DAN Interviews

"I'm in a hurry to scale up. By the end of 2017, we'll be the No.2 agency group": Ashish Bhasin, Dentsu Aegis Network

Author | Sohini Sen | June 5,2015

Earlier this week, Dentsu Aegis Network named Rohit Ohri CEO, Dentsu Asia Pacific. As Ohri prepares to relocate to Singapore, Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia, gears up to take over his duties in India. Presenting a quick interview with the man who will now be responsible for all of Dentsu Aegis Network's assets in India, including creative agency Taproot and digital agency Webchutney. Edited Excerpts:

Q. Were you working towards this mandate or was it a 'chance mandate'?
Aegis Media was acquired by Dentsu Inc. globally. So in a sense we have been in the process of bringing the two parts (media and creative) of the business together, globally and in India. This is a journey that started at the time of the acquisition and in some respects, as far as India is concerned, is now reaching the next stage.

Q. In addition to the media agency front, you now have to man the creative agency front as well.
I've spent two-thirds of my working life on the creative agency side. At Lintas I started off with the Unilever business and went on to head the Lintas Chennai branch. I have been lucky because very few people get to do so many different things. I have run creative agencies, set up integrated marketing businesses - from rural to health-care, from trade marketing to PR.

Here in Aegis, I have also had the opportunity to bring in some digital businesses - some that we acquired, others that we grew. I have been lucky to know almost every aspect of advertising and marketing communications not just in India, but in several other countries too. I would really encourage everyone in advertising not to get typecast in one particular media, whether media or creative or digital.

"I've spent two-thirds of my working life on the creative agency side. At Lintas, I started off with the Unilever business and went on to head Lintas Chennai. I have been lucky because very few people get to do so many different things."

Q. But some say it's best to specialise in one area...
Of course you have to specialise. But when you move to a general management role, you have to make sure you have enough and more knowledge about every aspect of the business. The client today wants all the benefits of specialisation without the hassle of silos. We're hoping to do this through our one P&L (profit and loss) accounts structure.

"When you move to a general management role, you have to make sure you have enough and more knowledge about every aspect of the business."

Q. Given this new role, what is your No.1 priority right now?
By bringing together two large businesses, I think we now have to put in a lot more effort in integrating both of them, trying to see where there are synergies we can bring in for our client in terms of being able to cross-sell and up-sell. That process will get accelerated both on creative side as well as on the media side.

The Dentsu Aegis network, as a group, is relatively new. Many of our competitors have been here for 90-100 years and have therefore had a lead in terms of time. But in the last two years, we have shown that if you are able to do great work and able to bring in all the specialisations without the silos, you can leapfrog. So despite a very late start, we have now come into the top three.

I have a clear target in mind: by the end of 2017, we will be the distinct No.2 agency group in the market.

We are scaling up every part of our business. We have successfully done that in the last few years. We now have 1,700 people in seven offices and 15 different businesses. And if there are opportunities where we can offer more services to our clients, we will be open to investing into those areas as well.

"Dentsu Aegis Network, as a group, is relatively new. Many of our competitors have been here for 90-100 years and have therefore had a lead in terms of time."

Q. What is your plan for the creative side of the business?
Our biggest strength is that we have one P&L. Our competitors, because they are 100-year-old 'legacy agencies', cannot do it. Because of this, everything comes under me. Our media head reports to me, our creative head reports to me. That's why we are able to bring liquid talent and liquid resources to our clients. The world is changing, and luckily some of our 'old world competitors' haven't realised it.

"Our biggest strength is that we have one P&L. Our competitors, because they are 100 year old 'legacy agencies', cannot do it. Because of this, everything comes under me. Our media head reports to me, our creative head reports to me."

Q. Given this new mandate, what will keep you awake at night?
I am in a hurry to scale up rapidly. To become the No.2 and finally the No.1 player in the market, we will have to probably double the number of people in two-three years' time.

Q. Will there be more restructuring?
In the Indian context I don't see the need for restructuring. Why should you fix something that ain't broke?

However, I see the need for integrating the business more in many areas.



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