Profile: "VivaKi Exchange is not just another buying unit"

VivaKi Exchange’s CEO, Mona Jain takes Jagadeesh Krishnamurthy through her long journey in the media industry


Beginning her career in 1989, Mona Jain has mostly been on the agency side of the business and prefers it. Jain has always been interested in media since her school days. “My mom used to work for a research agency and a lot of these research papers used to come to my house. I was enamoured by them even during my school days and knew that I wanted to get into the communications business. Having said that, I studied industrial chemistry and worked with Ranbaxy for a few weeks before I got into media.”

Following a three-month internship with RK Swamy’s Hansa Research for Eicher Tractors, she joined the erstwhile HTA (now JWT) in 1989 as part of the media team handling HMM (now GSK) and Pepsi. Recalling her experiences at her first organisation, Jain said, “It was good working there, as Pepsi was all about going beyond numbers and thinking creative and innovative with my boss telling me to think of ten good ideas every day, while GSK was all about number crunching. It was a good mix of learning for me as it helped me gain insights on strategy as well as numbers, thus looking at media in a completely different way.”

After a three-and-a-half-year stint, she moved to HTA’s sister agency Contract (after her marriage, as her husband was also working with HTA), where she was part of the team that handled Kelvinator’s re-launch as Whirlpool in India. She terms this as her most exciting phase as there was a relatively young team at Contract including the present Bollywood names like Jaideep Sahni, Dibakar Banerjee and Shantanu Moitra. “I grew very fast there, as one was allowed to take decisions, while in HTA you were always under the shadow of someone,” she added.

Her move to Mudra after Contract started her long association with Samsung as she worked on the brand’s launch in India. After a five-year stint, she moved out of the agency for emotional reasons since the Samsung corporate business moved out to Fcbulka following a global realignment. Though she joined Lodestar (Fcbulka’s media arm), she was working on the Whirlpool account for which she won two Emvies during her stint. After a short stint back with Mudra, she moved to the corporate side with GSK which didn’t last long as Samsung drew her back to set up Cheil in India.
“Samsung again happened to me as they were setting up Cheil in India and was moving the business away from Mudra. It was a little uneasy for me as Mudra was my old agency, but they (Samsung corporate team) invited me to head and set up the media division. I could not refuse because of emotional reasons since I have seen the brand grow from scratch in India,” he added.
Jain feels the two years she spent there was exciting as Samsung Cup happened during that phase, where they thwarted LG’s ambush marketing campaign. However, following Samsung’s global realignment, GroupM got the business and she got an offer from ZenithOptimedia to handle the Nokia business, following which she moved to the common buying arm of Starcom and ZO, VivaKi as North Head and was elevated to CEO in July 2011.

Jain feels that moving from being a planner to a buyer was quite smooth for her as she had worked on a lot of businesses like Pepsi, Samsung and Frito Lays that involved both planning and buying. Talking about her early days with the group, she said, “Basically, I am a planner but I love buying and negotiations as well as creating properties. As a result, the company felt that I was suited to head the consolidated buying arm of Starcom and ZenithOptimedia. At the time when I left Cheil, I felt that I will never work with Samsung again, but a global pitch happened and Starcom won the business. As a result of which, it again fell in my lap. It is actually as if the Samsung business is following me rather than me following them.”

Jain points out that she didn’t want VivaKi to be just another buying or negotiating unit. “We wanted to do what is contextual to the brand by doing properties, working on ideas, develop partnerships with media platforms and bring solutions to the brand with better deliveries. The kind of people we hired in the Exchange are people with planning backgrounds. At most agencies, people who are in operations are often elevated to being buyers since they tend to look at buyers as just negotiators. But we don’t do that. We want people who can take a strategic look at buying and bring in the value for the client’s money.”

The agency is known to handle clients with smaller budgets as well. When asked about her 
personal preference for doing business with smaller players or 
national players, she is quick to side with the smaller players. She reasons, “I feel it’s a completely different ball game handling the smaller clients, and is more challenging and interesting due to the lower spends they bring on to the table. They are owner-driven companies and so the decision making is also very fast. You don’t have to keep proving to them with just numbers. It is a combination of some numbers and gut feels that wins the game for them.”

Talking about her most favourite campaign that she has worked on, Jain recalls the 7-Up Fido Dido campaign during her HTA days. “During the campaign, we went as micro as possible, where we looked into stuff like having a French language commercial with the character being aired along with a particular television show. Moreover, during the election time, we came up with a campaign where Fido Dido was commenting about the elections every day for thirteen days on the Times of India front page.” She added that it was the smallest budget she has ever worked with – Rs. one crore for a national campaign.

The Highlights

​Lives in New Delhi

In your fridge Mango and ice-cream

Most memorable campaign 'There's nothing offical about it' and 'Yeh dil maange more!' by Pepsi

Where would have you been, if ot in media? I don't know. Maybe, theatre!

What drives you? Doing different things and learning all the time. I learn everyday from my juniors as well as clients. Moreover, being a part of the servicing industry and delivering the best to my clients.

Campaign India

Related Articles

Just Published

1 hour ago

RazorpayX shows simplicity of payroll management by ...

Watch the film conceptualised by Talented here

1 hour ago

Ki Mobility assigns media mandate to Madison

Account won post a multi-agency pitch

1 hour ago

APAC has lowest post-bid fraud rate at 1%: ...

It was also found that there have been significant improvements in brand suitability and viewability in the past year