Jai Lala is a science graduate, a certified cost accountant from ICWAI Institute of Cost and Work Accountant of India (1993), and now a media specialist working at Mindshare in the capacity of principal partner – Exchange, Mindshare. For those who may express surprise or question how he got even associated with advertising, here’s his response, “I had a lot of fancy to numbers, and therefore, I got into cost accountancy. How did I happen to join the media industry? Well, I was looking out for a different kind of challenge. A close friend casually mentioned about media planning as a career and the growth opportunity it offers. I decided to make the plunge by enrolling to a media planning course conducted by the AAAI, after which I joined UTV in 1997 and got my first media job.”
On completion of the course (which is no longer in existence), Lala joined UTV as manager – research and planning, where he sharpened his analytical skills and helped the company’s sales team with strategies and ideas that helped boost the company’s revenues. After spending two years at UTV, Lala moved to HTA, where he was fortunate to have worked with the team that was instrumental in the formation of Mindshare. Mindshare provided him his first media agency experience.
After his two-year stint at Fulcrum, Lala worked with ESPN Star Sports’ Delhi office for two years and looked after the channel’s sports acquisition activities. Post which, he had a five-year stint at Madison, last as deputy general manager. Lala grew in stature as a media professional at Madison at a time when he was entrusted to handle the Coke account in Delhi, and later Marico in Mumbai. Handling the Coke account, Lala reminisces how his team delivered the goods in a short span of time – like it did when launching Coke Vanilla in the market. “It gave me the thrill to launch a product in India,” he chuckles.
On his experience of working on the Marico account, he says, “It was so much fun working on the Marico account. We won many awards, which further strengthened our relationship with the client and it gave me a lot of satisfaction, personally.”
He further adds, “So in a career spanning 15 to 17 years, Marico remains the most cherished account. Apart from the joy of winning awards, what is satisfying is that I was able to build a team which really bonded together. And of course, I cherish it because that also happens to be my first biggest high of my career.”
After spending five years at Madison, Lala moved to Mindshare as general manager and grew over the years to become the principal partner – The Exchange, the position he holds currently. He oversees buying, planning and execution. Prior to this, he was the principal partner – client leadership, which mandated him to interact with clients across India.
Sharing the agency’s vision, Lala says, “Mindshare enjoys a leadership position in the media agency space. We would continue to deliver as we have did for many years. The challenge will be to really ensure that we keep growing - acquire new clients and expand our services to areas like digital and analytics.” Execution is another challenge which haunts the entire industry, he notes.
“While there is a lot of planning and thinking that happens, if your communication doesn’t bring desired results, then (it’s of) no use. We need to be more organised, work on ideas that are practical and doable in the marketplace,” adds Lala. The current excitement at the agency, he says, is about digitisation and points out that the agency’s challenge is to cope with the constantly changing digital environment.
“Our focus now is to improve on our digital services. Gone are the days when a planner only thinks TV, press and radio because the consumer doesn’t think just TV, press and radio. One has to also think digital and within digital media, find new ways, new channels and new ideas. We’re making that change internally, and that is really exciting to be a part of.”
Lala notes that while size and billing remain parameters on which Mindshare is the clear leader, efforts to ensure deeper, longstanding relationships with clients as business partners are ongoing. As the environment evolves, so will the agency, to ensure clients’ business experience the benefits of changes within the agency. Another focus area is to come up with breakthrough automation or operational processes that will improve people’s life in the agency.
As for his industry wishlist, Lala hopes that media planners adopt more of an analytical approach rather than the data churning approach. “The industry norm is that you spend 95 per cent of the time churning data and only five per cent of the time analyzing it. That’s one reason why the fun quotient in advertising is getting lower and lower. If we can look at that, I think we will be able to attract a lot of fresh talent to the industry.”
Lala is also a believer in gut when it comes to media planning. He explains his stand, “Numbers don’t give you the true picture all the time. I’m a believer in gut, because everybody can churn out data and so everybody will reach the same conclusion. But, if you can add your gut feeling to that, your communication plan will go a long way.”
He predicts 2013 to be the year for witnessing a bounce back, after a relatively sluggish growth in 2012. The mandate is to ensure Mindshare is as fighting fit as ever when spends do bounce back.
When quizzed on industry professionals who inspire him the most, he says, “There are a lot of people who I take inspiration from. But, a few names that I’ll like to mention here are Ajit Varghese for his leadership skills; Ravi Rao for being more a friend than a boss; R Gowthaman, a true genius; and Prashant Kumar who I’ve learnt quite a lot from. These are people I have worked closely with and the people I respect the most in the industry.”
The Flip Side
Age 41 years
Where do you live Juhu, Mumbai
What do you do to relax Spend quality time with the family
TV series Simpsons, South Park, 24
Gadget Ipad, Iphone, Kindle
Favourite app Instapp
Favourite holiday destination North of Rishikesh. Enjoy river rafting, going for long treks and just soaking in the environment
Industry professionals you take inspiration from Arijit Varghese, R Gowthaman, Ravi Rao and Prashant Kumar
If not in media Probably would have been a teacher