Mudra completes 30 years of its existence in 2010. The last few years have seen intense activity at the agency which has seen it evolve from being an advertising agency into a fully integrated communications group.
Today, Mudra can genuinely boast of its credentials as India’s largest home-grown agency from its humble beginnings as an in-house agency that was born out of the need to manage Reliance brands.
The first of these changes that took place at Mudra was the consolidation of their media arms into Connext and Radar under Mudra MAX. The agency then launched a number of specialist units in 2009.
Madhukar Kamath, MD and CEO, Mudra Group had said, at the time, that the idea behind the move was towards building one of the country’s largest integrated marketing communcations group with specialist units, each of which could stand independently on its own feet in terms of business objectives.
Last year also saw DDB Mudra strengthen its core team with various key appointments including that of Mike Follett and Rajiv Sabnis among a number of other key senior management hires.
2009 also had Mudra integrating all its specialist units including Mudra Videotec, Terra, Primesite, Tribal DDB, Rap Collins, Kidstuff, Prime Retail, 10 Integrated and Celsius among others, under the Mudra MAX umbrella, in a step that the agency termed as a reverse integration of sorts.
Pratap Bose, CEO, Mudra MAX has said they will now look at best of class partners in each of these specialist spheres to add scale to their existing specialist operations.
On the eve of the Mudra Group’s 30th anniversary, Campaign India’s Arcopol Chaudhuri met up with its MD and CEO Madhukar Kamath to understand the roadmap ahead and Mudra’s evolution from an advertising agency to a fully integrated communications group. Read the excerpts below:
What is the roadmap you’ve defined for Mudra over the next few years?
With the engines in place, we’re now well-poised to become the most admired communications group in the country. We want to be admired for the solutions that we provide, the clients that we work with and for the talent that we had. If you look at the four constituents of the Mudra Group, we’ve got a game plan worked out for each of them and each one of them will grow in their own distinctive way.
Let’s look at Mudra India – Mudra India comes from a history of over three decades of work, phenomenal achievements. It comes with a history of having built successful brands in the market place. So it is well-poised to build on the experience of the past and grow, considering our expertise in account planning and creative. Its services get complimented by the fact that it has Water, which goes up the value chain in providing brand consultancy.
You also have Maatra which provides localisation and provides support services. If you look at DDB Mudra, it is an open agency with one planning head and one creative head, as a result of which clients can be provided with a solution that’s appropriate for them. So you could have a health-led initiative led by Mudra Health and supported by Tribal DDB.
So each one will compliment the other. Coming to Mudra MAX is well poised to be the leader as far as growth in Mudra is concerned. I personally believe that the agenda we’ve drawn up for Mudra MAX, where we’ve concentrated on the bottom of the pyramid, youth, retail, events, channel neutral planning and execution will ensure that growth happens. Ignite is a completely different solution and with the help of consortium partners, we’re planning to provide a significant value add for entrepreneurs and help make their growth national. Ignite will also give us a great entry point into class I and class II towns where businesses which are languishing for want of adequate support and the right type of national sources, Ignite will help channelise that.
So as a result, you have creativity which delivers the base value (Mudra India), integrated planning and integrated creative, perhaps defining what the future of an agency should be (DDB Mudra), experience and engagement (Mudra MAX) and entrepreneurial support (Ignite Mudra).
How differently will Mudra now pitch itself and its units when talking to clients?
When I’m travelling around the country, as I come across with clients who have problems which we’d be interested in solving, I find that I’m able to view the problem across a spectrum of solutions and recommend to them which agency should be the solution provider for them.
As in the last few months, I’ve recommended for example RAPP, Kidstuff and Celsius. Also steered clients towards DDB Mudra.
How do you choose? In the sense that with creativity becoming more and more media neutral, how different can we expect creatives coming out of Mudra India compared to, say, a Mudra MAX?
There are traditional solutions and there are non-traditional solutions. When you need conventional solutions, Mudra India has the right make-up.
Enagement and experiential solutions will come in from Mudra MAX. But again it depends on the requirements of the clients. Some clients today are comfortable with mass-media solutions coming through engagement and experience. Some clients lead through experiential and engagement solutions. So perhaps the choice of agencies would be determined by the kind of solution we want to provide. Our executive board has a bird’s eye view and they’re knowledgable enough to best recommend and decide which agency/unit should lead the solution process.
You are now a big communications group. What challenges do you foresee in making people work together?
We’ve built the group and hired the leadership team knowing that they would be good at working together under an integrated set-up. It’s a vision they share with us, agree with and are consistently working towards improving it day by day. Integration has to be built top down. Mudra now has an executive board which meets every two weeks that will ensure that the agenda for integration is constantly pushed.
At the same time, integration works best when its accounted for, right at the start – which is the planning process. What we’re doing today is training our planners to think integrated. We are encouraging our planners to look beyond conventional solutions and look for holistic solutions. When that happens, you start drawing resources from relevant units.
What are the skill-sets you’re looking for in the people you will hire? What will please you and what will not?
Right now I’m extremely proud of the talent that we have. I’m of the belief that leaders attract talent. Each of the leaders we’ve appointed have begun attracting talent in their respective divisions. We’ve also seen that work is attracting talent. In the last 36 months, we’ve attracted talent across the Group. All this is because you’re coming out with great creative solutions, or you’re coming out with a great planning process or you’re building competencies in the delivery system. Each one of the leaders in the system has assumed their position in the last 36 months.
Which are the areas for the Group where competencies are yet to built? What kind of partnerships or collaborations can we expect to develop those competencies?
The Group as it stands today was built on the fundamental belief that to reach the consumer, there have to be several touch-points, and if a brand has to be built, it has to be present in each and every one of the touchpoints. Which is why, we went about building competencies in each of the touchpoints. The larger task is brand building.
How we go about building the brand keeping the consumer in the centre defines the game-plan for the future. There are areas where we’e adding new talent and businesses. We’re open to working with collaborations, acquisitions and partnerships will be to strengthen existing offerings and to enter green field areas. Some of these are on the drawing board right now. We’ve identified PR as a gap, we’ve identified analytics, then there are creative hotshops as an area we might decide to explore in the future.
Now that you’re moving to a new location with all units under one roof, what kind of fluidity can one expect in the functioning of the agency?
Mudra House is already fuller before it is ready. We’re already taking additional space to house some of our supporting services. This is a move we’ve initiated nationally – even in Bangalore and Delhi, we’ve tried to integrate our offices. So when we move into Mudra House, it’s going to give a great impetus to working together. At the second time, it’s also going to be about respecting individuality. You have an issue of confidentiality of clients that we need to protect.
So we’ve peppered the building with break-out rooms, mini-conference rooms and dedicated one entire floor to a cafetaria and a common working location.
View Madhukar Kamath's message to Mudra-ites on the Group's 30th anniversary