Spirit W | No learning is ever really wasted, says DigitasLbi's Himani Kapadia
A Chartered Accountant by qualification, Himani brings to the table over 22 years of diverse experience. She started her career with financial audits, before moving on to Media and then joined DigitasLBi in 2007 as the Business Head for Outsourcing. Prior to DigitasLBi, she was AVP with The Media Edge (Rediffusion DY&R) before moving over to the client’s side as AVP, Media Advisory to the Chairman's Office at Reliance Anil Dhirubai Ambani Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates.
As a result of her background and experience, she brings to the table a sound understanding of business, finance, strategy, technology, media, leadership and management, a truly rare and potent combination.
Adgully caught up with Himani Kapadia, Managing Director – India, DigitasLbi to know more about her journey so far.
Himani took over as Managing Director of DigitasLbi India in 2010, and has since grown the company with employing over 300 professionals in 3 major cities. Under her leadership, the agency has charted the digital roadmaps for several major clients inter alia Johnson & Johnson, Tata Motors, Aircel, Reckette Benchiser, Budweiser etc.
Defining her journey, she said, “From inheriting a 55-member technology shop in 2010 and transforming that into one of the country’s largest digital marketing & technology agencies, employing almost 300 professionals in 3 major cities, I’d say it’s been a rollercoaster ride. I took over when the network bought out the founder’s stake, and started by ensuring a sound financial and business foundation, before shifting into top gear with new business. From thereon, it’s been building and consolidating. Then again, we went through a major transformation with the merger of Digitas and LBi, to form DigitasLBi. I have spent most of my time over the last eight months on integrating offices and cultures and I am glad to say that we are one unified agency now.”
A strong believer of building long-term strategic partnerships with their clients, rather than chase quick bucks, they have been working with several multi-brand clients such as Tata Motors and Johnson & Johnson for over four years now, often starting with projects or individual brands and going on to win a larger portfolio on the back of their work. “We have also progressively been getting more brands from the stable of Reckitt Benckiser. Some of the other major clients we work with include Larsen & Toubro, Budweiser, Vespa, Siemens, ITC, JK Tyres and Dabur, to name a few,” she added.
The last 2 years have seen rapid team expansion. On the growth front, she said, “We grew from a size of about 100 to 300 necessitating us to relocate to larger offices In 2 out of 3 locations. The revenue and overall P&L is more than twice the size it was 2 years ago.”
From financial audits to media agency; explaining how has the transition been for her, Kapadia said, “Exciting, to say the least! Financial audits have provided a great foundation for being able to run any business, industry agnostic. After that, I have been in leadership roles across various industries, which have been a fabulous learning. This has also enabled me to approach clients and internal business problems differently, think laterally, and come up with innovative solutions to address these. Heading a digital marketing and technology agency in India at this stage is both, challenging and fulfilling, and I look forward to still more exciting times.”
Since she has been in the industry since long and has seen ups and downs sharing some of the things that she has observed and hope to implement locally are; Strong discipline leadership: Digital goes beyond just creative and strategy. Having good leaders for user experience, analytics, etc. makes all the difference; Innovation labs, rapid prototyping and a general focus on non-commercial research help create a great value proposition; Workflows and processes to work in large blended teams: Digital agencies in London and the US number in thousands. And this includes all kinds of left and right brain skill sets. They have cracked the art of working in large blended teams to produce great output, and as we scale up, it is important to bring that here and Structured collaboration models with an external pool of content creators, artists, influencers, publishers, technology start ups, etc.
On the digital front, baring the infrastructure, data speed and penetration challenges, she feels India catches up with the world really fast. Some of the big shifts that she sees are include Content at the heart of digital marketing and a boom in online video consumption. This will mean a lot of ‘for digital only’ quality video creation. Content on demand via DTH operators, online platforms and applications will also pick up; Mobile will be everything thus leading to a mobile first approach; the e-retail story will continue to flourish, but with greater consolidation in the sector and Use of big data for insight generation, messaging, measurement and hyper-targeting. Currently, it is largely just lip service, but we are beginning to see people starting to use it in smart ways.
No learning is ever really wasted, believes Kapadia and her background allows her to bring to the table a sound understanding of business, finance, strategy, technology, media, leadership and management. And all this really helps in this complex and ever changing landscape. “If you ask me personally, I would rather just hang up my boots and become a full time oil-free meals chef in the day and a bar tender at night ;),” she said while concluding.