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AgTalk | We want to be a digitally forward agency: Starcom MediaVest's Mallikarjun Das

Mallikarjun Das is extensively experienced in media planning and resourcing from several perspectives. As a manager leading a large organisation and responsible for client delight, as a media planner optimising the marketing budget, as a client handling marketing resources and agency teams, and as a modeller trying to make sense of the impact of advertising expenditure on brand health and sales.

In an exclusive conversation with Adgully, Mallikarjun Das, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, shared with us his working tenure and highlighted few key points that young media professionals should acquire.

Adgully (AG): How would you rate your working tenure as the CEO of the company?

Mallikarjun Das (MD): It has been about 7months on board and it's been a very satisfying and very good tenure. The kind of growth that we have seen in terms of new businesses and in terms of the products, I think we started re-focussing on it. We are looking at ourselves as being driven by insights and even market pitch to some extent is coming under commoditisation, and I feel this will really help us to create differentiated products.

AG: How you are looking forward to it?

MD: We want to be a digitally forward agency and we have already taken a very significant step in that area. Our team consists of world-class people in terms of leadership, and in terms of digital backing, we have a team of 25, who are specialists on different passages of digital marketing. We initiated some trainee programmes on digital support, for the staff as well as for our offline planners. The way we are looking at it is that all people in SMG should be kind of digitally forward.

AG: What kind of initiative has been taken by SMG, to stand strong in this digital world?

MD: See, there are some people in our organisation who want to explore and get into the digital domain and couple of them have moved over from online into digital. So, such things do exist and apart from that, we are looking at a planner in a holistic sense. So, when tomorrow a client is engaging in media discussion he should know things about digital too because he just can't leave the meeting or discussion by saying I'll send someone else as he doesn't have much knowledge about it. A planner needs to be confident and should have understanding about digital world and mediums too. We have come up with different levels of training programmes for different level of organisation. Our main focus is to groom people into real sense, in a way that they would take up manager and leadership role at senior level and we are institutionalising that. As functional training need to happen within organisation. At functional level, we are planning to roll out a digital program which is ' agency land' in 2012; it is customized for people at different level. Last year we did GCP drive (Google certification programme), where we had 50+media planners actually clearing GCP, and at least 70% offline planners cleared GCP. So, this year we are focusing to take it to the advance level i.e. 100% results.

AG: Last year Starcom MediaVest group won several awards, so what are the key strategies to reach up to this position and growth?

MD: For us key strategies to attain the position are, first of all, to focus on the media product and the second is talent i.e. getting new talent but also aligned existing talent to take certain key roles such as handling all the media operations. Everyone in organisation is aligned to organisation goals. And, SMG has got 5 focus area- people, product, process, client aligned and growth. So, what we have actually done is that, across all levels in our organisation everyone is aligned to these 5 goals. About growth, it is something today everyone is chasing. Everyone in the organisation, all the unit heads are driving to it. Not just getting new business, but also in terms of driving digital-based products and getting our client to engage in digital business activities, is also something that our unit heads are working on with the team.

AG: Everyone is predicting this year to be recession period, what do you think?

MD: What actually comes across to my mind is what many of our clients says, that business is something which is not in sync with sentiments, it's something which seems to be coming out from trade and they are growing because things are happening at their end. While this year the mood does seem like that, there might be little bit of slowdown but we can't say anything as still we don't have any clear indication from our clients We all are predicting doomsday which still has not happened.

AG: Being a media planner, according to you what all qualities young and aspiring media planners should have?

MD: From a media planner's perspective, one is to have acquisition of quantitative reasoning, should be digitally savvy, should not just have rational thinking, but ability to think out of the box and something innovative, and should have loads of energy. Media is a career in which one takes time to catch up with the pace, you will start bit slolwy, but at some point of time you would catch up. So, for getting it right, one should have to go through loads of intense work for atleast 5 years of their life, for which he/she should need to have energy to last there for 5 years. That's the kind of clarity that is required.

AG: Today, social media is one platform which is functioning very actively everywhere, what do you think about it?

MD: Social media is going to stay there and other than that it has entertainment and information. Globally if we see, the time spent on social media is rapidly increasing; the official number on Facebook is 35million odd, which is larger than most of the other conventional media vehicles in the country. How we exploit it and how we use it for our brand is a challenge that everyone is coping with. The most important thing is that, we'll have to make it work for our brand. One of the key things to understand in it, is the value of the "like' on Facebook, as like is the currency of Facebook, as we all are chasing for likes in the same way, the brands chase for likes and fans on their pages. If you look at Facebook, all the brands are there on Facebook and the fan pages on Facebook are the brand ambassadors. The next important thing to understand is, how to engage with 10 lakh million fans on the fan pages and how to create meaningful content. For example to keep them engaged, few clients wish them on Diwali and Holi. But, apart from all these, providing meaningful content to fans is one of the most important things.

AG: What would be your focus area for 2012?

MD: Our focus area would continue to be on overall media products, which would be the niche focus area. If you look at us, in 2011 10% of our revenue came from digital and if you look at industry, SMG as a group has more than 30% of its revenue comes from digital. For us the next thing is, getting right talent and grooming existing talent which is aligned to our vision. Growth is obviously our focus area and within growth digital is one of them.

AG: Any core of advice for young media professionals?

MD: One should stay in power. They should be self-driven to a large extent as that is very important in our media agency and other agencies too. Last but not the least; they should need to be driven with excitement and change. | By Ranjana Gupta [ranjana(at)adgully.com]

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