Manmohan Taparia
Jan 19, 2012

Looking Back: 2011, Going ahead: 2012 - Arvind Sharma

Wrapping up our 'Looking back: 2011, Going ahead: 2012' series, Arvind Sharma, chairman of India subcontinent, Leo Burnett shares his opinion with us

Looking Back: 2011, Going ahead: 2012 - Arvind Sharma

Looking back: What have been the macro-level gains for India in 2011?

For me the biggest gain has been the emergence of a new force in India- India with a conscience. It is the result of a number of underlying forces coalescing. Most of these have been in the making for years. Young population- they are more idealistic. Privatisation of TV news. Internet, specifically social media achieving a certain scale. Penetration of telecom in the smallest of towns of India and low cost of SMS. And politically, the right to information. Suddenly with a combination of these, anybody can connect with mass India. And if he represents the people’s inner voice- he can lead them into a movement for change. 

Anna’s movement is the most celebrated manifestation of these forces but their importance and life goes far beyond any individual leader.  

None of us may feel good about all the corruption scams being unearthed. But one has to, at the same time, feel good that these are actually being unearthed and people are demanding that something to be done to bring about a long-term change.  Finally the people of India have a potent force through which they can rein in the establishment and eventually get the establishment to focus on the good the nation. I feel optimistic about the future of our nation.

What kind of work / campaigns / events impressed you the most in 2011; and why?

There have been a number of good campaigns this year. Kaun Banega Crorepati’s ‘Koi aadmi chota nahin hota’ caught the mood of nation. The fact that the programme opened at an unprecedented TRP of 8 was a reflection of that. Airtel’s ‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai’ has been enjoyable. Coke Studio has demonstrated the power of an advertiser, an advertising agency and a couple of channels getting together. Coke Studio content has been downloaded in tens of millions by the consumers. All these have been very good initiatives. But I have to say that the national impact that Anna’s fast for Jan Lokpal Bill has achieved has been absolutely unprecedented- and too with practically no funding.

They say growth in India will be driven by rural markets, the 350 small towns spread across the country and PSUs. True or false? And why or why not?

Growth in small towns of India over the last four years has been driven by the government injecting a lot of money into semi-rural India. First through farmers’ loan waiver and then through National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).  Given our budget deficit, I doubt that this kind of pumping of money into small towns and rural India can be sustained. Beyond the state elections in the first half of 2012, I see more even growth across metros and small towns.

How can we sustain a strong and diverse talent pool in ad land which has equity across the globe?

It is the young talent that’s sustaining the Indian ad land! Give them self-belief. Give them opportunities. They will take Indian advertising to even greater heights.

Harish Manwani, the COO of Unilever said: India is the future of the world. Does this statement reflect the reality? Your comment.

Before coining the term ‘BRIC’, Goldman projected growth in the world economy for the next half-century. According to them, BRICs are likely to contribute nearly half of the world's growth over the coming decades. Among the BRICs, India by virtue of its large population and the up-sides in per capita income that are possible, will contribute the largest number of new middle class consumers to the world. So I agree with Harish, our journey to the third largest economy in the world will not be linear but it is inevitable.

If you had to start this business all over again in 2011, you would ...

I will start with a young team of highly insightful and creative netizens.

If you could design the Indian business for 2012 with a clean sheet of paper, what were the three things you would do? 

Business changes take a little more than a clean sheet of paper- you can't hire the people you did not bring into the business seven years ago. You can't have talent you did not train three years ago. So change necessarily has a gestation period. Here are three critical changes that we have been working on. Firstly, brands with a human purpose. Each one of our brands should have a clear human purpose at its core that the client and the agency are aligned on. Secondly, consistent with a brand's purpose, coming up with big platform ideas that guide acts beyond traditional media. Coke Studio would be an example of this. And thirdly, through recruitment, training, acquisitions and alliances- ability to execute across channels.

What do you ask the person in the mirror every morning?

Arvind, what have you done in the last month to reshape the agency to the needs of the future- client’s needs of the future and consumers’ needs of the future

Campaign India

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