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We are looking for acquisitions in digital space, says Vishnu Mohan on Havas Group’s India plan

In an interview with, Mohan reveals the transformation strategy of the company. He says the group wants to be among the bigger players in the digital segment and is planning to make aggressive investments

Vishnu Mohan

The Havas Group has set out a road map to transform itself from a communications-based company to a full-fledged content and entertainment company.

Over the next year and a half, the group is likely to focus aggressively on acquiring agencies in the digital segment, invest more on its creative businesses and bring in more synergy in the group by moving towards an integrated model, Vishnu Mohan, Chairman and CEO of Havas Group, India and Southeast Asia, told in an interview.

“We are beginning to move from just a communication company to an overall media and entertainment company and that’s where we believe we have a point of differentiation from the market. Content and entertainment is becoming the solution to the clients’ problems,” Mohan said.

He said the group wanted to be among the bigger players in digital. Hence, significant investments were likely to be made in making acquisitions in the digital space.

“Some of the inorganic investments are in the digital and performance marketing space. We have the right strength and capabilities but we want to be much bigger and stronger in the digital space by significantly scaling up,” Mohan said.

The group is looking to expand and strengthen its assets in its group brand Vivendi to make deeper inroads in the content segment.

“The various assets that we have under Vivendi, many of which are already in India, give us the key differentiation in the market that are much more content-driven and content-centric than just ad-driven,” he added.

In the media business, Havas Group is among the top seven players. The company is now looking at taking its creative business to the centre stage as well.

“We have a 6-7% market share, data shows. Our media organisation is much stronger than our creative organisation and we have some way to go. This will be our key priority to begin with to strengthen our organisation and some of our infusion in talent would be much more in that area, which will help to change and transform our creative offerings,” Mohan said.

When asked how difficult is it to maintain margins when agency businesses in India are facing a lot of challenges, Mohan said the industry as a whole was to be blamed for driving this cut-throatness, which is eventually diminishing the value of work agencies do.

He said that commanding the right value entirely depends on how an agency approaches business.

“You get surprised by the entrants in our market and being able to make more. I think at the end of the day it is all about talent. If you have the right talent and the way you approach the business, you will be able to command the right value," Mohan said.

He said the clients wanted to work on an outcome-based model. “The world is moving towards an outcome-based model from an inputs-based model. A lot of the cut-throatness is happening because of the commissions. When we go and approach our clients, we are putting together solutions and remuneration model, which is very outcome-driven,” he said.

When asked why India is far behind global counterparts in digital transformation, Mohan said, “It’s a journey. Today, as an industry, there are gaps when compared to many other developed markets. It’s just a matter of time and we will be there. Everyone is investing heavily in training and development and transportation of ideas, practices and case studies from other parts of the world. But at the same time, the indigenous development in many areas that India is bringing is truly global class.”

Integrated strategy to a unified, client-centric leadership structure

Havas has roped in Rana Barua as Group CEO as a part of its ‘Together’ strategy that brings together Havas Group agencies of different disciplines — creative, media, health — within a single location known as the Havas Village.

The group will soon announce more appointments across various disciplines that will add on to its current strength.

“Rather than being creative-led or media-led, our ‘together’ strategy is going to be business-led,” Mohan said.

Explaining the thought behind the together strategy, Mohan said, “We are trying to make sure that the strategy is one — one central strategy team, one central social team, wherever possible integration of client servicing teams, etc. Because that’s what we need. We need client centricity.”

“We talk about client, content and data — fundamental pillars that drive the most important forms of future perspective,” he added.

“Across our offices in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, it’s not just about being under one roof, we are also felicitating the structure that is there. All the strategic resources we have are seated together and managed by one single chief strategy officer. We want to ensure that the assets, research and proprietary knowledge that we have on any side are relevant to each other in offering solutions,” Mohan added.

He said that under the new strategy, the group is ensuring that every piece of content has data-driven creativity attached to it and similarly, every piece of media plan needs the sense of imagination in terms of what content needs to accompany this.

He said that the integration under the new strategy will be complete in next the 12-18 months, in India.

“Over the 10 months, I have moved eight markets across South East Asia to this client-centric model with unified leadership. Today we have 40-50 villages already across the world, which are working well and now kicking off in India with the appointment of Barua,” he said.

Rana will be responsible for building an aggressive growth strategy for the brand that will include both organic and inorganic investments.

All the brands under Havas Group will exist and all the heads of individual brands will report to Barua.

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