DAN Interviews

We want Dentsu Aegis Network to be No.2 by end-2017: Ashish Bhasin

Author | PRADYUMAN MAHESHWARI | June 3,2015

Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO – South Asia of Dentsu Aegis Network, who would take overall charge of the network in India and South Asia, spoke to Pradyuman Maheshwari on the advantages of an integrated agency netwok and his plans for the next few years.

What does this development mean for your business?
What we're actually trying to achieve is have just one P/L for the country. We believe we can service the needs of clients seeking special help – be it digital search or social media, in outdoor etc, without the work being done in silos. The legacy creative agencies, each about 100 years' old, aren't able to move talent freely. With Dentsu Aegis Network, we are able to do that.

It's been in the works for some six-odd months now, right?
These things do take time. We are a large organisation now, with 1,700 staffers, 700 of who are in digital alone. We have15 standalone companies, four of these being in digital.

What are the targets you have set yourself post this integration?
In India, we had a very small and late start. We only had Carat on the Aegis side and Dentsu has also been a relative young network. Our competitors have been here for 90 to 100 years. We have a long way to catch up. I have a clear vision that by the end of 2017, we must be the distinct No.2 group in the country. At the moment, WPP is clearly the largest. IPG is quite big and then there is us, Omnicom and Publicis being roughly of the same size. So, we're at No.3 today and there are other contenders too. We want to be the distinct No.2 in two-and-a-half years. If we have to do that, it has to be a combination of good organic growth, up-selling and cross-selling all our services to our clients. So, if today a client is buying only media services from us, tomorrow we should be able to bring digital services to him or search to him or creative services. Our own clients who we know well and already have a relationship with, it's much easier for them to trust us for a larger repertoire.

End-2017 is pretty ambitious...
We've been the fastest growing agency group for the last two years. We've come a long way from where we were and the way I look at it is that there are still competitors who are a long way ahead of us, so we have to make sure that we don't look back and we just have to make sure that our growth is disproportionate to the market. We're growing at least two-and-a-half to three times of the market growth rate. If we can sustain this for another three years or so, we'll be a very clear No 2 in the market.

Any acquisitions on the anvil. One hears that the Dentsu Aegis Network is hungry for more!
Yes, we are. See, the thing is I'm 90 years late in this market

On a personal front, is it good to get back to creative?
Of course. I started off and two-thirds of my career has been in creative. Obviously, there is the thrill and joy of going back to it, looking at good creative work, interacting with creative directors. I think the exciting today is given the technology and business prospects being so vast, how do you take it to the next level?

What's more fun and creative? The media or creative part of the ad business?
The biggest fun, challenge or opportunity is bringing it together. I don't think creative or media should work separately from each other. That doesn't mean I'm saying they should be bundled together. That's not going to happen. The door is bolted on that one. If we can find a way to make our digital, media and creative agencies work together, we'd have created magic which no one else can. That's really the philosophy of one P/L.