Apart from being of the same age, the two new chiefs of DDB Mudra share the same dreams for the organisation. As they take over from the outgoing group CEO and MD Madhukar Kamath in July, the group MD (designate) Aditya Kanthy and group CEO (designate) Vineet Gupta, in an interaction with BrandWagon’s Meghna Sharma, talk about being aware of the challenges ahead of them and how they plan to take the organisation to the next level as it readies for a digital-driven transformation. Edited excerpts:
Both of you are in your late 30s. In today’s dynamic times, will your age play an important role in shaping up DDB Mudra going forward?
Aditya Kanthy: I see it as an advantage. Personally and professionally, if two people complement each other, it is good for the organisation. It is a coincidence that we are of the same age. And we don’t want to send out a message of ageism; it is all about the mindset. It so happens that when you belong to a certain generation and age group, there are many shared beliefs but this doesn’t necessarily mean that all young people agree on everything. We both want the same things for the organisation. And there are many people who have more years of experience than us and believe in the things that we do.
Vineet Gupta: Both of us are excited about the opportunity and what lies ahead. We just hope it trickles down to the least common denominator as far as the organisation is concerned. A CEO from a digital background… does this seal the theory that the next generations of CXOs will come from digital?
Gupta: I don’t think that’s necessary. Our point of view has been very clear that we are building an organisation that exists in the digital world, and not necessarily a digital organisation. These are two different things fundamentally. And I think there is enough of thinking and talent out there for us to be not restricted to digital. Yes, people who have been brought up in the digital world are slightly more comfortable in understanding the impact, figuring out trends, etc. They have an advantage but I wouldn’t say that the next breed is going to be all digital. I believe that it shouldn’t be.
Kanthy: Vineet’s USP isn’t that he is a digital guy. His testimony is the proof of leadership. He has built a great company and that skill travels irrespective of what business you are running. We have seen him groom good talent, build client relationships and grow the company. The leadership he brings to the table matters as much as his knowledge of the digital world.
What are the challenges ahead for you two? What changes can we see in the coming months at DDB Mudra?
Gupta: It is too early to talk about changes. And there are things which don’t need to be changed. The group has very significant strengths and anyone would be foolish to let go of those, just because things are changing. Look at the range of businesses (experiential, media, outdoor, advertising, digital, etc) the group has. And most of them, if not all, are really strong players in their respective domain. Our job is to leverage these strengths rather than changing them completely.
In terms of challenges, it is a complex world we are living in and the impact of that is changing every day. So, that’s the biggest challenge — how to keep pace. The pace of innovation is very fast. I would rather say this is not a challenge, but an opportunity. And our job is to make sense of these changes for our clients.
Are your clients, across domains, ready for such changes?
Gupta: Most clients are beginning to acknowledge the fact that things are changing. Some are ahead of the curve while some are still catching up. And this will always be the case.
Kanthy: I think we sometimes underestimate the pressure on clients for them to change. The pressure on clients is massive and they have to respond to these changes faster than agencies.
What’s taking agencies so much time to adapt?
Gupta: There’s a lot of movement happening in agencies. For instance, there might be someone with 20 years of experience, who is valuable, but if there is a requirement of someone who can handle the technology born, say, two years back — we need to balance that. Talent is a crunch.
Kanthy: Agencies do work for clients which is valuable and that is the reason why we have survived despite so many changes. But unless you have had a major crisis, not many have an incentive to change. That is probably one of the things which organisations need to be careful about. This mindset of ‘why change when all is well’ might not lead companies to push themselves.
Gupta: Everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone.
As a group, where do you see yourself vis-à-vis others in the industry?
Gupta: If we can be the partner of choice for clients across verticals, then we will be very happy. We want to make a real impact and help clients navigate these tough times and come out victorious. Personally, this is where I would like to see us in two years. You come to us and we will solve your problems. Where there is an opportunity, we will show up.
Kanthy: There are only two measurables — how many clients want to partner us and how many people want to work with us. If that’s happening, whatever be the ranking, we are doing our job.
Lastly, how does DDB plan to up its score on the metal tally front?
Gupta: Metals do help the business and we know we need to show up in certain award shows. If there is any award that matters to our clients, then we will be there. Or even if it matters to our people, we will be there. But as an organisation, it is not a priority for the next two-three years.