These times have made us come together as one DAN: Anand Bhadkamkar
In today's edition of our 'Beating All Odds' series, Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network India, speaks with Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor of exchange4media
In our 'Beating All Odds' series, we are speaking to leaders who are showing us the way forward in these difficult times of the COVID-19 lockdown which has put almost a complete halt on businesses, which will, in the long run, impact our economy.
However, there are leaders who are ensuring, despite the challenges, that we continue as much as we can while being in lockdown at home.
Today we speak to Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network India.
What are the main challenges you have faced so far in running your business from home?
It's a new experience for everyone actually, for the entire advertising industry. When it started, initially the thoughts were whether work from home would be feasible and whether we can do this. There were too many apprehensions regarding the entire organisation, in fact, the entire country, working from home. It was something that was not anticipated and there were lots of questions at that point in time.
But, we started a bit early in the day, because as a part of the multinational network, we had seen in other markets like China, Europe and America where people had started taking action. There were learning from our network agencies and our counterparts in other markets that were quite helpful in implementing the same in India.
Teams were geared from the beginning and we started working towards the concept of work from home 10 days in advance before the actual lockdown started in India after the Prime Minister's announcement. So, a bit of our planning and resilience of the team and their response made everything work. It is not only our teams but even our clients and our vendor ecosystem that helped because we all are sailing through the same boat.
It's not something which is specific to one area, the entire economy is impacted because of this. And the good part is people are willing to support each other and trying to make the most out of this. We are now in the middle of the lockdown, and it'll extend until April 30, for sure. But people are finding ways of making most the situation in the meantime.
How are you dealing with your clients right now?
Again, work from home is a new experience for our clients as well. Earlier the teams used to have face-to-face meetings with clients every day or every alternate day. Now that has shifted to virtual meetings or conference calls, but the frequency has not gone down. But, as an advertising segment, the spends have defiantly gone down. Work-wise there's a bit of a slowdown.
The client's interest and their core concern and care for the brands, what kind of messaging they want to take to out to the consumers, and how do they want to get ready for when this entire thing gets over, because this is going to get over, still continues. What's missing is the physical interaction which the clients.
Would you give us a ratio of the drop in the spends?
It's too early for that, but there is definitely going to be a substantial impact. IPL was supposed to start from April 14, which is not going to happen now. We had Goa fest that has gone off too. A lot of advertising spend have been pushed back. So, when this comes back at that point in time, we can exactly analyse the impact, but there is definitely an impact.
If we take the example of event companies or out of home (OOH) companies, there revenue almost come to zero, because there are no spends on those activities. On digital and TV, while there's more viewership or more consumer, it’s not actually converting into ad spends. That's something which has come down quite substantially across all platforms. But the major impact is on events.
Overall, when the lockdown is over, we can get a view. Currently, we are thinking that the market will be on track by Diwali and things might start reviving. This is going to be definitely a challenging year for the industry as a whole. But it's not that there is no hope at all. There are a lot of positives coming out of this. Clients are still engaging and working.
What kind of solutions are you working on for clients in the industries that have been hit by this crisis?
It's not specifically restricted to only these industries, clients from all sectors are taking a relook at their overall spends. More than spends they are relooking at their business pattern or how their business is working out, and what are going to be the challenges to their business because the entire ecosystem has been impacted. There's no movement in the market. Manufacturing has almost come to a standstill. So, the demand generation is going to take some time.
All across, what we are advising the clients, is not to be completely media dark. They will need to be out there in the market with a brand. They need to be reaching out to their core consumers. And it's not the product placement or product advertisement that matters as of now, but it's more about how they are engaging with the customers, and being relevant by doing the purpose-driven and responsible advertising. That's something which is quite critical. And at the same time, this is a good time to plan for the future as well. When the things start coming back to normal, there would be a spike in the demand how should they be ready for that also. We are working with our customers on that, and that's across the industry segments.
What is your message to the industry at this time, what can we look forward to? And what advice do you have for young people in the industry during this time?
As a country and an economy, we definitely are a voice for great things. India definitely has a bright future. And in the long term, it's definitely going to be hugely successful economy, that's for sure. I believe strongly in that, and so does our network. That's something which is bound to happen. This is a short term phenomenon.This is going to end. There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. But these days are something you can't escape. It's a global pandemic and everyone is going through this. For dealing with it, first, we need to acknowledge that this is a challenge, which is staring us in the face, and it would be there for next two to four months, and we need to steer through this together.
One thing we need to do is staying together as a team and not losing hope. We also have to be extremely positive and eternally optimistic. That's what I keep on telling my team as well. We have to be ready for the future when things start coming back. We have to batten the hatches just now because we need to ride through those rough waves. But once that is done, we need to be ready to go out and start winning those clients and delivering excellent work to clients and start speaking with the consumers.
From a leader’s perspective, keep on communicating with the teams, keep on inspiring them and keep on passing those positive messages, and keep communicating with transparency with your team about the current realities. That's something which will go a long way. Work together as a team, do those regular calls, regular meetings, engage HR more and more on inspirational ways of working, or organise welfare or health checks for the employees’ is something that needs to be done.
From an employee perspective, they should definitely plan their future, and do some self-introspection and self-learning. Because now's a good time to learn whatever skills you wanted to have. It could be a hobby like dancing or an academic qualification like a management certificate, but pick up that one skill or pick up that one certificate when you have this time and opportunity available to you. Because the moment things open up, you start travelling. If you're in metros, you spent two to three hours just been on the road. Definitely people are working a lot more as compared to when you used to be in the office. But currently, if you have more time at hand use it positively.
This unprecedented lockdown has changed all of us in different ways. How has it evolved you as a professional or as a person? What are the changes you see in your lifestyle?
The biggest change that I have brought in is my look, as I changed my hairstyle completely. I was trying to experiment, which I would say has not worked. Besides that, even I'm trying to do some online courses, something which I wanted to do for a long time. Other than that, there it's more time with the family. We as a family are discussing things which we may not have discussed in our routine day to day work. Also, I have started contributing to chores at home. I'm trying to get my hand in the kitchen.
On the professional front is more on learning. Work-wise, it just continues, there are calls and meetings. But it's more like a better mix of personal and professional life. What this whole situation taught us quite strongly is, anything can happen actually. No one had imagined that such a thing will happen. We are into a phase where we know what the problem is but don't know the solution or outcome of it.
As professionals, you want to know the outcome of every situation and plan or it, but in this case, we have no answers. The biggest challenge many are facing is, not knowing the outcome because there's no cure, as of now, for the disease. So working in those times, and still keeping ambition and running on day-to-day. That's something which is important. What's more pleasing is for me is how our 3700 employees, across India, have come together and fight against this at a personal level, professional level and organization level. I think that's the most pleasing thing which I see over here, that we have come together as one DAN, more strongly than you would have seen earlier as well.
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