Ogilvy India: A trio for the win?

Ogilvy India

Social Samosa sat down with Ogilvy India ‘s new CCOs – Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha, and Sukesh Nayak – understanding what transpired leading to the appointment of the trio.

“I wished I could tell you the name of our WhatsApp group but I won’t,” says Sukesh chuckling. “We have given ourselves a brilliant name and it all starts from there.” The chemistry shared by the trio was palpable in the conference room at Ogilvy’s new office as we sat down with the CCOs of the agency. Kainaz, Harshad and Sukesh laugh at this inside joke, leaving me to wonder what the name of the group could be.

Earlier this month, Ogilvy India announced the elevation of Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha, and Sukesh Nayak, adding the National mandate to their existing Mumbai Mandate. The move came close on the heels of Sonal Dabral announcing his exit from the agency.

While the news might have come as a surprise to the industry, the trio seems to be well prepared. Nervous and excited, nonetheless, well prepared & their chemistry appears to be the hero of it.  

Beginning from the beginning…

Kainaz & Harshad have been with the agency for a decade now while Sukesh has double that duration in his kitty leading to him being addressed as an ‘Ogilvy kid’ by the other two.

“10 years ago at this time we were getting ready to join Ogilvy,” quips Harshad. “If back then someone told us that we would be handling the national mandate in a decade, we’d have laughed at them.”

Kainaz & Harshad were brought into Ogilvy India by the former ECD, Abhijit Avasthi (Kinoo for everyone in the agency). From there the duo went on to work on many important accounts including Vodafone and Lenovo. Sukesh while having been at the agency from the last two decades had worked with Kainaz in Ulka during their junior days.

The trio suggests that having worked together in different phases of their career has created a mutual trust that played an important role in them being roped in for the national duties.

“The reason we were chosen was what the three of us collectively bring to the table,” explains Sukesh.

It was in 2017 that the trio was given the Mumbai mandate – Ogilvy’s flagship office not just in India, but Asia. “From a client & profit perspective Mumbai was doing well and I think that gave the management the confidence to assign us our new roles,” shares Kainaz.

The three CCOs have worked on multiple award-winning campaigns during their time at Ogilvy. Some of the notable ones include, Unilver Shower, a campaign focused on water wastage during long showers was helmed by Kainaz & Harshad; Google Reunion – the emotionally stirring tale of friendship was worked on by Sukesh.

The Balancing Act

Even in the press announcement, Ogilvy emphasized on the three of them adding the National mandate to their existing duties, which includes heading the Mumbai office. Their KRA now includes creating a creative vision for the agency, enabling creative thinking, and understanding client need.

“We are together to empower people to deliver because that was what was given to us,” remarks Harshad. “Our mandate is not to just keep doing more & more work but to help the team like our leaders once helped us,” he explains. The thought was strongly reflected by all three of them throughout our conversation.

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On a functional level, however, it includes a lot more travelling, jokes Sukesh. “It’s a lot of better time management and being on the job because something is happening somewhere all the time.”

“I feel our talent has to be more in the shape of putting the right people in the right place. That I think is going to be a challenge,” says Kainaz as she reflects on the task that lies ahead. She explains how it is not that the number of clients that have increased from 40 to 60 but that each client requires a different thing from their agency partner, a need they are in the process of figuring out.

Three leaders – one decision, a difficult task? Yes, you might think but the leaders claim it has been their forte. Kainaz goes on to share an instance when during an offsite in Goa, the three of them had an important decision to make and spent the entire morning in a closed room, exiting only when they had a POA.

“We are aligned with the kind of work Ogilvy should do. When that alignment is there we don’t have to be physically together all the time,” she shares.

The Piyush Factor

Even as the leaders take the reins of Ogilvy India, the influence of Piyush Pandey in their ethos is evident – a factor that according to them will play a crucial role in helping them take Ogilvy farther.

Sukesh & Kainaz can’t help but notice how Harshad, like Piyush, loves to drive a point home with cricket examples as he shares, “People marvel Sachin Tendulkar for his career spanning 24 odd years – Piyush outlives that and has been at the top of his game for far longer. He hasn’t even changed agencies and sowed the seeds of the culture Ogilvy boasts of today.”

What is the Ogilvy culture you wonder? The trio explains that Piyush as a person enabled the thriving of different styles of work and leaders under one roof. The adman did not limit the agency’s responsibilities to his select handful of people nor did he curb ideas if they were different from what he did.

“Ogilvy is the same agency where Vodafone, Fevicol, and Cadbury – all did their different kind of work and thrived,” says Kainaz sharing her two cents.

Sukesh further sheds light on Piyush’s role in carving their leaderships with a quick reminisce. “Piyush taught me that it is ok to make mistakes,” he states. “That as a leader you need to allow your team to make mistakes, for that empowers them to work boldly. When we start playing safe we start working in a set pattern which isn’t good for the agency.”

This learning came from an incident where Sukesh, after using a select piece of track for a campaign had to bear the brunt of the creators of the original track. “It was about a track we used, a few things transpired and the creators of the track came behind us. I remember thinking – shit man, Piyush is going to be mad at me,” he recollects. “His response, however, was – Koi nai, galti hota hai – Move on.”

How do they feel about filling the shoes of a leader of such magnificence? “If you know anything about Piyush you know he isn’t the distant guiding light. He is still in the thick of work and we love it to be that way,” comments Harshad.

Looking forward…

The way forward for the new CCOs is simple – give the opportunities we received to our peers now. On an operational level, their tasks include understanding client needs, placing the right talent at the right place, and creating good work.

With Cannes Lions 2020 around the corner, the trio feels excited about the work Ogilvy is to present. This includes, Fevicol’s 60th-anniversary sofa video, Cadbury Unity Bar, FeviCall – a radio activation for the adhesive brand, I will Wear Out Plastic by Ogilvy & Masaba, a design piece for Seagram by Ogilvy Delhi.

As they gear up for the above and more tasks, Kainaz recollects something she learned while studying psychology, “They say that the right amount of anxiety helps you perform better and that is the case with me. I am that amount of anxious.” From handling the Mumbai mandate to now the national, Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha and Sukesh Nayak have been moving forward one step at a time.

“I am not saying we’re completely prepared. Steering a ship as big as Ogilvy India you can only learn on the job,” she concludes.

PS: I still don’t know the name of their WhatsApp group and yes, I still wonder.


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