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MEC and Maxus merger into Wavemaker has resonated well with the clients: Kartik Sharma

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MEC and Maxus merger into Wavemaker has resonated well with the clients: Kartik Sharma

On November 9, GroupM's Wavemaker, created from the merger of Maxus and MEC, opened its doors for business in India. With 700 plus employees and a data base of 375000 people’s responses across 35 different countries, the agency is all set to create waves across India. Led by Kartik Sharma, South Asia Managing Director, the agency already has clients like FMCG giant ITC and L’Oréal. As the agency takes off on its new journey, exchange4media spoke to Kartik Sharma.


As per the description on your site, your business is to support, consult and execute the decision-making for CEOs and CMOs. You help bring together data, creativity and platforms to help the best brands in the world make the future they want by making better choices today. Aren’t all agencies offering these services? How is Wavemaker different?

I think what makes us different is our brand purchase journey. For instance, buying a soap is very different from buying jewellery. There are multiple touch-points and influences that play an important role. Understanding the purchase journey gives us a lot of cues to craft our strategy. We have a head start with a data base of 375000 people’s responses across 35 different countries with us. It is 3.5 times more than what any other research agency in the world may have.

How did the MEC and Maxus merger resulting in Wavemaker helped you serve your clients better? Did it make achieving targets easier in any way?

We spoke to our clients about it much before we announced the merger. We wanted to make sure that what we were creating was going to be right for each of our clients. Clients understood the benefits that will come from the momentum. They also realized that being in this ecosystem could help in a great way with giving them larger access to best practices. Across MEC and Maxus, we share a lot of global clients who will benefit from this. Overall, I believe that the merger resonated well with the clients.

There were speculations that the merger was an outcome of WPP being under pressure to streamline as FMCG clients chose to cut back on marketing significantly in 2016-17. Have these speculations affected your relationship with your clients in anyway?

These kinds of news keep happening. As a successful organization globally, we are constantly under the scanner. Relationships are built over years of hard work with clients which we continue to maintain. Clients do what they feel is right for business. Also, we never take the relationships with clients for granted and are only continuing on improving our deliveries to them. 

What are some of the biggest challenges towards fostering a healthy client-agency relationship in today’s times?

First and foremost, it’s important to do what is right for the client. Next is ensuring brutal honesty and transparency. It’s a two-way window. Sharing with them, without any inhibitions, what is right and what can be improved, is essential. While there will be a positive tension in these relationships, you need to be bold and foster a long and healthy relationship with them.

How has 2017 been for the agency and what are your expectations from 2018? Will it be a good year and if yes, what are some of the key trends contributing to it?

2017 has been an action-packed year in terms of retention pitches and new businesses that were added. So, there have been wins as Wavemaker and our divisions and specialist units have done very well. During this year, we have stayed away from publicity-driven awards, be it local or even global. We will be part of only quality ones, which is our conscious decision now and will be a big change as we move ahead. Going further, there will be dramatic shifts in terms of business and hiring more talent. You will see more contribution from senior leaderships coming in.

How are you seeing the role of consultancies such as Accenture or McKenzie in a market like India? Are they potential competition to your role as advisors and partners to clients in India, as seen in other markets?

I think that we play very distinct and different roles. They play far more strategic roles at a corporate level. What an agency like us are able to bring in is not just the thinking but also executions. So, from a marketing services and marketing communications stand-point, I think our understanding of consumer is far higher than many consultancies. There are multiple competitions in the world at this point and we aren’t very worried about it. Our client’s success is dependent on how well they understand the consumers and that’s where we play a bigger role.

(Transcribed by Misbaah Mansuri)

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