Ashish Bhasin gets candid about his 30 year journey and M & E industry in India

Ashish Bhasin

From his entry in the media sector to the future of media and entertainment in India –  Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network – South Asia bears it all. 

“We were just moving in from the print era to the television era and that was the time when liberalization hadn’t even happened. Advertising really took off post 80s and early 90s,” shared Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network – South Asia. “In those days if you spoke good English, were a theatre artist or even from South Mumbai, you got into advertising. And then came in a bunch of MBAs like myself for example to whom it was a business,” he added, sharing the beginning of his exciting 30 year long journey.

Soon faces such as Piyush Pandey and R.Balki made big in advertising and media monies became much larger; media agencies were investing in data. Bhasin thinks that now is the phase where digital is going to be very important.

DAN’s entry in digital

“We got into digital out of necessity.”

“We still didn’t have much of an operation in India with only 40-50 people. My competitors, on the other hand, WPP and IPG had been in the market for 100 years before me. I was 18-19 years late into the market. But I found a funny thing when I attended a seminar by one of our competitors on marketing spends landscape, where he mentioned that digital is only 4%. There I discovered – it is where big opportunities lay for us. If our competitors aren’t looking at it then we should”, he elucidated on DAN’s digital journey.

Also Read: Live Blog: Exciting and important updates from #SMLive2018

He further shared that digital, going ahead, will be one-fourth of the market and DAN gets over 42% of revenues from digital. In hindsight, the decision of focusing more on digital, became a profitable one for the network, which went onto acquire many independent agencies like Taproot, Communicate 2, WATConsult, Web Chutney, and iProspect to name a few.

“In a way we led the digital revolution wherein we prodded our clients to innovate more on the digital side and they were very co-operative. Today out of our 3500 odd people in India almost 1650 odd are in digital and out of our 25 agencies in India we have 8 digital agencies as a part of our network”, according to Bhasin.

The acquisition protocol

When asked what are the things they consider while acquiring an agency, he explained that in general they never look at acquisitions for profit. There has to be a strategic fit.

“Any agency we look out for acquiring should fulfill three things,” Bhasin shared. “Firstly it should fill the capability we don’t have and that’s how we acquired Communicate 2 for Performance and it made us the number one player in the category. Now we are three times larger than our next competitor. Secondly, the acquisition should be something we add scale because I believe that it’s the business of scale and then come innovation. Over-riding all of this, chemistry and people are what matter. Anybody whom we partner with should have similar values because you spend a major chunk of your waking hours with your colleagues and if you partner with people who don’t have similar values it won’t work, it will always be an unhappy kind of an ending,” he added.

Bhasin highlighted that they managed to build a culture where entrepreneurs tend to thrive and let them create their own identity, maintain their sub-culture.

Future of digital

Bhasin believes that influencer marketing has without any doubt become an important facet of marketing nowadays, but the only thing that’s of great concern is that when influencers claim to have so many number of followers, we don’t know how genuine they are. “We as an industry in India need to understand that which of the influencers have genuine influence and on whom”, expressed Bhasin.

Today when we talk about the measurement analytics on digital, there are none as such. This concerns the industry expert as well. “This seems the medium which is more measurable where every metric is important but we as an industry haven’t evolved for a common currency to deal with”, he said.

When it comes to new-age entrepreneurs, he stated that they don’t realize the importance of revenues. As soon as someone reaches a million viewers or so, they think that they have achieved the goal. But monetization ways are what they lack. Also sharing his views on the increasing importance of Artificial Intelligence, he feels it will definitely be an important thing going forward but human creativity will never go out of fashion, AI can never replace it.

While many good work comes from India we have somewhat lacked in packaging it well.  “Follow the consumer, trends will be automatically visible”, said Bhasin when asked in what ways brands and digital agencies should follow trends.

Ashish Bhasin shared his opinions in the Keynote session at the second edition of Indian’s first Facebook Live conference by Social Samosa – #SMLive2018.