity. Working with him like in the old days is a joy in itself.

How do you see the merger of the combined force resonating culturally?

No issue there. Every entity will remain a tribe in itself with its own distinct identity and flavor. We are not considering any mergers or the blacking out of any of our brands. Each one of them has its strengths and franchise which we would rather grow than diminish.

What are your visions from this acquisition? How challenging is it looking to execute it all in such a volatile landscape?

Actually, tough times are the best times to seek change. It is only when businesses are adversely impacted do they consider newer ideas. I have seen that happen many times in the various financial crises that have happened over the past four decades. I am hoping to convert these difficult times into a big opportunity for Rediffusion, Everest and all our other planned ventures. I look to the future with optimism and hope. We have great talent at Rediffusion and Everest and I am sure you will see some great work emerge from our portals in the year ahead.

Dr. Sandeep Goyal has been in the advertising, media and digital business for 37 years. He started out from Goodlass Nerolac Paints in 1984 as a Management Probationer. Then moved to advertising in 1986 to HTA, Delhi. He spent some years at Trikaya Grey and Mudra Interact before joining Rediffusion in 1994. At Rediffusion, Goyal launched Airtel. Also, was instrumental in taking Maruti to newer heights as a brand. In 1997, Sandeep Goyal took over as President of Rediffusion and was placed in the leadership role on Colgate, Citibank, Eveready, BPL, Godfrey Philips, Taj Hotels, and much more.

In 2001, Goyal joined Zee Telefilms as Group CEO. In 2003, he turned entrepreneur, bringing Dentsu to India. He remained Chairman till 2011 and then moved up to Chairman Emeritus.

A gold medallist in English literature, Goyal is both an MBA (1984) and Ph.D. (2017) from FMS, Delhi. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Dr. Goyal has written 8 books and is a prolific business columnist.

Dr. Goyal also serves as CEO of the Punjab CSR Authority in the rank of Principal Secretary to the Govt of Punjab.

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