Maxus started the year with changes at the top. In January 2014, Kartik Sharma took over as managing director for India from Ajit Verghese, who moved to an Apac role. Anand Chakravarthy (from RBNL) was roped in to head West, Sanchayeeta Verma was elevated as managing partner to head the South region, and Navin Khemka (from ZO) moved in to run North operations.
On the business end, it has been growth ‘as usual’. “We have grown at 30 per cent this year (so far) adding 23 businesses that have brought in Rs 300 crore worth of billings. We’ve been growing at a similar rate for the last five to six years and the way things are looking currently, we’ll be in the same zone for this year,” said Sharma.
New clients on board that Sharma was able to name include (part of) Tata Sons, JK Tyres (planning assignment), Kotak Mahindra Bank, Unitech, Paytm, Askme.com, ICC T20 World Cup 2014, Cigna TTK Health Insurance, Musafir.com and BML Educorp. The agency head added that there were no accounts lost during this period.
Digital has been a space Maxus has been winning accolades in, including the (joint) Agency of the Year title at CIDCA 2014. Asked about digital’s contribution to revenue and growth, Sharma said new clients have been looking at integrated media planning and buying, across sectors.
He explained, “It’s more integrated planning and buying. Most of the clients that we’ve got are more or less traditional plus all new media including digital. Among the wins, there are one or two clients that are digitally skewed. But every media has some role to play, so it’s more about being integrated. Our awards over the last three years have reflected the kind of work Maxus has being doing digitally. Digital has been at the core of everything we do.”
With significant emphasis on digital work, the digital team has grown from 42 people in 2013 to 60 people now. Sharma added, “The Maxus digital team is a part and parcel of Maxus. We have about 60 of us who are from Maxus who are trained in various aspects of digital – from display advertising, search, to creative copywriting (and so on). So we are a full service digital outlet. There are digital heads in each of the offices integrated into the business. When we go for briefings or presentations, we go as one integrated team - as ‘Team Maxus’. We have specialists within team Maxus who do the digital work.”
While there are 60 people within Maxus, the agency also has the backing of GroupM Interactive, reminds the spokesperson. “With that, we are now a full service (digital) advertising service provider that can provide end-to-end solutions across creative, search, mobile, websites and more. The journey has been very smooth. Seven to eight years ago we were a small unit, but now have a strong unit doing great work and winning awards,” he underlined.
Besides a slew of awards, Sharma terms retaining the Vodafone business as a ‘massive scoop’ for the agency. He explained, “As part of the regular review, some clients like Vodafone go through global review processes. From GroupM’s side it was Team Red. India was represented by Maxus. Most of the other markets was represented by MEC. There were another three to four international agencies that participated. It’s a billion dollar global business globally. The brief was challenging and Team Red worked on this. India contributed a lot because we were the only country under GroupM which has been working with Vodafone for a long while. We were happy as we were able to contribute to the global team’s thinking. They liked our work and decided to go with us globally.”
Meanwhile, Maxus India continues to service globally aligned clients such as SC Johnson and Fiat.
There is a view that pitches and reviews are becoming more frequent. Responding to this, Sharma said, “This year we have seen ‘slightly above normal’ number of pitches. Having said this, in the last couple of years we’ve seen it to be a bit cyclical. In the first quarter there was a lot of pressure, the sentiment wasn’t that great and a new government was supposed to come.
Whenever the economy is not doing well, pressures are higher and we see the number of pitches increasing. Clients want to revaluate options. Some of them have stuck to agencies after the pitch process, but there seems to be a correlation between the two.”