Shephali Bhatt
Sep 25, 2012

Profile: Charting the course of Unilever’s fulcrum

In her second stint at Mindshare Fulcrum, Anupriya Acharya’s mandate is quite different, writes Shephali Bhatt

Profile: Charting the course of Unilever’s fulcrum

We were all set to walk down memory lane, when we heard loud cheering from outside her cabin. Was it for the Emvies win? “It must be something else by now. When it comes to achievements, people have short memories here,” says Anupriya Acharya, leader, client leadership, Mindshare Fulcrum - South Asia.

She began leading the Unilever media mandate for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in February this year; each day since then has been ‘action packed’ for Acharya.

With a team of over 100 people in India and another 50 across the region, Fulcrum is handling 4.5 to 5 million spots annually. Besides being at the helm of all decisions, one key responsibility of Acharya’s is that of leadership. So what is the people scene, we asked.

“I think people are more than happy to join us. And they stay on because we provide them a strong training ground coupled with cross-functional learning,” she explains. Against estimates of industry attrition of 20 to 30 per cent, Acharya claims that Mindshare Fulcrum’s would be in single digits.
While she describes herself as an ‘inclusive’ leader, what her team may not know is that Acharya used to teach chemistry to college students once. Perhaps it was the science background that ensured her comfort with numbers and helped her get acclimatised to the media business. Yet, it does seem an unikely shift - from chemistry to media.

She reminisces, “Born and brought up in Dehradun, I was the eldest of the three sisters, and had limited career options.” After post graduation from IIT Rourkee, the plan was to join ONGC in her native town. But advertising caught her fancy and that led her to a course in mass communication. She moved to Chennai after marriage (1994), and landed herself a job in Ogilvy. Hired by Sunitha Gopalakrishnan and trained by S Srinivasan, Acharya picked up basics in media operations in the one year she worked at Ogilvy. In this stint, she also worked with R Gowthaman, (now) CEO, Mindshare, South and South East Asia briefly, before she joined McCann Erickson in New Delhi.
At McCann, Acharya worked with Rajul Kulshreshtha on Nestle and Reckitt Benckiser. After two years at McCann New Delhi , she needed to move back to Chennai in 1999. By now, she was at a fairly senior level for a small market like Chennai and therefore took up a consultant’s job at HTA (now JWT). Five months hence, she had to move to Mumbai. “Ketaki Gupte offered me to continue with HTA since there were quite a few options available within the network. That initiated my first stint with Fulcrum in May 2000,” she recollects.

Fulcrum proved to be a sound learning platform for Acharya in terms of processes, research, data, managerial and leadership skills. “Right from having a layer of people reporting to you, to handling multiple categories, getting your hands on strategic planning, Fulcrum provided immense opportunities to learn given the scale of business,” she states. At Fulcrum, she got into handling buying and went on to spearhead their 360 degree initiative, Broadmind.

Besides treading these unchartered territories, Acharya began exploring the movie marketing space which was still at a nascent stage. Sunsilk Femina Miss India and Lakme India Fashion Week were the few big tie-ups she managed to see materialise. In 2004, she started mConsult (strategic marketing unit of WPP) under Vikram Sakhuja and worked on it for a year.

“Then came the opportunity to join TME. It was a big jump for it would have been my first CXO level role in a significant organisation with big local and MNC clients,” she notes. While several well-wishers advised her against joining, her younger sister Aparna Rawat (GE), said, “All of us have to reach our level of incompetence some day. Why wait for five years when you can get to know your level now?”

TME was a challenge. Acharya suddenly had a staff of 70 people to give direction to. She admits to several sleepless nights at that point. In her own words, her euphoria ‘lasted for all of two days’. The initial period was tough because she was expected to come up with a quick plan. But gradually things fell into place and she was able to restore client confidence in the agency. “All of it happened with the existing team at TME; I didn’t take the easy route of getting my own people from the earlier teams,” she explains.

In 2008, Acharya had to move to Singapore. She joined Aegis Media as CEO, Singapore. Aegis Singapore gave her a perspective on regional vs. local network operations. She was in charge of the P&L of all the units under Aegis - Carat, Vizeum, Posterscope and iProspect. Acharya was now working on brands that had multi-market mandates. “Nokia, for instance, was in nine markets; JetStar across ten-plus markets. Moreover, I was also handling luxury brands like Gucci, Prada and Tiffany, which was a refreshing change,” she adds.

On the lighter side, Singapore got her accustomed to all kinds of tea, Chinese and Japanese; it also taught her that the region was far more advanced in digital than India.

“Quite a few clients actually had digital at the core of their strategy and considered TV and other media that are mainstream for us, as supplementary mediums,” she points out.

Acharya relocated to Mumbai in February 2012 and thus began her second innings with Mindshare Fulcrum. In her last stint with the agency, Ashutosh Srivastava was the national head, Sandip Tarkas (now Future Group) was the GM and Gowthaman the planning head,  recalls Acharya. On her comeback after eight years, she maintains that while it has grown in scale and sophistication, Fulcrum has retained its culture of camaraderie.

What needs to be done now? “The consumer has moved far and beyond while the marketers, advertisers and agencies are mostly playing catch-up,” she surmises. The digital savvy born of experience should help Acharya win this catch up game.

The Flip Side

Age 42

Where do you live Close to Mindshare’s office

What do you do to relax Work out which involves running mostly. Have been following it for the last 15 years now

TV Series Mad Men, Bharat Ek Khoj (just ordered on Flipkart)

Gadget iPhone

Favourite app Gaming apps, Foursquare, Shazam, Dilbert, Skype, Maps

What’s new? Social media doesn’t excite me anymore. Earlier it used to update me about India, when I was in Singapore. I find Pinterest interesting. Oh! And my mom is on Twitter

Holiday destination Europe, Japan. Not a beach person. Love mountains and trekking.

Dream destination Himalayas

If not in media I’d have dabbled with fashion, aviation, or got into ONGC

Mantra for life Enjoy the moment

Campaign India

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