The last mover advantage will help us pole vault into the APAC region: Rohit Ohri caught up with Ohri to talk about his new role as Global Partner at FCB, his 8-year run at the agency, expectations from Dheeraj Sinha and FCB's increased focus on the APAC region

Akansha Srivastava
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The last mover advantage will help us pole vault into the APAC region: Rohit Ohri

Rohit Ohri

Last Friday, broke the story of Dheeraj Sinha quitting Publicis Groupe. His departure from the agency created a buzz that reverberated across boardrooms and coffee corners alike.

The big question on everyone’s lips was where was he headed next? The rumours in the grapevine had already begun that he’d be joining FCB Group India.

Come Tuesday this week, calming everyone’s curiosity, FCB announced that Sinha would be joining the agency as Group CEO India and South Asia.

On top of it, after spending 8-years at the agency, the agency's current India Group Chairman and CEO Rohit Ohri will be moving into a new strategic global role as FCB Global Partner.

With retirement not in plan in the near future, Ohri told that after taking care of P&Ls for 35 years in his career, he now wanted to be in a more strategy-led role. He also said that there couldn’t have been a better choice than Dheeraj Sinha for the Group CEO India and South Asia position.

Ohri spoke at length about his new role as Global Partner at FCB, his 8-year run at the agency, expectations from Dheeraj Sinha and FCB’s increased focus on the APAC region.


Firstly, I would like to know your feelings when you pass the baton to Dheeraj Sinha after so many years.

Eight years ago when I took up this job, the then FCB Group CEO Carter Murray gave me a clear mandate, which I have delivered over the years. Earlier in January, during our global meet in Mexico, I spoke with Tyler Turnbell (FCB Global CEO) about the next step for FCB and a new challenge for me. We also spoke about network development and the opportunities for the agency in the Asia Pacific region. I presented him with a plan that he embraced. At that moment, he extended a new opportunity for me to become a Global Partner within the company, responsible for overseeing APAC's growth strategy

Even at dentsu, in my role as CEO, Asia Pacific, I used to work from both India and Singapore and made dentsu’s major acquisitions back then. Currently, FCB wants to evolve its strategy for the APAC region. We do have existing agencies and affiliates in the region. All we need to do is to figure out the coherent story that we want to create across the APAC network and how we accelerate FCB’s growth in this part of the world.

So, the process of finding a new CEO for FCB India and South Asia began in January?

It was a long process where a global head hunter was involved. They did a full market scan and market mapping across the region. Then they presented a list of shortlisted candidates depending on what we have as a requisition. Later on, Dheeraj met Tyler and Susan Credle (Global chair and Global CCO) and then the rest is history. They were both really excited to have him as a part of the FCB family.

How and why did you zero in on Dheeraj?

We wanted to hire someone who understands FCB culture and is able to fit in. Dheeraj is a sensitive person and great at culture building. At Leo Burnett, he’s transformed the agency culture. It gave all of us a lot of confidence that he was the right guy.

What excited Dheeraj to take up this job?

In his job at Leo Burnett, he did a wonderful job of turning around the brand Leo Burnett. Before he joined the agency, there wasn’t much buzz around the agency. For him, the attraction point of joining FCB was the agency’s close-knit global network. The opportunities for each of the local market CEOs to work with Tyler and with CEOs across the world are great. While I’ve spent 22 years at WPP and 8 years now here at FCB, I’ve seen the power of collaboration here. All the CEOs and CCOs look out for each other. We are truly like a family. That is something that Dheeraj found exciting and very different from what he was doing in his current role.

What are your expectations from Dheeraj and his key mandate?

His mandate is to prepare the agency for future challenges while understanding the culture of the organisation. FCB’s philosophy is ‘creativity powered by data and technology’. His job will be to see if we have all the ingredients in the mix to continue living up to our philosophy in the future and finding solutions for our clients that set them apart in the marketplace.

How would you rate your innings at FCB Group India?

It's been a dream run for me in FCB. From a creative and business perspective, I couldn’t have asked more. I really enjoyed working with the global teams and the team in India.

Where else would you get an opportunity to have a creative powerhouse like Swati Bhattacharya. She's been a rockstar and has given FCB the wings to dream big and presence on the global stage. Robby Mathew, who heads Interface, has also been a great creative partner. He’s behind the work like ‘Punishing signal’ and ‘TR for teacher’.

Even when it comes to our account management team, people like Nitin Karkare, Vice Chairperson, FCB Ulka, Joe Thaliath, Vice Chair have such deep and meaningful relationships with the clients. Our leadership team including Kulvinder Ahluwalia, CEO, FCB Ulka, Debarpita Banerjee, CEO, FCB India and COO Gaurav Dudeja of FCB Interface is quite robust.

What will your new responsibilities be as the Global Partner at FCB and where will you be based?

I will continue to be based in India. My role as FCB Global Partner is to evolve the APAC strategy for the agency. In the next 5-6 months, I will chalk out the plan for APAC. At dentsu, I built the non-Japanese client network for the agency in APAC. Here at FCB, with creativity powered by data and technology as the centrepiece, we want to evolve our capabilities in the APAC. For example, I would like to look at the expansion opportunities for FCB/Six and Kinnect in the APAC region.

Currently, how strong is the APAC market for FCB other than India?

We are largely a North American brand along with some pockets of strength in the UK, South Africa, India and New Zealand. It is only now that the growth opportunities in APAC are attracting global agencies’ attention to the region. We have the last mover advantage in the APAC region which will help us come in pole vault and deliver in the market unlike already present agencies in the region who are currently going through the whole process of transformation.

Our story in APAC will be pretty much like the India story. India pole-vaulted over the developments that happened in the US over decades. The development story in India is leapfrogging. Similarly, FCB can build its capabilities thereby leapfrogging and using the last-mover advantage.

Because Dheeraj will be reporting to FCB Global CEO Tyler Turnbull directly, what will be the working relationship between you and Dheeraj?

The working relationship would be of collaboration just like other CEOs across the network.

Even before BMI broke the news of Dheeraj quitting Publicis, the grapevine rumours were that he would be joining FCB. People anticipated that Dheeraj would replace you. Some said that you probably wish to retire. Even after your new role is announced, people are still saying that this move is a step before retirement. What would you say?

I haven't given a thought to retirement. I’ve done the role of managing P&Ls for a very long time. I want to do a more strategy-focused role which can use a lot of my existing experience and also give me a whole new canvas to work on. Now, what I will do will impact the whole network and not just a country.

I'm deeply grateful to the universe for having a career spanning 35 years managing businesses only built on success. Over my entire career, there've been some great talented people who've worked with me and helped me achieve what I've managed to do.

During my tenure at JWT, the agency was the fastest-growing and most profitable office among all the JWT offices in the world. At dentsu, I transformed the agency and made its biggest acquisitions of Taproot and Webchutney. Taproot’s acquisition was one of the biggest acquisitions in the country. Nobody at that time could have imagined that Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi would agree to Taproot’s acquisition. Similarly, Webchutney is the best thing that happened to dentsu.

How have clients responded to Dheeraj Sinha joining FCB Group?

They are very optimistic. Most of our clients really rate him very highly, which is a great reassurance because we are in the people’s business where trust plays a huge role. I am really glad that there is such a positive response to our announcement.

FCB Swati Bhattacharya Leo Burnett Rohit Ohri Dheeraj Sinha GCB Group FCB/Six Kinnect Robby Mathew