Campaign India Team
Apr 10, 2013

Profile: Capability, not age: “Age of protocols is extinct”

Sandeep Sharma, president, RK Swamy Media Group, opens up to Rishi Vora on talent, role of leadership, and more

Profile: Capability, not age: “Age of protocols is extinct”

A marketer, an ad man, a broadcaster, Sandeep Sharma has donned many roles in his career spanning over 22 years. “In every assignment I have been able to move the needle in terms of growth in revenue, profitability or market share. Whether it is gaining market share in baby products at Wipro Consumer Products or building the Bajaj Auto portfolio at Contract Advertising.”
When Sharma joined RK Swamy Media Group in the last week of March 2012, the business climate was not exactly at its best. One year into the new role, Sharma boasts of new clients including Khazana Jewellery, Fortis Healthcare, Qatar Airways, Victorinox and Ramco. “The first year has zipped by and we could produce work for our clients that are interesting and engaging,” says Sharma.

Sharma elucidates, “When I took charge in 2012, it was a challenging year for the industry considering much of the advertising (spends) had taken a beating. But, I’m glad that as an organisation we were able to grow when the going for the industry was tough.” While he declines to share the agency’s earnings, he says, “We have grown our revenues from 2011-12.” In 2013, the agency further looks to consolidate and build the initiatives it has already put in place, which Sharma hopes will accelerate the pace of growth.

However, his accomplishments within the agency go much beyond the organic growth. Sharma says, “The agency has made significant progress on all fronts.” On the people front, the team in the South has been strengthened with a new leadership role by appointing VR Padmanabhan as general manager. He further roped in Gautam Rajagopal as national buying head for television and Ramaswamy Ranganathan, as the associate director in Mumbai.

The next line of focus was training. Sharma introduced a regular training module on research, tools, planning and skills upgradation. “Every quarter, teams compete internally on a given case study and cross functional teams are encouraged to work together,” explains Sharma. He has initiated creation of proprietary tools and software to enable advanced planning and buying. Sharma has claims to have been successful in moving the teams from thinking media plans to thinking media solutions encompassing all touch points in media.

“For me personally, it’s been a very satisfying experience so far. It’s been very exciting as I have been able to use my experience and knowledge to bring in a fresh perspective and widen the vision of the team,” he says, when quizzed about his work experience as the president of the RK Swamy Media Group.” 

He is also quick to acknowledge the support of promoters - Sundar Swamy, chairman, and Shekar Swamy, group CEO, RK Swamy. “Both Sundar Swamy and Shekar Swamy have created a mature and result-oriented culture and a highly successful, fully integrated marketing and communications group offering in the country.”

Sharma’s ultimate objective, in his own words, ‘is to enhance the media service offered to the agency’s clients - and making it the best in class.’

Asked about past stints that are close to heart even today, he picks the five years at Contract advertising, during which the agency picked up Ad Club Agency of the Year twice, and seven years at Times Now. He says his initial years in FMCG helped him build a solid foundation and sleeked his consumer understanding. This was followed by his experience with various brands and clients in advertising, which helped strengthen cross category understanding, he points out. It also bolstered his ability to manage brands and grow revenues aggressively in media sales and marketing.

Other high points, as Sharma recalls, included building revenues for Radio City during the initial phase of radio, and the launch and building of the Times Now brand.

However, he feels his bigger achievement till date has been retention of the key managers of his team at various organisations. “The biggest satisfaction I get is from seeing my own people grow over the years - people who I have worked with in the past.”

Assessing his current role at RK Swamy Media Group, Sharma takes pride in building a culture of business development amongst senior managers. He encourages cross flow of knowledge and learning, urges senior managers to be more entrepreneurial in their work and thereby empowering them to take decisions. “I believe senior leaders need to excel in the single biggest skill and that is managing people. My job is to make them believe in themselves and those around them and inspire them to reach higher for the next goal. I strongly believe the future belongs to those managers who fuse digital as a way of life. I encourage all my managers to think solutions and not media and to fuse digital into their holistic solutions,” emphasises Sharma.

Apart from encouraging entrepreneurial style of functioning, Sharma also puts a lot of focus on continuous training and building new skill sets. Every Friday evening is training time and different subjects in media including research, data analytics and technology are discussed and debated. There are also personality development sessions including enhanced skills in presentation and public speaking. Explaining the rationale behind this, he notes, “I always try to make my team members realise their potential and inspire them to strive harder, so that they can reach greater heights in everything they do. My desire is that the team leaders that work closely with me could then viral that with the people they work with, so that the whole organisation benefits.”

On the talent end, he is of the opinion that leaders of today need to take the onus of giving maximum opportunities to youngsters, who could become future leaders. “Many (youngsters) have come back excitedly telling me that they did not expect to be part of the new business pitch. I do not believe in age but capability. The age of protocols is extinct and people want to deal with people who can solve their issues or offer a solution.”

“Fundamental managerial skills are more important than domain knowledge most times, thanks to Google. Application of knowledge and contextualising it to the clients need is what makes the difference,” he signs off.

The Flip Side

Age 46
Where do you live: Carter Road, Bandra West
What do you do to relax Music, movies, play tennis, swim, play with my son.
Favourite hangout place lounging in my music room.
Gadget Apple ipad4
Social media LinkedIN
Next holiday destination London
Dream destination Brazil
Favorite author Jeffrey Archer
Favorite book ‘The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle
Mantra for life Think big and dream with my eyes open.

Campaign India

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