Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO at Dentsu Aegis Network India, speaks with Outbrain’s Digitalks about the agency’s growth, the importance of people, and value as a core to their success and the future of digital advertising.
Back in 2008, Dentsu Aegis Network started its operations in India with 60 odd employees.
The likes of IPG had already been in the market for +90 years and they had a lot of catching up to do. Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO, DAN India explains that right from the start they recognized that future growth was not going to be in the traditional advertising of the past but rather the focus would be on Digital.
“We identified this development quite early on and as a strategy; we heavily invested in digital, both organically and by partnering with other players in the market. Our focus was to find the latest technology”, he said.
DAN is an Indian but also a Global success story. Needless to say, the strategy succeeded and helped future proof them for ongoing success.
While digital is still a big part of their strategy, they work with brands across all channels and creative. Giving advertisers a unified approach is part of the secret to their success. “Of our employees, approximately 2000 are focused on digital channels, but we still very much cover more traditional advertising media and creative teams. One of our big successes is our “One DAN” approach – whereby we work with our brands in a unified approach. Wherever we go in the market, we go as one single team.”
In his interview with Digitalks, Sandeep explores with Bhadkamkar the benefits but also challenges of an acquisition led approach. While finding scale was a key driver, Bhadkamkar takes a very thoughtful approach to the people and value elements of acquisitions.
From a people perspective, acquisitions can be a challenging managerial experience, especially when bringing independent entrepreneurs into a larger organization, but at DAN that seemed to be less of an issue.
“This is the beauty of DAN’s culture, the Entrepreneur spirit within DAN never goes away, and that has been the true value of DAN. Globally we operate on values including Ambition, Agility, and collaboration, and these are the values we look for in our partners. As a team we are quite hungry, always looking for a new challenge and the freedom to pursue those challenges and dreams”.
People and values are clearly very important to the industry leader. Acquisitions can be a tricky thing and integrating teams and expertise even more so. When probed further on what he views as the secret to their success he shares that he puts people and values at the core.
“We are in a people business, so people are the most important thing. Then there is the values system, making sure that any partner we bring in has values that match ours. Even if it is a very profitable business if the value systems don’t match it is going to fail.”
Other important elements he touched upon are vision, ambition, and drive, and finally, integration and he emphasizes fast integration is key.
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Comparing acquisitions to relationships, Bhadkamkar goes to make a wonderful analogy:
“What I have learned in the last few years, it is essential to spell out right at the beginning what you expect. It’s a bit like a marriage, the entire journey you have to be transparent with each other”.
Last year, Bhadkamkar took on the CEO role, having previously held the CFO position for more than 10 years. Considering his background, he seems especially well-positioned to touch upon an industry hot topic- From Mad Men to Math Men?
But Bhadkamkar is very clear on this “creativity is still at the core; data is the engine that helps improve the creative”.
From CFO to CEO, he has overseen many acquisitions, integrations, and the whole journey from one to the other. While previously he was more focused on numbers, people are a lot more of his focus today. “When I was a CFO, my goal before I went to sleep at night was that my inbox was empty, that every email had been read and answered. Now my focus is that those who are working with me or reporting to me, that their emails are all read. When asked how is he settling into this new role. he said, “I see myself more as a businessman who loves the craft of advertising.”
So, what can we expect next from DAN? According to the expert, more acquisitions were still an option, but now that the organization was more mature, consolidation is also a priority.
DAN came into the market strong in digital. They saw the opportunity early and prepared for it, so how do they foresee some of the data issues the industry is suffering from today? What happens in a cookie-less world?
According to him, a cookieless world is simply a reality. Then there are GDPR or Indian data protection laws. However, he emphasizes that the advantage they have today is that we all know this is coming and can prepare for it. At DAN they already have a team working on it. “We are working to educate our clients, and prepare them, and their systems. It will definitely change the way we have operated until now, and we must the teams. The positive is that the Indian consumer is moving to mobile, and a lot of evolution is coming from that.”
So, what are his next big predictions for the industry?
“Digital is being disrupted and the largest trend is still programmatic. But aside from that, we see the three V’s-like trend to follow- Voice (from a search perspective), Video (which will be a growth driver online), Vernacular (regional growth).”
Watch the complete video interview here.