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Ajit Varghese in global role: The journey and challenges ahead

Varghese will soon relocate to London from Singapore to take over as President, Market Development, of the merged entity of MEC and Maxus

Ajit Varghese

When Ajit Varghese joined Maxus in 2006 as its managing director for the India market, the agency wasn't even nominated at the industry award events, let aside winning one. 

In last 11 years, under the stewardship of Varghese, the agency has not only grown 10 times in size to become the number 2 full service digital agency in India but has also left a similar imprint on the award circuit by being among the top awarded agencies. 

After making Maxus a major force in India, Varghese – who till now was the CEO for APAC region – is all set to take a global top role in the agency.

Varghese will soon relocate to London from Singapore to take over as President, Market Development, of the merged entity of MEC and Maxus. According to international media reports, Varghese will report to the CEO Tim Castree.

During his very successful stint in India, Varghese set the house in order and got major international clients such as Nokia, Vodafone, L’Oreal and ITC on board. When Nokia and Vodafone came to India, they were being handled by other agency groups worldwide but stuck to Maxus in India. "That was a huge statement about the strength of Maxus India as a force to reckon with. Then L’Oreal win in 2009-10 helped the agency change its perception," said an executive who has worked with Varghese at Maxus. 

"Building the social and marketing command centre was one of the major abilities developed under the leadership of Varghese as a result of which the agency now handles CRM for Nestle," the executive added.

The move came as a shot in the arm for Varghese, who would later become the CEO of APAC region. 

"Varghese always believed in walking the talk and giving more importance to culture than KPI. As a team player, he stressed upon being adaptive, developing intuition as hard skill and embracing redundancy," said another colleague, who want to be anonymous. 

He is also credited with establishing a strong number 2 brand in Motivator, which on a standalone basis is among the top 10 agency brands in India.

Varghese now joins the ranks of Indian media executives who have gone global. The recent names include the likes of R Gowthaman, who's the Global Chief Strategy Officer of Mindshare’s integrated performance unit and Vikram Sakhuja who was Global CEO of Maxus for about two years.

As the NewCo is expected to become the third largest agency worldwide after OMD and Carat, the role comes as a huge opportunity for Varghese with unforeseen challenges and hopefully a lot of learning as well.

For any Indian media executive, performing at a global scale has always been full of challenges. While it may not be tough to perform as far as product and knowledge is concerned. But when it comes to soft leadership skills, it's certainly not an easy walk. 

"It is undoubtedly challenging in terms of cultural and people management skills along with ability to cross network with people," a top Indian executive at one of the global agencies said. He did not wish to be named. 

"Performing becomes more of a challenge globally as data and content have taken centre stage and the agencies have to keep up the pace with data companies as well," he added. 

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