‘OUR CONVICTION, DEDICATION AND PASSION DIFFERENTIATES US’
Havas Media Group India, the media arm of the French advertising group Havas, was launched in India in 2006 and in its 12 years of existence, it has been steered by Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group, India & South Asia and CEO, Havas Group, North for 11 years.
In 2007, when Nayyar took over the reins, the agency had a different name, and a very different reputation in the industry. Called the Media Planning Group (MPG) at that point, the agency was primarily known in the industry as the ‘Reckitt Agency’, given that Reckitt Benckiser was the biggest client that the agency was handling then. From there, the agency has come a long way, handling close to 150 clients currently.
For Nayyar, it has been a journey of many ups and downs. She remembers the resistance that she had faced when she had decided to joined MPG. “When I joined MPG from Starcom, many people said it was going to be the death of me because I was moving into a relatively smaller agency. I remember having thought then that if I don’t take up these challenges now, when will I? When I had joined Starcom four and a half years before joining MPG, it too had a small operation in Delhi, with only one client on board. So I knew I could turn it around but I needed good people around me to do that,” says Nayyar.
Building strong leadership was probably the first step towards changing the agency’s perception in the industry. “We already had Mohit Joshi on board and Uday Mohan joined after a couple of years. We have a strong leadership that has been with the agency for over seven years now. For me, it was extremely important to have the right kind of people around, to bond with them and work together with them. That worked,” says Nayyar. She also shares that her style of working is very different as she doesn’t believe in working as a boss and considers herself as a part of the team. “The growth of the agency is a collective effort of the team,” she adds.
Perhaps that is what has helped build a lot of confidence among the agency’s clients. The agency boasts of having a high retention rate of its clients. States Nayyar, “For us, winning new business is very important. But retaining existing clients is equally important. Today, we have clients who have been with us for over six years now.”
So what is it that helped turn around the industry’s perception of the agency? Nayyar feels it is the confidence that the team has in themselves. “It’s got a lot to do with the way we went into the marketplace, aggressively pitching to clients and trying to tell them that we are not really only an RB agency. One of the first pitches we went for at that time was Voltas. I can never forget how Voltas gave us a chance and said, ‘Okay, go ahead and prove yourself.’ And that’s what we did. It’s partly got to do with the fact that we had a lot of confidence in ourselves to tell clients that once they hire us, they will not regret their decision. What really distinguished us from other agencies at that point, and even today, is the passion with which we went to clients. We had a good, robust product which has been improving over the years. While at that time, our product was not as robust as
it is today, our conviction, dedication and the passion that we brought to the table helped us win over clients,” she says.
Today, the agency handles global companies like Hyundai, LG and Emirates while also handling some home-grown brands like Daawat Basmati Rice and Radico Khaitan, amongst others. One assumes that global wins of international clients helped Havas secure the accounts automatically in India too, but Nayyar rebuts that. “None of the global accounts fell into our laps automatically. We did get support from our global teams, but for each of the global wins, we had to work on proper, separate pitches for their businesses in India. As they say, success begets success. Once we won these big clients, people started taking notice of us and things turned around from there.”
While the agency started off with a team of around 50 people, today the number has gone up to 300. The agency has a total of seven offices across India. Another thing that differentiated the agency from most of its competitors, feels Nayyar, is the fact that they realized, quite early, the possibilities of Digital which made them one of its earliest adopters. Says Nayyar, “One very important thing which we did during my tenure and are continuing to build upon is keeping Digital at the core of the agency. We have been one of the earliest adopters and have been pushing Digital right from 2008-09. While India has been a little late in terms of digital adaptation, globally we have been the first movers. That made us stand out.” She adds that the robustness of the tools that the agency has built over years has also helped make a strong point at pitches.
Currently, the market-share of the agency is somewhere around 7%. So where does Nayyar want to see the agency in the next few years? She says, “I don’t know whether I want to look at it from a marketshare perspective because the largest agency holds a 45% market-share. I want to be seen as an agency that is a partner to its clients, and most of our clients see us like that. I want to be seen as an agency that is passionate about the client’s business. These are two very important things that we have been able to demonstrate over the years, and we want to continue doing that. The client has to see value in the partnership with us. They should not be treating us like vendors. Fortunately for us, once we bond with our clients, they do not see that happening. They value us almost like an extension of their marketing arm. And I would really like to see myself move in that direction. Today, we have a 7% market-share and are not a part of WPP, IPG or Publicis. But today Havas, as an agency, after being acquired by Vivendi, has become the world’s biggest media and entertainment company. We are bigger than WPP today and that brings in a lot of credibility. The market is sitting up and taking notice of us, and I hope that this continues.”
To celebrate Nayyar’s 11-year journey with Havas, her team at the agency has come out with a book entitled, ‘A Decade+1 Together’. The book documents her journey with the organization and talks about how Nayyar and the agency have evolved together.