Arati Rao
Apr 26, 2011

Profile: "Mobile is one medium that will be truly mass"

Habeeb Nizamudin, chief growth officer at Lodestar UM, talks to Arati Rao about his career and his learnings


Habeeb Nizamudin, chief growth officer at Lodestar UM, has spent close to 20 years in the media space, but he calls his entry into it “accidental”. “It’s a funny story,” he says with a laugh. “I went to sell an interior design project to The Times of India Bangalore in 1992, and Sunil Rajshekhar asked me if I would be interested in joining them.” Nizamudin was. He continues, “So I started off with The Times of India in Bangalore and one thing led to the other. When Times FM launched in its first avatar, I got the responsibility of selling Times FM in Bangalore, and then the same thing happened with Times Television. What it did was, that at a point in time when everyone was talking print, I’d already gone through radio and television.”

Nizamudin’s next stop was Ogilvy & Mather in 1994 on the media side. He was recruited by Sunitha Gopalakrishnan for Mumbai. “Ranjan Kapur had joined a year or two before me, and the agency was in an exciting transformation. There was a huge amount of energy, tremendous amount of passion, fantastic bunch of people together, and on the media side, it was the who’s who of the industry in one office. I worked on Fevicol, Asian Paints, Kodak, ICICI and practically on most of the brands that Ogilvy Mumbai had,” he recalls.

A few years later came the division of creative and media and the setting up of Mindshare, which Nizamudin joined in 2001. He recounts being the only person from India to attend the first Mindshare meeting in the world which took place in 1997 in London. “Sir Martin Sorrell and Dominic Proctor were there announcing Mindshare and what Mindshare was going to be all about,” he elaborates.

Did Nizamudin approve of the split in the agency structure? “Yes. There are two aspects to this business. One key part is media and the other is creative,” he states. “In 1995, when Ogilvy was creating the Media Network, I made a presentation internally where stalwarts of the industry were present: Roda Mehta, PV Narayanmurthy, Sunitha Gopalakrishnan, Rajeev Berry, Gowthaman, and Dalveer Singh. I had said that we needed to look at media from a trading perspective, clearly divided into three segments: the analytical segment, the trading part of the business, and the third was the portfolio and the customer relationship management part of it. I still remember a lot of people saying, ‘You’re making us sound like a financial institution’. Today when I meet those people, their designations are ‘Investment Director’ and ‘Head of Trading’.”

Mindshare proved a bit of culture change for Nizamudin. “I moved to Mindshare to set up Broadband, which was the non-traditional media solutions division. But the mindset, culture and requirements were very different. I stayed there for exactly a year and then Lodestar happened in 2003,” he explains.

Asked about what has kept Nizamudin at Lodestar for close to 8 years, he replies, “I joined to manage the Chennai office and was there for 2.5 years. Then I moved back to Mumbai and it’s just been moving on and trying to create newer opportunities. I realised I was doing exactly this, in some form or the other, when I was at Ogilvy. I got a similar kind of environment over here: that of a close-knit, warm place, wanting to do things differently, and that still exists. We’ve seen Lodestar almost treble in size over the last 8 years.”

“As chief growth officer, I have to do anything I can to grow this place,” he explains. “New business is a part of it. Also acquisitions, partnerships, strategic alliances, creating new business opportunities, and adding new business streams. Anything that doesn’t get defined under any category comes on my table.”

The media veteran points out one major change in the industry he’s seen over the course of his career. “I find that sheer depth of knowledge of clients’ businesses and what makes them tick is lacking,” he says. “I say that based on the kind of solutions I see coming out, whether it is looking at the kind of innovations that are actually created or the utilisation of money across media. I find opportunities going abegging.”

Nizamudin’s success stories date back to the days of Doordarshan. “When ‘Sholay’ was aired on DD for the first time, we had created seven insertions of five seconds each for Fevicol and the creative idea was built around the Fevicol line, ‘Yeh Fevicol ka jod hai, tootega nahi’. The placement was done in such a way that just before a critical scene, like when Sanjeev Kumar captures Amjad Khan for the first time and says, ‘Gabbar, yeh haat nahi, phaansi ka fanda hai’, you had the voice of one of the main characters (in this case, Sanjeev Kumar) say the Fevicol line, and the scene followed the spot.”

There are interesting highlights at Lodestar as well. “For Durex on World Aids Day in 2010, we created a World Aids Day collaborative song and launched it online. And for Kohinoor condoms, on the night of the lunar solstice in 2009, we tied up with channels to brand that story with ‘Kohinoor brings you the longest night ever’.”

Nizamudin firmly believes mobile is the future. “I’m working on creating a whole new environment and ecosystem for the way mobile is going to be used by media and how it’s planned, bought and traded. This is one medium that is going to be truly mass. It’s something I’ve spent almost 18 months working on and it’s a space which will develop. This way, if you’re a brand that wants to reach out to the youth who are currently at Lower Parel at a certain time with a certain mindset, the media planner will actually be able to work with the brand team and creative partners to create a mobile campaign and launch it in less than 15 minutes, get feedback on it, rectify it, make changes and put it back.” And lest one think that all this is in some hazy distant Matrix-like future, think again. “I’m in beta testing right now,” clarifies Nizamudin confidently.


The lowdown

Age 42 years

Lives in Powai

Favourite media I’m a self-confessed movie buff and watch all kinds of movies. Plus I read 6 newspapers a day, including ET, TOI, Mirror and HT

How do you relax I listen to Sufi music

Always in the fridge Soy milk and ice-cream

Motto One of my favourite quotes is "Life is simple, people make it complicated"


Campaign India

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