Campaign India Team
May 19, 2010

"We prefer to be in the position of a challenger:" Aegis' Waters

After spending close to 12 years with Mindshare and almost 18 with WPP, what prompted you to move? How easy has been the transition?

After spending close to 12 years with Mindshare and almost 18 with WPP, what prompted you to move? How easy has been the transition?
WPP is the only company I have worked with and I didn’t know any better till my move to Aegis. The change, surprisingly, has been very energising and invigorating. WPP is a large and a cumbersome organisation and the media business has specially become very bureaucratic, which tends to sap out a lot of energy and is de-motivating. Aegis, on the other hand, has an entrepreneurial spirit running through it, possibly due to the origins of the company and how it was structured originally. It is very much about putting people into markets or buying businesses and then allowing them to go on with things.

How important is Carat India for the Aegis Group? What is your agenda for India given that agencies such as Group M have already built such massive scale?
Carat as a brand is very important within Aegis Media and forms a cornerstone of our business around the world. To be successful in any market we need a very strong Carat and India is no different. However, we realise that we face some very stiff competition in this market. WPP has been around for a very long time and have been very successful in India with strong brands both in media and advertising. As an outsider, it surprises me how slow Omnicom has been to react and wake up to India. Aegis is still further behind.

However, we prefer to be in the position of a challenger looking up at the big boys and saying, “Quite fancy eating some of your lunch”, rather than being a market leader trying very hard to defend our market share, which in India is being threatened by the likes of Omnicom, Publicis and IPG. India is not a market where you can make a quick buck. It is the most important market for us and we are in it for the long haul.

While Carat and Aegis has been on a roll in other parts of Asia, specially China and Australia; the agency has had a chequered run in India. Which of your learnings at Mindshare do you think can be applied here to get it the kind of recognition it deserves?

You are right about Carat’s chequered run in India. One can actually write a case study on how not to do business in India based on Carat’s experience. The agency is not a late entrant but it did go wrong in its journey in India. Thus, this is really the fresh start for Carat and it is like an agency in its start-up phase, the first stage of which was kicked off by Ashish Bhasin, chairman India and CEO South East Asia, Aegis Group, about 20 months ago.

Group M is a highly professional company and one of the main reasons why they have been able to succeed in so many markets is due to the people they’ve had in management positions. Here at Aegis, we already have a very strong management team that is suited for a much bigger agency. The company now has to grow to keep pace with its management team.

Apart from that a clear vision, a clear strategy and impeccable execution of these two things is a mantra that can ensure success in any market.

One of the key motivators for you to take a good look at Carat India would be the Nokia account. What needs to be done to get them to move from Maxus to Carat in India?
Nokia would be a huge prize to win for Carat and we have our sights firmly on it. The reason why the business didn’t transition at the time of the global appointment is fair and valid. India is a very important and huge market for Nokia, both in terms of value and volume. Their current agency is an agency of scale and I am sure there were question marks and concerns on whether the fledgling agency that Carat was, at the time of the pitch, would be able to cope with a business of such scale and importance. Thus, Nokia decided to postpone the appointment for Carat in India.

We now have to prove to them that we can manage one of the markets leading blue-chip companies; to do that we need to showcase top class planning and convince them that we can buy efficiently and effectively, bring them innovation, get the inventory they want and provide holistic market solutions.

While there is no fixed commitment or time-line on Nokia’s part, I am hopeful that our level of professionalism and will power will show through and we will prevail.

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