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Ad land’s Young Guns: Ashwani Harshprasad, Dentsu Aegis Network

As Product Manager in the South Asia Data Sciences Division of Dentsu Aegis Network, Ashwani Harshprasad has been pivotal in decoding audience behaviour to create bespoke and proprietary data-driven products that are adopted in 25 markets of the globe. With over 6 years of experience in the mar-tech and advertising domain, he has worked in building core frameworks for some of the largest BFSI institutions like the World Bank, during his stint with Orange, to creating a complex transaction engine underlaying the globally renowned DAN Data Labs ecosystem powered by Blockchain. Harshprasad’s experience in core backend logic has led to his representation of DAN India in regional forums. 

How did you get into the role you are serving?
Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”. Being a tech aficionado, I was naturally drawn towards creating solutions. Thus began my love for coding. Having built scaled solutions in the BFSI domain, my passion for understanding why users were served certain ads on platforms like Facebook, led me to the advertising domain wherein the newly formed Data Sciences Division of the Dentsu Aegis Network presented a great growth opportunity. 

What particular skill sets do you think you bring to the table?
Having developed enterprise level solutions at a global scale in my earlier stint with Orange, coupled with my innate ability to solve problems and my love for technology, enables me to deliver world class solutions and is, what I believe, my greatest value add to the unit. 

How did Dentsu Aegis Network come about?
Being drawn to the advertising space, there were very few organisations that presented themselves with having a need and understanding of technology and the domain to create world class solutions. When the opportunity with the newly formed Data Sciences division presented itself, I was immediately drawn towards what the division stood for, the growth opportunities presented as well as the firm values presented by the management, led by Gautam (Chief Data Officer for DAN South Asia), and I immediately latched on to the opportunity. Nearly 3 years on and I have no regrets. 

Icons in this field you look up to and how they have influenced you and your work?
The leader I really admire and has been a great source of inspiration to me in this domain is Gautam Mehra, CEO, DAN Programmatic & Chief Data Officer for Dentsu Aegis Network. 

What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?

  1. I read at least one tech blog/ article daily to keep myself updated on the new technologies in the market. New technologies bring possibilities of new and more effective solutions to your current business problems.
  2. Spend 30 minutes to solve Programming problems on a couple of Coding forums which I am part of. It makes me happy that I give small contributions towards the coder’s community.
  3. Meet my colleagues from a different profession to understand their business problems. This not only helps me in empathising their problems, but also to give better scalable solutions to the organisation.
  4. I love playing with gadgets. I try to automate some of the repeated tasks in my daily life using my phone or Google Home.
  5. Riding: I really look forward to my bike ride on my way back home, as I am very passionate about it. I love the relaxing feel of breeze on my face as it makes me feel light after an envigorating day at work.

Do you think a career in this field is a viable one in the long term?
As digitisation progresses rapidly with an increasing proportion of the population coming online and large conglomerates betting big on India’s digital future, I sense the domain to play a vital role in India’s growth strategy as well as that of the advertising domain. Data plays a key multiplier in decoding brand audiences for which coding is a near necessity. It is safe to say with these skills and my career trajectory with the network – I sense this to be a viable ocean for me to plunge into for the long run. 

What does it take to succeed in a career?
Being thrown into a sea of tumult that is constantly upgrading itself, I find that regular updation of skills as well as capturing the zeitgeist of the field is a must to succeed. That and committing oneself to the task at hand. 

What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?
Love what you do and enter with the spirit of an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. 

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
More likely heading a specialised unit of excellence within the Data Sciences Division. 

Is there any organisation that you would like to work with in the future?
With the opportunities presented to me by my line manager, supported by the vision of the network, this becomes a difficult question to address. For now, I’ve sold my soul to this Advertising Devil.

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