Interview: Pete Stein, president, Merkle Americas | The Financial Express

Interview: Pete Stein, president, Merkle Americas

Creating a collaborative, healthy work culture and retaining employees while also helping them nurture career goals are some of our focus areas in India

From a talent standpoint, India is a priority market for us.
From a talent standpoint, India is a priority market for us.

‘We expect India to contribute 50% of our workforce by 2024’

Dentsu’s global customer experience management company Merkle is expected to rake in half the network’s global business by 2025. Pete Stein, president, Merkle Americas tells Christina Moniz how the agency plans to do this and why India is a priority talent market. Edited excerpts:

Where does India stand in Merkle’s global scheme?

From a talent standpoint, India is a priority market for us. As a market for business and brands, it is definitely growing in importance. Factors like the adoption of new tech and the growing Indian middle class have played an important role in the evolution of this market.

Globally our workforce is about 16,000, of which 6,500 are from India. So while India makes up one-third of our workforce currently, I expect it to become 50% by next year. We are seeing incredible talent coming from several quality engineering schools here. Our team in India too has done an amazing job of building training programmes and encouraging a culture where young people have mentors to work with.

What goals have you outlined for the Indian team for this region?

The mandate is to just continue doing what we have been doing here, and to scale and grow the business. If you look at the companies we have acquired, they are all aligned with Merkle not just on the work or technology front but also on the business front. We want to be growing at 15-20% in this market. Creating a collaborative, healthy work culture and retaining employees while also helping them nurture career goals are some of our focus areas in India.

It’s been two years since you’ve been on board. How has the needle moved thus far?

The pandemic accelerated digital adoption, as we all know, and Merkle has been recording double-digit growth over the last couple of years. Aside from the existing data, analytics and martech capabilities, the agency has also added experience and commerce through recent acquisitions and with new talent on board.

The most recent acquisitions are LiveArea, which is commerce focussed, with a presence in the US, India and Europe. The other acquisition is Extentia, located in Pune, focussed on customer experience and more design-centric. It’s a great combination of design-led thinking with technology. We also acquired a digital transformation company called Pexlify in Ireland. Most of our clients are already working with us for their CRM (customer relationship management) or their data management. We have now added experience and commerce, which is a natural extension to what we have always offered. It fits very well with who we already are. We expect to sustain our growth momentum because digital adoption will continue at least for the next 10 years.

Given that competition today comes from even large consultancies who are doing good work with brands, how are you differentiating Merkle from the rest?

Commerce and connected experiences are a broad territory. We therefore compete with global consultancies, advertising holding companies, and ad agencies, not to mention pure strategy firms. This competition is also indicative of the reality of a growing market.

There are a few things we’ve already started doing to create differentiation. We ensure that we have the right culture where people can build careers and do exciting work. Secondly, we continue to invest in areas like AI and Web 3.0, which are new but hold a lot of opportunity. Further, we plan to address promising areas of growth and certain gaps in the market such as cloud engineering.

Today, we are 35% of Dentsu’s business and they have publicly stated that they want us to be 50% of their business by 2025 because we’re the network’s real growth engine.

To that end,

we have $500 million a year set aside for acquisitions. Some of this is invested in our existing teams and capabilities, and some of it is used to acquire new capabilities. In terms of future acquisitions, we are looking at companies that work in areas such as data and identity and B2B commerce, which could become a massive growth area. We plan to make acquisitions in these segments in the first half of this calendar year.

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First published on: 25-01-2023 at 08:42 IST