Raahil Chopra
Apr 21, 2016

'Sri Lanka is currently progressing and we wanted to invest at this moment': Saurabh Varma

Following news of the network upping stake in Solutions Group Sri Lanka to a majority, we caught up with Leo Burnett's South Asia CEO

'Sri Lanka is currently progressing and we wanted to invest at this moment': Saurabh Varma
Leo Burnett Worldwide, a part of the Publicis Groupe, announced that it has upped its stake from 20 per cent to a majority in Sri Lanka's Solutions Group on 20 April 2016.
Following the development, we caught up with Saurabh Varma, CEO, Leo Burnett South Asia, for a quick chat on what's brewing. He tells Campaign India that the time is right to invest in Sri Lanka.
What was the reason behind increasing stake at this moment?
If you look at the Solutions Group in Sri Lanka, it consists of ZenithOptimedia, MSL Group and Starcom MediaVest. When I took over in November 2013 (as CEO, Leo Burnett Group India), the mandate was to get a vibrant South Asia offering. Now, Solutions was the natural place for us to achieve this target. We had presence in Sri Lanka through it, but we wanted to grow it. Sri Lanka currently has peace and is prospering and that's what made this the right time. The country is currently progressing and we wanted to invest at this moment.
Leo Burnett had a 20 per cent stake in the company. What's the stake post this development?
It's going to be 100 per cent eventually once the payout period is done with. It will take time, but eventually it'll be at 100 per cent.
Is there a change within the roles at the Solutions Group or does Ranil deSilva and his team continue to run operations?
Ranil was running the organisation since its inception in June 1999. He'll continue to run it. He's as much as a Burnetter as you can find anywhere in the world. He understands Leo Burnett and HumanKind philosophy. The agency was already integrated into the Leo Burnett group. We have talent which is shaping things well in Sri Lanka. Ranil is a part of the South Asia board. He and I connect every couple of weeks. Our CFO is in Sri Lanka once every quarter. So there's a deep integration.
Where else does Leo Burnett have a presence within South Asia? How much does Sri Lanka contribute to this region?
Along with India and Sri Lanka we have a presence in Pakistan and Bangladesh through affiliations. 
(Without being able to give exact figures in terms of revenue contribution) We have 81 people currently in the Sri Lanka team. MSL was launched in the country just a month ago. ARC exists there too. We have a good digital offering in the country. 
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