The new Managing Director at Publicis Worldwide India on the booming economy and rediscovering Mumbai
Earlier this year Srija Chatterjee returned to her home city of Mumbai after eight years in the clinical serenity of Singapore. And just as she found herself rediscovering the frantic pace of the richly textured city, at Publicis she found herself in an agency group that’s energised and ambitious. For Publicis Groupe, India is an exciting market full of opportunity and Srija believes that the brand is on the cusp of going ‘next level’.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Srija to talk to her about her experience and find out what’s on the cards for Publicis in India.
LBB> You joined Publicis in April – what appealed to you about the role and the prospect of moving back to Mumbai after a spell in Singapore working for MullenLowe?
SC> There are many reasons. India is a booming economy and has seen a proliferation of different and new sectors as well as global entrants that have been doing some interesting work. Also, the kind of work that we have always been doing in this market has been culturally nuanced and strong in emotions. So clearly, doing some exciting work is one of the reasons.
To add to that, Publicis is a strong brand in India which has always had a roster of great clients. It is at that cusp where we can take it to another level. This challenge of even better work, coupled with growing a strong brand like Publicis was appealing. And of course, India and Mumbai are home. Nothing like coming back home when the work is challenging and exciting and I feel that I can make a difference.
LBB> And I imagine that the past five or six months have been pretty hectic as you’ve settled in. What have been the highlights for you?
SC> Oh, it’s been hectic to say the least. Understanding the organisation, the talent pool, the clients, the work and building an ambitious future plan has been my focus. So doing great work on our existing roster and looking actively to grow is what I have done. On paper that seems like a few words, but it has completely taken me over.
LBB> You joined just as Publicis launched Marcel India, which also comes under your remit, I believe. What is a boutique like Marcel bringing to the market that’s different?
SC> We have worked out a plan for Marcel and will be unleashing it by the year end. The attempt is to be differentiated from Publicis and yet create a strong reason to exist where competition is concerned.
LBB> This summer, Arthur Sadoun went to India, where he spoke about plans for growth in India and how important India is as a market for the Groupe. How are you and the rest of the senior team planning to nurture this growth?
SC> Growth is the only agenda as far as I am concerned. With growth comes great work and with great work comes growth. Growth also ensures that our people are happy. Growth subsumes all our different deliverables. We have put a lot of focus on growth in the last few months and it will continue to be an ongoing agenda where we are concerned.
LBB> You studied marketing at university – were advertising and comms something you were always interested in? Where did this interest come from?
SC> Actually when I was doing my degree in Commerce, in those days, if you got a particular percentage and above, you could choose another subject instead of second language. I opted for Marketing and that exposed me to the world of Marketing and Advertising. Doing my MBA in Marketing was the logical extension of it. Also growing up with some fantastic advertising like “Lalitaji”, “Hamara Bajaj” or “Kal bhi aaj bhi” played a huge role in making the world of advertising sexy for me.
LBB> What was the most valuable lesson you learned when you were starting out in your career?
SC> Years back, my first boss stuck a handwritten sheet of paper on my soft board, with the words “God is in the detail”. That is something I will never forget because in that lies everything. Whatever you do, do it well and thoroughly and you shall get the results.
LBB> Over the course of your career, what achievements have you been proudest of?
SC> I have loved the variety of brands that I have worked on and I have loved every moment of the work that I have done in all the places that I have worked. But my most favourite memories have been working on Fair & Lovely with the fantastic team of Joe, Balki and Madhu (all from Lintas), creating work that may not be appreciated by few, but totally loved by the consumers that helped the brand grow manifold.
LBB> You spent some time brand-side at Marico [a major Indian health and beauty company] before moving back to the agency world. How did that experience help you when you returned to the agency world?
SC> I think the three years of my Marico experience is something I will cherish always. It helped me understand brand management in detail and focus on the other P’s of Marketing. I understood about brand financials, distribution, production, packaging etc. These are facets that we are not that exposed to in advertising. But I soon realised that my true love really was advertising and I returned. However, being in brand management gave me a larger view to things and the challenges that our clients go through.
LBB> How do Mumbai and Singapore compare as creative cities?
SC> They are very different cities. I am sure whoever has been to the two places would say so. In Mumbai, the creative work is more textured, nuanced and steeped in culture. I think a lot of the work in Singapore tends to be creatively clever.
LBB> How had the Indian market changed while you were away in Singapore?
SC> While the passion for great work and creativity is something that drives the Indian market, while I was away in Singapore, there has been the mushrooming of multiple creative shops. There seems to be quite a few of them now and that has made the ecosystem more exciting.
LBB> What does your typical day look like?
SC> There is no typical day. Every day is a new day with different agendas. I wish there was a typical day!
LBB> Outside of work, what are your passions? What inspires you?
SC> Actually after coming back to Mumbai, I rediscovered the pace of this city. Especially after coming back from Singapore which was not as hectic. There is never any time for anything. Whatever time I get, I try to spend with my family.
LBB> What’s the most frustrating thing about the industry right now?
SC> I think the value of our work in creating brands is reducing. This is worrisome.
LBB> And the most exciting?
SC> Creativity continues to drive our industry. As long as that continues, the industry will always be exciting.