What started as a talent development program by the visionary ad man and FCB Ulka’s former Chairman, Anil Kapoor, over 32 years back, till date Star One continues to be the gateway for young graduates to become a part of the ‘Never Finished’ FCB Group.
Recalling the adman who had incepted this very program which allows one to enter the world of FCB Group post attending a one-and-a-half month-long training program, Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO, FCB Group India, stated that the idea was to bring the best talent into the agency, train and groom them from the beginning into FCB's culture and thinking, and help them grow from the very basic.
While everybody in the ad industry laments a dearth of talent, he combats the same chain of thought, quite severely, by urging the people to ‘stop complaining’ about it and ‘start doing something’ about it. That was precisely the thought behind starting the program named ‘Star One’, the nomenclature of which was selected keeping in mind the ad agency ‘Ulka’ which essentially means a meteor (a flying rock which shines brightly).
“Star One is perhaps one of the earliest initiatives by any agency which not only allows one to start recruiting and training people and invest both time and money into their training, just so these young graduates from management schools get hands-on training and learnings upon the tools of FCB and understand how we work, what we think or expect and more importantly what's our culture,” he said.
Further, he also shared that, unlike other agency-run programs wherein management trainees are thrown on the deep end of routine work relatively quickly, FCB's Star One graduates, during the first 30 days are not just exposed to research or client-led sessions but tackle all aspects of the business.
A sneak peek into FCB’s StarOne Program-
He also pointed out that every single department leader is there to train these professionals, be it in operations, planning, strategy, creative, client relations, digital technology, data, etc. giving them real-world skills and making them better armed with more knowledge and a better attitude to win.
Moreover, the trainees also gain a holistic understanding of some of the best ad works, know what working in an ad agency is like, what to expect and even what it takes to succeed in an advertising career in realistic terms, making them stick around the agency for a more extended period, rather than be disillusioned and move out of advertising itself.
Having existed for 33 years now, some of the notable alumni of the earlier batches of 'Star One' program who have reached leadership positions at the group level today include Savitha Mathai, Chief Talent Officer, FCB Group India; Kulvinder Ahluwalia, CEO, FCB Ulka; Rakesh Menon, Chief Creative Officer, FCB Interface Mumbai, as well as Ruchita Purohit, EVP- Digital, FCB Interface amongst others.
Some of FCB’s ex-Star One graduates who have now moved on to the brand side or become entrepreneurs and marking a mark in the industry also include Manan Valia, Chief Brand Manager, ICICI Bank; Girish Kalra, CMO, TATA AIA Life Insurance and Ravi Jadhav, Founder and CEO, Ravi Jadhav Films, etc.
Highlighting the point of relevance for the Star One program, despite most of the people leaving the agency or even the ad world after the program as part of regular churn, Ohri stated that he'd be delighted even if five-six of the 30 people who were a part of the program stayed back in the agency as that'd be an enormously rewarding as well as a good return for the agency's time, money and effort spent in training as these professionals would have truly assimilated what FCB is all about, absorbed the culture and have grown with the agency.
“It's worth it from a culture-building stance as it creates positivity in the agency when all the senior people meet up with the young talent and explain the organisation's culture. Plus, it's a great internal and external tool because the people who stay back are likely to become big leaders in the company. Rather than complaining and doing nothing about it, we should find solutions as people who lead organisations and we must actually feed this talent funnel; otherwise, there will not be a future of advertising,” he added.
He pointed out that the recently culminated 33rd batch of the FCB Star One program has been the largest batch of StarOne program to date and consisted of 31 graduates with diverse backgrounds and experiences in subjects like Psychology, Journalism, Mass Communication, Biotechnology and Advertising. Of these 31 professionals, 25 were females and 6 were males, not by design but solely based on their talent.
Commenting on what all departments these graduates are hired into upon the completion of the entry-level management training program, Ohri stated that while the art people are obviously brought in from art schools to work on the art side of the business, the rest of the talent is basically evaluated, especially between account management and planning, and then advised to join the department for which they have the aptitude, interest or even prior summer program experience in.
Upon being questioned as to how people's aspiration for getting into mainstream advertising has changed over the years, Ohri replied that the fundamental change that has come around in today's time is that as compared to the times when he joined advertising, young people of the current day and age know much more about advertising that the days when it was a new profession that not many people knew about.
“While today people are more aware, there are multiple options for creatives as well, which often seems to be a flip side since earlier people who wanted to be in the creative business had only one option, advertising, but today there are far too many options. But that’s the real world you must compete in as part of living in this fiercely competitive world,” he added.
Further, responding to a question on what the group is doing to combat the tag of 'not a high paying' profession that advertising has in the current times, he stated that while advertising industry is not as competitive as other possible alternatives for the young folks, it is through programs like Star One which are an immense value add for the young exuberant to get properly trained and oriented and grow themselves as individuals, which in itself is worth more than a few thousand rupees that one would get extra in other industries.
“The added value that we're giving to our young people is that when they come in, amongst other things, what we do is we also give them a vision of what advertising and their growth could be if they chose to stay back and grow into leadership roles like CEOs, CCOs, etc. where the industry does share a similar salary benchmark,” he pointed out.