Ad land’s Young Guns: Manan Shah, Starcom
Manan Shah is a Business Manager – Media Solutions at Starcom’s Gurgaon office. A passionate advertising professional and backpacker, Shah likes to create stories through media when he is in office and listen to stories when he is travelling.
A business graduate from LBSIM, New Delhi, Shah started his career on the brand side with Exide Industries, but understood that his passion is advertising. He, thus, shifted to smaller agency set-up and from there on, it has been a great ride working across sectors like NGO (a client that he still volunteers for at his personal level), Insurance, FMCG, apparels, etc.
How did you get into the role you are serving?
For me, it was love at first sight with advertising in the lectures of Advertising and Sales Promotion classes in my Business Management graduation days. After graduating, I did a couple of months of internship with an event management agency before joining the company that recruited me from campus. Thus, my inclination towards advertising grew and I knew that this is it. This is what I want to do. Moreover, the creative inclination, love for tech and passion for constantly learning gave me a clear picture that Digital is the way forward. After working with a couple of small size agencies where I had the chance to work on Social projects, Design-development projects and Media projects, I had to make a choice and that is when I decided on Media Planning. Here, Publicis Media and Convonix provided me with the perfect opportunity to tap in my full potential.
What particular skill sets do you think you bring to the table?
Having worked on social and tech lead projects, it helps me add more value to the conversations with the client. Having worked on tech projects, I can have help client understand technical jargons wherever they require. Having worked on social projects, it helps me devise how communication and media will fit in the jig-saw. This also increases the trust that the client has and eventually becoming the go-to person for the client. This is a very key aspect for any professional who has client facing as a key part of his daily routine.
How did Publicis Media come about?
Digital, unlike TV/ Print, is constantly evolving every day; like a few years back a brand that did regular post was considered digitally very active, today we are miles ahead of it. In this everyday evolving environment, Publicis Media gives a platform to keep learning through regular sessions. Moreover, the team here also needs a special mention as they provide ample opportunity to learn and grow. Moreover, clients that I work with make sure that limits are being pushed in every campaign and we come up with something new every time. Where people may consider this as fatigue, I see this as an opportunity to evolve and create value not only for the client, but also from a self-learning perspective.
Icons in this field you look up to and how they have influenced you and your work?
There are five people who I look up to when it comes to advertising:
Arijit Lahiri (fondly called Dada from my previous organisation BEI Confluence)
Manini Thakur (my current reporting manager)
Pallav Jain (CEO, Performics.Convonix)
Rathi Gangappa (CEO, Starcom)
Piyush Pandey, I think this does not require any explanation. Arijit Lahiri is a true gentleman (His work experience is more than my age)! Work ethics of Dada is unmatchable. He is someone who will tell a client straight to the face what is correct and what is not. Because of this nature of his and his constant efforts to add more value, I have seen clients treating him like a part of their internal team and his inputs are valued right from the first step of devising the strategy.
Manini Thakur is hands down the best manager that I have worked with. She works with one simple motto: ‘If something good happens, it is my team that deserves the credit, but if something goes wrong, I am responsible for it’. A great planner herself, I constantly strive to deliver more than her expectations. (But she has a standard set that is very, very high to match).
Earlier, I had only heard of open door approach, but Pallav Jain and Rathi Gangappa have showed me how it works. They are the most approachable leaders that I have ever seen. I look up to them and want to make sure that when I grow further in my career, I am equally easy to approach.
What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?
They are very simple and easy to do, nothing out of the box.
- Keep reading like a nerd!
- Keep meeting with publishers
- Keep a note of tasks/ checklist
- Take a break once in a while: Listen to songs, I have a well-curated playlist.
- Discuss/ assist/ ideate with other team members. It helps to widen the thinking spectrum.
Do you think a career in this field is a viable one in the long term?
Digital advertising is a field that is never going to see a downfall. Yes, it will require you to keep yourself updated and sustain a child’s curiosity for the rest of your life. If you stop learning, you will stop growing.
What does it take to succeed in this career?
I follow one simple motto: ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish!’ Ask as many questions as you want to!
What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?
As a youngster, everyone has that rebel in themselves (which comes out in college lectures). Keep that rebel alive in the industry as well. Share your viewpoint, rather than simply agreeing. If there is a flaw, a leader will explain to you where you are going wrong and if it is perfect, you will receive appreciation. In both cases, you will grow. Stay true to yourself. This will keep you happy as the moment when you start feeling frustrated, it impacts your work.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I am still ready to learn. Growing with a streak of happy clients and memories with teams that I work with that when I look back, I have a sense of satisfaction.
Is there any organisation that you would like to work with in the future?
I am someone who actually thinks to retire at some early point and then give ‘More’ time to my hobby of travelling (going on the roads less travelled), photography and writing.