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Sunday, April 14, 2013

JWT sees a game-changer in digital space

This Q&A first appeared in DNA Money edition on Monday, Mar 11, 2013.

Colvyn J Harris, chief executive officer, JWT, feels this is the best time for advertising agencies in India and that there is no other place he'd be at this point of time. In conversation, he spoke about the advertising agency's approach to business, organic and inorganic growth and business outlook for 2013. Edited excerpts...

Could you give us a sense of JWT’s business performance in the last few years?
The last three years have been very exciting and the rate of change of our growth has been much greater than it has been in say 2008 to 2009. In fact, I think India business is in a fabulous position when compared with say Europe, the US and the UK. There is no other place I’d rather be at this point of time than where we are currently. Unfortunately, we cannot share specific financial details, but I can tell you that we have had great recovery 2010 onward, clocking double-digit growth on a consistent basis. We have been able to get our growth trajectory in line with expectations and continue to look at a very steady growth in terms of topline.

What factors led to this growth?
While having our eyes on growth, we wanted it to come from certain business elements. This new changed focus as to how we look at our business is where we are seeing growth coming in. In the earlier days it was always the mainstream (print and television) advertising that ruled, however we are now focusing at a full 360 degree, seamless, end-to-end solution delivery to our clients. The approach is to put the brand/idea at the centre and do everything to deliver the idea effectively and efficiently. While the 90:10 ratio (between mainstream and digital) in terms of contribution to business growth still works, we are investing disproportionately in the digital world.

Was acquisition of Hungama part of the disproportionate investment exercise?
We were seeking to change from doing what the company always did to doing something very new. One of the approaches to do things differently was to try and digitise the entire company so that everyone starts to think digital. To bring in the change process we looked at the digital world in our search for a partner, which led to acquisition of Hungama.

We have invested significantly towards giving high quality digital exposure to our employees, and bringing Hungama into the fold is only helping make a significant impact in this space. With this acquisition, we have now created a full digital entity that may not be delivering in terms of revenues for now but it will certainly give us the experience and in-depth understanding of the digital space, thereby making ourselves future-ready. Anywhere in the global world a lot of decisions are being taken based on the digital space and we wanted to be ready to deliver the best for this new media space.

Are there more such opportunities in the pipeline?
Yes, we are looking at various spaces and will definitely pursue it.

Given the changing communications requirement of companies, are you looking to bring in new global intellectual property (IP) into the Indian market?
We have a global game plan in digital. There is a concept called ‘dot JWT’, which is basically a bouquet of large and admired digital companies that we’ve bought around the world. Based on the client’s needs in India, they can technically access the ‘dot JWT’ skills and capabilities in a seamless manner. A paid for service, the technology resides in the cloud and there is nothing stopping us from acquiring, accessing a global team to work on a client’s issue. If the client can dream it we will help deliver that dream.

How are the next 12 months looking like for JWT in terms of business?
While there is some anxiety on meeting the numbers, our ambition is growth and we are bullish about business.

Follow Ashish K Tiwari on twitter @ashishktiwari

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