Shephali Bhatt
Oct 10, 2012

Profile: Turning a big business into a big organisation

Gautam Kiyawat takes Shephali Bhatt through his career, and what he’s been focussing on in his job at Madison Media

Profile: Turning a big business into a big organisation

Five months into his new role as group chief executive officer, Madison Media, Gautam Kiyawat claims to have spent 67 working hours in having one-to-one conversations with his team. The size of the team is 400 people and, yes, he has kept a definite count of the number of hours spent. He is the kind of manager who likes to be at work by 9 am, leaves office by 6 pm on a normal day, and is approachable on his phone for the rest of the day. If you ask him, he’d say that he needs to be a tougher leader than what he already is. So, what does he ask of his team in those conversations? “I ask them what they want to do in life. I try to give them a sense of purpose, create some excitement around their work and help carve their career paths,” explains Kiyawat.

The intention is to empower the people working for Madison Media, he specifies. Kiyawat feels that Madison Media has had a successfully running business so far. But it’s time to run a big organisation now. Training a group of 30 people every Friday (under their respective seniors) is just one of the steps in that direction. Encouraging young employees to go for direct client interface is another.  The rationale?  “Media industry is largely personality driven. Now, I don’t think I can come here and be a better media planner. What I can do is understand how the industry works, put it in context, build a team, systems and processes to deliver the results that need to be delivered,” he simplifies.

Kiyawat himself has experience of big organisations from virtually the beginning of his career. He joined Procter & Gamble (P&G) after completing his MBA from IIM Bangalore in 1995, and ended up spending the next eight years working in the research and media departments, and handling overseas operations. Getting the concept of planning AOR into picture was his biggest feat at P&G India. “Four different agencies - DMB&B, Mediacom, Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi, used to handle planning for P&G while Madison handled buying. We consolidated the four agencies into one planning AOR. In 1999, we appointed Starcom as India’s first communication planning AOR for all P&G brands,” he recollects. 

A year later, Kiyawat was asked to move to Singapore to handle one of the four categories of brands (fabric and homecare) and run their Asia operations from the city. After 18 months of turning country realities into strategies and then into executable plans, he moved onto the next opportunity with Philips, as the marketing director of their APAC division (2002). “Once you learn the alphabets at a place like P&G, to write poetry you have to go somewhere else,” he added.
Philips gave him a free hand. The brand wanted to enter the infotainment turf and he realised that the Asian market wasn’t ready for it yet. To make the business model a profitable one, he entered into a partnership with MTV whereby the two would co-create, co-brand and co-market the new range of Philips products like MP3 players, cameras, et al. Within three years, the business grew to $25 million and the success of the partnership became a case study for MTV on brand partnerships. 

With that, it was time for Kiyawat to move onto the next challenge within Singapore, which came in the form of News Corp. He joined them as vice president, South East Asia, in 2004. “News Corp in South East Asia was looking at moving from being a transactional ad sales company to actually creating solutions for clients.” That’s where Kiyawat came into picture. With 95 per cent of the revenue coming from distribution, he was left with the 5 per cent to play with and add value to. Soon he was handling 26 markets (on paper) to the east of India, excluding China, Japan and Taiwan, and finding the right channel that would appeal these markets.

After a successful five-year run at News Corp, Kiyawat co-ventured a start-up with a partner, Harsha Dandapani, to launch AdVerb, a digital creative media company (early 2010). “I saw an opportunity in digital and wanted to scratch the itch of doing something on my own.” While AdVerb grew into a healthy business, he realised it didn’t have much scale at that time. Two years later, Kiyawat bade goodbye to AdVerb and joined Research In Motion (RIM) as senior director for APAC marketing operations in Singapore.

As destiny would have it, familial reasons brought him back to India within months of joining RIM. “I was planning to move back to India when one fine afternoon I got a call from Sam (Balsara),” he reminisces.

A few chats later, he decided to come on board to handle Rs 3,000 crore worth of business. Kiyawat has a plan now, but he knows change won’t happen overnight. “It’s a lot easier to do things now than it was in the first month,” he chuckles. There are plans to invest in digital without creating a separate unit. There are plans of making the team feel like P&L owners of the organisation, currently underway. And there is intent of reducing reliance on individuals and personalities and focusing on building an efficient organisation. There’s also news of two new accounts worth Rs 50 crore in the offing, but that’s for some other day.

The Flip Side

Age 39

Where do you live Prabhadevi

What do you do to relax Play tennis, run, hang out with friends

Favourite hang-out places My home

Gadget Apple TV

App NYTimes

Social media Facebook, LinkedIN

Next holiday destination South of Spain, Portugal

Dream destination Cuba

Mantra for life Don’t overplan and be authentic

Campaign India

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