Manmohan Taparia
Jan 05, 2012

Looking back: 2011, Going ahead: 2012 - Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin, chairman India and chief executive officer South East Asia – Aegis Media, and director Posterscope APAC, continues our series as we find out what he has to say

Looking back: 2011, Going ahead: 2012 - Ashish Bhasin

Looking back: What have been the macro-level gains for India in 2011?
I think the Indian advertising and communication industry has gained a lot more confidence  in 2011, particularly as our market keeps growing while many others have clouds on the horizon regarding their future.

What kind of work / campaigns  / events impressed you the most in 2011; and why?
I was quite impressed by some great campaigns, including the Airtel ‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai’, which I think was an impactful campaign. What also impressed me,  in general, was to see  so many more brands going beyond just print and  TV. To my mind it is quite clear that in the future, brands will have to go beyond the 30 sec TVCs and 100 cc ads, hence it is impressive to see good brands adopting a comprehensive integrated communication approach. Some of the best examples that come to mind for brands that have used out-of-home, digital, events and other areas well along with TV and print are: Reebook, BMW, Adidas, Philips and Airtel.

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?
I would say it is partly true. Small towns  and rural will make a significant impact on the growth of most categories but there is sufficient scope even in the metros and large towns because we underestimate the increasing purchase power amongst the emerging urban middle class as well as the urban poor getting out of the poverty line. PSUs will always be steady but I don’t think they will drive the growth of advertising and communication. It will be the FMGC, telecom, finance and services sector, where PSUs have a relatively smaller role to play.

How can we sustain a strong and diverse talent pool in ad land which has equity across the globe?
I think the best way to sustain a strong and talented pool is not to stop our people from going across the globe, infact we should encourage that. The solution lies in creating more supply. As an industry we have to focus a lot more on developing new and fresh  talent,  grooming them realistically and finding ways to retain them and grow them year on year. Talent cannot be reined in, it has to be allowed to flourish. But in a country of a billion plus people it is strange that we have scarcity of good people across functions and across levels. It is a poor reflection on the vision of our industry. We should invest significantly more in this area.

Harish Manwani, the COO of Unilever said: India is the future of the world. Does this statement reflect the reality? Your comment.
I completely agree with Harish’s statement. The future is definitely very bright for India and I think its relative role will be of greater and greater importance, because of the growing economy as well as the growing importance of India as a communications market. However, it is important not to overrate ourselves and just to put things in perspective, even today the size of China’s advertising market is eleven times more than ours. So we do have some way to go.

If you had to start this business all over again in 2011, you would...
Be even more aggressive on future growth. Aegis Media grew at a record pace but I feel we can do more of that, for many more years.

If you could design the Indian business for 2012 with a clean sheet of paper, what were the        three things you would do? 
1. Focus extensively on Digital.
2. Increasingly focus on out-of-home, activation and other related areas.
3. Attract, grow and retain the best talent in the business.

What do you ask the person in the mirror every morning?
How are you going to make sure that you are the best in whatever you do?

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