Business Today

Bigger, Better, Faster

Shamni Pande        Print Edition: Sep 16, 2012

Most headhunters would aver that good careers often belong to people who have taken daring calls at the right time. Given that, it makes sense to analyse developments in the digital media segment lately. Publicis Groupe, the French communications and media agency multinational, acquired Resultrix, an Indian performance marketing agency with a global footprint.

UK-based Aegis Media snapped up Communicate 2. Integrated communication agency JWT has taken a majority stake in Hungama Digital and buzz is that Interpublic Group is closing in on Interactive Avenues. The last five years have, in fact, been peppered with instances of large advertising and media networks acquiring independent digital companies, the most significant being WPP's acquisition of Quasar in 2007.

Ashish Bhasin Chairman, India, and CEO, South East Asia, Aegis Media
Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, India, and CEO, South East Asia, Aegis Media
"With the growth that digital media has seen, big advertising networks are hungry for inorganic growth and we are likely to witness many such developments in this category," says Dev Raman, Managing Partner at Lastaki, a boutique investment banking firm which was behind the acquisition of Indigo Consulting by Leo Burnett India and Communicate 2.

So, what should one make of these developments from a career perspective? "Career in digital media is a space that is now being likened to having 'emerging markets' on your CV," says Ratish Nair, Co-founder of digital media firms Interactive Avenues and Ad Magnet. After completing his post graduation from IIM-C, he worked with O&M and Euro RSCG and got his first brush with destiny in 2000 when he took up a job with digital agency Mediaturf, before becoming an entrepreneur.

These efforts may appear to be at the fringe of the Rs 25,594-crore advertising industry, given that it has revenues of just Rs 2,851 crore. But the real news is that this is unleashing the biggest tiger on the prowl, with growth rates of over 50 per cent.

What to Expect
SENIOR-LEVEL
25-50

MID-LEVEL
15-25

JUNIOR-LEVEL
6-10

Figures are salary ranges in Rs  lakh/annum
Source: Industry estimates
According to a recent report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and research firm IMRB, digital spending is expected to touch Rs 4,391 crore in 2012/13. The growth is attributed primarily to the sustained rise in mobile and Internet user penetration in India.

And it is not as if this segment is full of aliens. "Most people who have done well in the space are ones who have worked in traditional media," says Purvi Sheth, CEO, Shilputsi Consultants, an executive search firm that has also been involved with many pre and post acquisition talent transition in the digital media space.

However, the key, according to Sheth, for people who are making a transition from an independent set up to a larger communication group is their adjustment to, perhaps, working in a 'silo'. "In an outfit driven by entrepreneurial steak that is dominated by the drive of founders, people mostly find recognition in doing all kinds of roles," says Sheth. This could be different in a larger group, where roles could be more structured.

However, the flip side of this could be the reward where the organisation recognises this initiative and allows people to incubate and nurture similar other businesses.

For inspiration, consider the career trajectory of Tushar Vyas, Managing Partner at GroupM, who heads the entire digital media mandate for WPP Group in South Asia. After his engineering degree and postgraduate diploma in Management Communications from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA), Vyas, 37, began his career as a media planner with Fulcrum in 1998. He then transitioned to the digital unit for MindShare in 2001: "I was interested in the space and soon was heading the segment," he says. He has over 200 people, including the Quasar team, reporting to him.

Typically, digital media has been driven by those who have the entrepreneurial streak and are led by their interest: "Most big companies that are acquiring are doing so largely for the brand and equity that independent units have built over time but also, especially, for the people who have knowledge of the space," says Lastaki's Raman.

In any case, most of these acquisitions have been driven by the ability of people to actually develop business. "There is a latent need among larger agencies to find people who not only understand the digital needs of clients, but are able to generate more such demand," points out Raman. The independent agencies, on the other hand, seek partnerships with traditional communication networks as they are already central to any marketing conversation with the client.

The large agency network bosses are clear about the objective as well. "The whole idea is to nurture the ecosystem and actually get the winning team on board that has made a difference in the space," says Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, India, and CEO, South East Asia, Aegis Media. Digital is the sweetspot for the advertising industry and according to Bhasin almost everything is part of the digital space.

Whichever way one looks at the news, the implications are good. "Larger networks have the ability to provide opportunities and we know how much the marketers want digital to be part of any marketing activity," says Bhasin.

At any rate, a stint with digital media helps any aspiring marketing professional today: "It is embarrassing if you do not understand some of the basic language and its implications that is growing around the space," offers Ad Magnet's Nair.

While the understanding of this industry is still growing, so is the demand for professionals. The industry is looking for people who are interested and are open to roles involving client interface - pretty much like client servicing and also acquiring business. "It is not that radically different, just a new segment that is constantly changing and demands that you change and respond to people who post their reactions and needs instantly," says Nair. He should know, he has been there and done that. And the bottom line is that this is one area where, clearly, the demand for people exceeds supply.

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