Campaign India Team
Sep 24, 2008

India is a must if you want to be global: Sherwood

For BBH’s Simon Sherwood, it’s always about doing things right rather than sooner. Sherwood spoke to Campaign India’s Bindu Nair Maitra, introducing  his India joint partners Subhash Kamath, Priti Nair and Partha Sinha in an exclusive conversation.

India is a must if you want to be global: Sherwood

For BBH’s Simon Sherwood, it’s always about doing things right rather than sooner. Sherwood spoke to Campaign India’s Bindu Nair Maitra, introducing  his India joint partners Subhash Kamath, Priti Nair and Partha Sinha in an exclusive conversation.
Simon Sherwood met us between flights. A few hours after he spoke to us, he was on his way to Singapore. He’s had India on his agenda for quite a while, and clearly looks forward to getting the India office started. He firmly believes that ‘You are what you start.’ “If you get it wrong to start with, it’s very hard to get it right,” says Sherwood. He obviously believes he’s started off right in India.
 
What made it imperative for BBH to have an India office at this point of time?
It’s always been our ambition to be an effective global business and we have been looking to cut a global footprint that matches that of our clients’. It’s impossible to say that it’s a job well done without having a presence in this market because this is such an important market for all these companies. It is set to become an even more important market. So, in order for us to be competitive, it’s been apparent for quite a while now that we would need to have a presence here. For a while, we have been doing work for India out of our Singapore office. That’s just a temporary solution. It’s been on the agenda for a couple of years and now we are about to go live with a presence in this market. It’s like a piece of the jigsaw that fits in. 
 
You are finally setting up shop in India; what are your expectations of the India branch? How will it add value to/strengthen the BBH network?
All our offices attempt to reinforce what BBH is all about. Apart from the geographical presence here, there is no question that this is a market where marketing and smart and  clever brand communications can fundamentally affect the fortunes of brands and services. So, for those of our clients that are here, for whom we hope to be working, this office will help them win in the marketplace. It will do what all our offices do, through the structure that we have tried to establish everywhere,  which is brilliant strategy and outstanding creative work. Those two things together are what clients overall want.  
 
The structure that you have here with Priti, Subhash and Partha — can you explain how this structure will work in terms of BBH India’s working model and reporting structure?
I said to you at Cannes that we were looking for people who had a huge future ahead of them, as opposed to yesterday’s superstars. So, we have been looking for the kind of people that these three represent: the superstars of tomorrow. And obviously each represents a discipline because those are three core disciplines that our business is founded on, a model that we have replicated everywhere. But, I think what’s interesting about this approach is their desire to have no one discipline dominating the other; the meshing together of the three is what makes it interesting. They have elected to have this flat management structure, they asked to be called managing partners as opposed to the normal designations that we have of CEO, chief creative officer and chief strategy officer. That works fine for us because we think that reflects  what we think to be an accurate representation of the quality of those three disciplines. 
 
What is the equity structure of BBH India going to be like?
It’s been clear to me from the beginning that if we need to attract the best people we need to build the kind of commercial proposition for them that would be motivating and incentivising. On that basis, we are sharing in the equity participation. BBH will have a substantial majority but there will be equity participation for all three of the partners.
To kickstart the India office, will it be getting any guaranteed business by way of BBH’s existing clients?
Nothing is guaranteed in the world, I’ve learnt that in the thirty years that I have been in advertising. We have a number of relationships with global clients, for whom India is a big market. We will be talking to all those clients. Nothing has been promised to us or guaranteed but they will be our first ports of call.  In addition to those global clients, there are a huge number of local clients that we will engage with as well. 
 
A year from your launch, if you were to talk about BBH India, what would you expect to say?
In twelve months from now, if we have built something here that is known for creativity and innovation, doing interesting things in the market, getting talked about, getting the brands that we work for talked about, I think that will be a success. I also think that if we can build a company that people want to work at, to make it the best agency to work at, is an important part of what we are trying to do, because that’s the way you attract and retain talent.
I want the agency to be famous for creativity and innovation and for being a great employer. 
In the light of the global slowdown, how do you see the role that the India office will play?
Our business is obviously more weighted towards Europe and North America. Those are the economies that are feeling the credit crunch the hardest.
We have got big businesses in those markets. I feel it’s going to be harder in the next 18 months to two years.
Economies such as Brazil, China and India are the ones that are still showing healthy signs of growth. Our business here is going to be very small in the next 12 months, relative to other agencies.
We don’t want to put unrealistic financial pressures on the business. It’s much more important to us that we start this the right way. It’s not a question of how big it can get, it’s a question of how good it can get. I am often quoted saying things like ‘You are what you start.’
If you get it wrong to start with, it’s very hard to get it right, it takes years. I know this because we have gone wrong once or twice in the past.
If you start it the right way and take all the time to find the right way to start it, you don’t rush the growth, you let it happen. I am very confident that India will be a success

Source:
Campaign India

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