How Havas Creative India is transforming itself to be future-ready

Havas Creative India's leadership team: CEO Tarun Jha, CSO Anirban Mozumdar and CCO Anupama Ramaswamy, speak with BestMediaInfo's Editor Akansha Srivastava about its growth plans

Akansha Srivastava
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How Havas Creative India is transforming itself to be future-ready

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Havas Group India has amped up its efforts towards strengthening its creative wing by hiring great talent with its ‘Village’ and ‘Meaningful brands’ philosophy at the core. 

Havas Creative India recently onboarded Tarun Jha (former Skoda’s Head of Marketing) as CEO and Anirban Mozumdar as Chief Strategy Officer (former 82.5’s CSO). Anupama Ramaswamy, former Managing Partner and NCD at Dentsu Creative too joined Havas last year as its Chief Creative Officer.

(L-R) Anirban Mozumdar, Anupama Ramaswamy, Tarun Jha

Mozumdar said that Havas spent time preparing its creative canvas in the last few years. “We are a fairly young agency. We have witnessed a significant amount of growth in terms of clients we’ve been adding, whether it’s Citroën, Reckitt, Vivo, Celio, Skoda or Coca-Cola.” 

Mozumdar further said that Havas is working towards creating a model for the future. “While it’s easy to say ‘data-driven creativity’, it requires a lot of work. We’ve been investing and working on that front. Havas is the only agency with three proprietary data studies: Meaningful brand study, Prosumer report and Customer experience X index.”  

“Watch the space as the phase of consolidation, inorganic growth and investment in delivering new-age model and talent is on the anvil,” he added.  

In a very uncommon move, having spent close to 20 years as a marketer, Jha recently took the leap of faith and shifted to the creative agency side by becoming the CEO at Havas Worldwide. Although, Jha calls it “greatly challenging and interesting, but not alien” as he’s familiar with the advertising world and as a client has been involved in communications, media and advertising for years now. 

“Now at Havas, I will be wearing the client’s shoes on this side and acting like an in-house client. I will be the client’s spokesperson within the agency. My job is to interpret the client’s problem and try to find integrated solutions within the agency,” Jha said.  

Speaking about why he joined Havas, Jha said that Havas’ wonderfully integrated agency network model is very alluring. He said, “Havas’ ‘Village’ philosophy of finding integrated solutions sitting under one roof is something I’ve been doing from the other side while being a client. As a client I was trying to get multiple agencies to develop a solution, here we have everything in order. Along with that, Havas’ ‘meaningful brand’ discourse resonates with my belief. I have been doing this for automotive brands for years, now I wanted to do the same for different categories of brands.” 

Even for Ramaswamy, the agency’s ‘Havas Village’ and ‘Meaningful brands’ philosophy really stands out. She said, “We work under one roof without any creative silos. Our ‘meaningful brand’ philosophy helps us put across our brands in a very differentiated manner. Our core DNA is Vivendi, one of the biggest names in content and entertainment, which also sets us in a unique position.” 

Pointing at the growth trajectory of Havas, Jha said that having three agencies in the past, it now has 15 agencies under one umbrella.  “These agencies have diverse skill sets, but are working towards finding a single goal of offering integrated solutions. While a client has one line business challenge, the solution is not in just one marketing activity but multiple solutions. Under our Village philosophy, we huddle together to find integrated solutions to the client's problems.”

Jha then said that Havas is now building a strong team of new-age thinkers who look at solutions from all possible angles. He commented, “People below the age of 25 think very differently from people our age. We have had a certain way of thinking all these years, but we love to be challenged by this younger generation. The younger lot helps us think and evolve to come up with better solutions.”

While Havas Creative goes all out to pitch brands across categories, it ensures to spend time on the clients’ brief and understand its real problem than the stated one as part of a well-strategised pitch process, shared Mozumdar. 

Another aspect that Havas Creative keeps in mind before working on a pitch is the ambition and the appetite of the client rather than their size. Mozumdar said, “There are so many brands at a certain age of evolution. We can’t have a limited view on a brand basis its current size. Its future ambition, space in the market and shared vision are important aspects” 

The only thing that bothers Ramaswamy in the world of creativity is the fear of being outdated. She said, “The younger generation keeps us on our toes. The creative landscape is changing very quickly. People are exposed to so much content. So, if you don’t keep yourself relevant, you will get redundant. That’s what makes me very nervous. I believe that if we stop learning, we will vanish. Being open and learning from youngsters come to the rescue.”

Not just learning from the youngsters, but also the day-to-day knowledge sharing that happens at Havas is also very helpful for Ramaswamy. “Anything happening in another part of the globe will come to you within a day. I have never seen this anywhere else. Havas’ learning repository is fantastic: learning from the globe, learning through training, learning from youngsters and learning from our observations,” she said. 

When it comes to attracting and retaining good talent, Ramaswamy believes in motivating them to become leaders of tomorrow and adding value to their lives. 

Jha added, “We have a well-organised and systematised way of nurturing talent. From the very beginning, we have something called ‘Spark’. As they move ahead, we have an excellent induction programme called Havas Ascend. For high-potential employees, we have a programme called Bolt. For people who are further in their careers, Havas has a programme called Next-gen, where they travel between countries for learning purposes.” 

When asked about whether a better profit margin depends largely on better negotiation with the clients and better management of the business, or are there more aspects to this? Jha answered, “We have a strategic role to play and are not vendors. We are in the business of a talent which we nurture and it gives us solutions at a cost. As an industry, we must educate clients that we are strategic partners and have structures in place to run the business. This awareness among clients will help us negotiate with them well. Clients are not buying fruits and vegetables from us. Our work is not transactional. On the other hand, as agencies, we must manage our costs better.”

On a concluding note, Mozumdar said that the future of advertising is that there would be no advertising. Explaining the notion behind this statement, he said, “Consumers know why a brand is advertising and seeking returns on their attention also. We are very excited that Havas’ core DNA comes from Vivendi which owns brands like Canal+. We have a very strong content and entertainment core - including brands like Gameloft and Universal Music. Havas has an advantage over other network agencies because we are part of the brands which are very much part of the pop culture and are in the entertainment space. It’s just a question about putting the right kind of solutions together.”

Anupama Ramaswamy Havas Creative client creative Havas group India talent business pitches agency Anirban Mozumdar Havas Creative India Tarun Jha