“FCB and Kinnect have been in a ‘live-in relationship’ for the last one-and-a-half years”
A conversation with FCB Group India’s chairman and CEO, Rohit Ohri, and Kinnect’s CEO and COO duo, Rohan Mehta and Chandni Shah, on what the new strategic partnership means
Aug 23, 2021 03:55:00 AM | Article | Mukta Lad Share -
From left: Rohit Ohri, Chandni Shah and Rohan Mehta
The trio discussed the need to forge this relationship with each other, their long-term vision for this partnership, and what’s next on the talent front. Excerpts below:
Before this partnership, did FCB try organically strengthening digital and data capabilities? What are the need gaps that Kinnect will fill in for FCB hereon?
Rohit Ohri (RO): This is a big moment for us. This is our 60th year and there couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate – by consolidating our next 60 years. This is pretty much at the heart of why we looked at this partnership with Kinnect – to make the FCB Group in India more future-facing and future-ready.
To answer the question specifically, we did have FCB Interactive (digital agency) when I had joined the Group. However, I wanted to integrate digital into the mainline service; we dissolved it and merged the talent with mainline. We currently have about 60 people across offices in digital.
Clients’ digital spends have gone up due to the pandemic. We wanted to offer clients digital capabilities with Kinnect at a whole new scale. And speaking specifically about Kinnect, they have very strong core capabilities – content at scale plus their influencer marketing, strategy and social media pieces. They have upwards of 350 people, and now as a Group, we will have over a 1000 people with over 400 of them just being in digital. That, coupled with 30% of our revenue coming from digital, is a fantastic path to build on.
How long has this been in the works?
RO: For over one-and-a-half years. The deal was on the back burner thanks to the pandemic. Rohan, Chandni and I regardless decided to begin working together. I keep joking with them about how FCB has been in a live-in relationship for over a year. Now that it’s a ‘marriage’, it’s a whole different ballgame. We were happy to consolidate this despite the delay; it speaks of our chemistry in terms of being in sync culturally.
What is your long-term vision for this partnership?
RO: As Rohan always says, his ‘long-term vision is no more than five years’; it’s the young entrepreneur’s way of measuring success. Over the next five years, we want to build and give our clients strong integrated solutions. We already have 14-15 clients together. We will now take our consolidated, integrated solutions piece to our 150+ clients base. Finally, it is about creativity – our global raison d'etre is to power creativity with data and technology. This partnership helps us do that at a whole different level of capability and scale.
Susan Credle (FCB’s chief creative officer) put it beautifully when I spoke to her about Kinnect. She said, “Now you can do timeless work, timely.”
What about FCB makes for a great partner for Kinnect?
Chandni Shah (CS): What excited Rohan and me about this integration right from the beginning is the kind of mentorship we would get from Rohit and Carter (Murray, global CEO of FCB). Even culturally, FCB and Kinnect are completely in sync. FCB’s experience in building brands for over 60 years has been so enriching. We, too, want to keep the client at the centre of everything we do and have long-lasting relationships. We want to learn and imbibe their brand experience and bring that to our clients.
Another important aspect of this partnership is what it means for our people. We want to ensure that our people have access and exposure to global learnings by IPG and the FCB Group.
What is the next milestone for Kinnect?
Rohan Mehta (RM): We want to service one of FCB’s marquee clients end-to-end, under one roof, through a hybrid team. This partnership will show our ability to work together, the camaraderie and how the best minds come into a room to solve problems. To do that with marquee clients from both sides is a great milestone to have over the next five years.
Will any changes be taking place in terms of hiring or retaining existing talent in both organisations? And interestingly, how does FCB retain senior leadership talent in an age when they leave to start their own creative hotshops?
RO: It’s a secret sauce I’m not going to reveal! Jokes aside, though, it’s about how FCB has always been culturally. Our core ethos is ‘Never Finished’; it’s about creating never finished ideas through never finished relationships with our clients. That’s why our senior leadership has been with us for very long.
We recently had a leadership dinner to welcome Kinnect. There were 12 people, and apart from Rohan and Chandni, almost all of the others have been in the company for over 30 years!
However, the talent that has been with us for this long has also been growing evolving and moving up the ladder. For instance, Kulvinder (Ahluwalia, CEO, FCB Ulka) is a Star One employee; it’s a program where we hire entry-level talent from colleges, train and groom them for bigger roles. There’s no bigger Star One success story for us than Kulvinder who joined us as a trainee. These are truly rewarding journeys.
As for the secret sauce, it’s really about the culture – it’s difficult to describe as a concept. Being open, transparent, challenging, giving employees great opportunities and being apolitical makes all the difference. It’s the work that is in the centre of everything and there’s nothing else to discuss.
There’s also the sense of safety at FCB and the challenge. It’s a beautiful contra. One feels that it is an organisation that has one’s back. It’s a good place to take risks; even if there’s a failure it’s not going to backfire. It isn’t about accepting mediocrity and incompetence but about challenging and pushing people to be their best.
What does the talent piece look like for Kinnect?
RM: This was the place we saw the most amount of synergy with the FCB Group. As a CEO, I believe 50% of my role is HR. It’s also the part that gives me the biggest kick. People in the organisation know that if they find me great people I’ll make space in the company even if there’s none at the time. It isn’t possible to grow to this scale without having a focus like that.
To be at the cutting edge of the advertising world means to be constantly learning and evolving. This is all new talent’s need – it is said they need to be challenged and are bored very quickly. I take that as a good thing because they are always open to learning something new. That’s the kind of culture we want to promote – a culture of learning and growing.
When it comes to hiring, I believe our process of filtering talent has been great. What’s going to change is the scale and pace at which we are hiring.
There have been several structural changes at FCB in the last month alone. Could you give us a glimpse of what’s next? Any more strategic partnerships or acquisitions on the cards?
RO: We’ve been sending out a press release almost every week for three months now, and I really need a break! Jokes apart, we now want to cement this partnership and create a growth part that works for Kinnect, FCB and our clients.
For now, I’m extremely grateful to our clients and talent that we’ve had such a good run in this extremely hard climate.