Sidharth Rao, Group CEO, dentsuMB Group has decided to move on from the agency. Rao and Amit Wadhwa, CEO, dentsu Creative India, confirmed the development to BestMediaInfo.com in an exclusive interview.
dentsuMB India will now come under the additional charge of Heeru Dingra, CEO, Isobar India group, supported by business leaders Ajit Devraj, Indrajeet Mookerjee and Harsh Shah. The new dentsuMB India leadership team will work with Rao through the transition and in close partnership with Amit Wadhwa, CEO for the entirety of dentsu’s Creative Service Line for India.
Rao was given the additional responsibility of CEO of the dentsuMB Group in June 2021 as part of dentsu’s restructuring of creative, digital and PR services.
In January 2020, Rao became the Chairman of dentsu’s creative agency Happy mcgarrybowen (HMB) India and Dentsu Webchutney. Before that, he was CEO of dentsu Webchutney.
Rao founded the company along with Sudesh Samaria in 1999. Webchutney was then acquired by dentsu in 2013 after buying out Network 18's stake in the agency. This was dentsu’s first local acquisition in India.
In October 2021, when PG Aditiya and Gautham Reghunath quit Webchutney, the agency was again brought back under his direct charge.
In an exclusive interview with BestMediaInfo.com, Rao and Wadhwa spoke about their journeys and future plans.
Sidharth, how is it to leave behind an agency (dentsu Webchutney) that you built from scratch?
Being acquired by dentsu has, by far, been the most important milestone in Webchutney’s journey. It has been a great, great ride. Together, dentsu India and Webchutney are miles ahead of where we started and there are absolutely no regrets. It has been almost 10 years since we were acquired by dentsu; 10 years to turning into a caretaker for the business rather than a co-founder. Most founders know and prepare themselves for this day to come. My friends and I are quite surprised it has taken me a decade to make this move. It is testimony to how dentsu has treated me here, making me feel like an integral part of the network while allowing Webchutney itself to flourish.
Amit, how would you react to Sidharth’s departure?
More than a colleague, what I would miss is a very good friend who I could meet so often because of work. But we have promised each other that we will continue to catch up as frequently as possible. So, we should be good. On the work front, you always want good people around. However, when he expressed his entrepreneurial 2.0 ambitions to me, I could not stop him. Also, the best part here is that we have a group of amazing leaders across domains and agencies wherein the functioning and the future of business is in safe hands, so we are not worried on that front at all.
Amit, how would Sidharth’s departure impact the progression of dentsu 2.0 vision?
I think we have already laid down a very strong foundation of the new dentsu that we are talking about here. The structure is in place, and it is strong. What we are seeing now is that this structure is functioning beautifully. It is a delight to see how the new leadership team is working together to build the vision of a stronger and more integrated dentsu. With all the pieces in place, we are confident that Sid’s decision to move on will not affect us adversely. In fact, that was one of the reasons Sid could take this decision confidently because we all know that his heart still beats for dentsu quite a bit much!
Sidharth, would you be worried about the future of the agency and people?
Not at all. The agency has been literally on autopilot for the last 2 to 3 years with a fantastic leadership team. My predominant role has been at a wider network-level mandate, starting with dentsuMB and the overall network transformation we have undertaken at dentsu. Also, Amit is a great leader and a fantastic comrade. He is the one to ensure that we get the best of opportunities. As I move on, I am glad that dentsu Webchutney is at a point where it is at its best; and what I take with me is a sense of immense pride in being associated with dentsu.
Amit, how would this impact people at Webchutney?
The good part about Sid is that he empowers people and makes sure he does not interfere in the regular running of the agency affairs. With the rest of the leadership team in place, I don’t see any of it impacting people as much; but then of course who doesn’t want good people around.
Like I said, with the leadership and client team intact there will not be any impact. Also, Sid is right there with us to ensure that the departure is smooth. So, all good.
Sidharth, the industry believes that you barely had reasons to stay back after Gautam Reghunath and PG Aditiya left. How would you react to this?
Well, I have said this before, I have always considered Gautam & PG as Webchutney's fellow co-founders over the last decade. While their exit was certainly a loss, over time, we’d also built a very strong second rung of leadership to run the show at Webchutney. Harsh Shah (Managing partner, dentsu Webchutney) is a fantastic leader who has spent almost a decade in Webchutney in his two stints; and with him and Arjuna, we continue to be a juggernaut. So, the agency itself is in good hands. As for me, it hasn’t been about finding reasons to stay back. It is simply that the entrepreneurship bug has been biting me for a long time and the sheer excitement of starting up again was too strong to resist.
Sidharth, what next now? Creation of another brand? If so, in which space?
There is just so much happening in the internet space. It is too exciting to watch, and resist. I am still evaluating, to be honest. There is plenty of time till my final date at dentsu. I will surely let you know when I am ready. Wish me luck!
Amit, what is your succession planning?
Like I said earlier, we have very able leaders within the system and our first preference is to give them the opportunity; that’s what we will endeavour. But having said that we are also about getting the best of talents from the world outside and onboarding them into our own where they can grow in experience and competence. We are still discussing this and working on it. You should hear from us soon once we are ready.