Mindshare's dedicated media unit Fulcrum hosted an event in Mumbai on 17 November, to mark 20 years of its relationship with client Hindustan Unilever (HUL).
Since its launch on 1 July 1995, the unit has been headed by Suresh Shankar, Ashutosh Srivastava, Vikram Sakhuja, R Gowthaman, Himanshu Shekhar, Ravi Rao, Anupriya Acharya and currently Amin Lakhani.
Lakhani delivered the welcome note for the evening, which was followed by a recorded video message from WPP CEO Sir Matin Sorrell.
Far from being a formal affair, the event saw former Fulcrum staff open up on their time with the agency. Ketaki Gupte, Suresh Shankar, CVL Srinivas, Ashutosh Srivastava, Lakshmi Narasimhan and Sandip Tarkas were among those who took the trip down memory lane.
Gupte, who founded Fulcrum moving from HTA, recounted the factors that won the agency the HUL account.
She said, "The tangible stuff that helped us win the HUL pitch were three, mainly. One, a dedicated team. Nobody at that time had dedicated teams for clients. In the first year, we had hired 100 people. Two, we had developed a software that would entrench so deeply in HUL that they would never be able to leave. We thought of developing this software which would enter every hierarchy of HUL. It was an all-encompassing software; we called it 'Compass'. It was extremely hi-tech at that time. Third was HUL's values – they were all about savings. And in fact they got a commercial guy to head them, so we had to deliver."
Fulcrum was headed by Suresh Shankar (currently founder director, Crayon Data) for two years.
On his experience, Shankar said, "The client in this case was the most hardest, the most bad*** client you can ever work with. They want to save money – if you go to them with something that is 30 per cent better, they'll say why not 35 per cent. There's another side to HUL which is fairness. They test you, they put you through the wringer, but if you deliver and when that moment comes, they'll say, 'You know what, well 'done!'"
'...Integrating respect, responsibility and spirit'
In a panel discussion that ensued, Unilever's Rahul Welde lent an outside-in perspective to India as a market, thanked the current Fulcrum HUL team and expressed encouragement for the future.
Sanjiv Mehta, managing director and CEO, Hindustan Unilever, delivered the keynote address. He noted that the partnership between HUL and Fulcrum was based on “…enduring values, integrating respect, responsibility and spirit.”
He added, “Fulcrum has partnered with us on some of the most iconic campaigns over the last twenty years.
"In the context where the lifespan of a Fortune 500 company is dwindling, HUL was the largest FMCG company in the country 20 years ago and remains the largest FMCG company today. And I’m sure with your (Fulcrum's) help, it will remain the largest company 20 years hence."
On the road ahead, he said, "Change has always been a part of civilisation but what distinguishes the new age is the speed and velocity. Our era is shaped by a new class of consumers, the digitally enlightened. These consumers have the information and are telling us about themselves.”
Nick Emery, global CEO, Mindshare Worldwide, said, "The reason we work together is to create something new. The reason why this (the HUL-Mindshare Fulcrum relationship) has lasted (20 years) is because it embraced change. Change is at the heart of any agency's strategy and it is at the heart of Fulcrum."
(Updated with additional comments at 0700 hrs on 19 November 2015.)