Mehta, chairman and managing director, Lintas Group, has opted to retire, a move that has been in the offing since January 2008, when he first expressed his wish to retire to the global Lowe board. Stephen Gatfield, chief executive officer, Lowe Worldwide, will now assume Mehta's role.
Gatfield discloses in an official communiqué that Lowe has respectfully accepted Mehta's resignation. Mehta has spent the last 28 years with the company. "We recognise Prem's valuable role in steering the Indian company to its current stature, both in India and internationally," Gatfield says.
In fact, post the IPG proceeds fallout in India, R Balakrishnan was elevated to the post of chairman and chief creative officer for Lowe, and Mehta continued to be chairman of the Lintas Group. However, there was a certain amount of ambiguity regarding his role in the scheme of things, leading to speculation about his next move.
Gatfield's additional responsibility now includes exercising statutory governance on the Lintas Group as a whole in India.
As compared to the last 10 years, Mehta feels that even in the next three-five years, rapid changes in the Indian market will redefine advertising, with new media driving the change. "This kind of change needs to be managed by new generation managers with the right perspective," says Mehta. "I am confident that the team IPG has put in place will lead the Indian operation to new highs."
Mehta has played a key role even at the industry level, having worked for the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) in matters such as agency remuneration and industry relations. He has also been a believer in the role of building brands. "From being treated as frivolous, advertising became a vital marketing tool which used extensive research, planning and strategy to build sustainable brands," recalls Mehta.
Among his most notable memories are the campaigns done for Liril, Cherry Blossom, Lifebuoy, VIP and Britannia. More recent campaigns from the Lowe stable that strike a chord with him include those for Greenply, Maruti, LG, Bajaj and ICICI.
Mehta is proud of Lintas' lineage of managers. As early as the 1980s and 1990s, Lintas had legends such as Gerson Da Cunha and Alyque Padamsee at the helm, in addition to what he calls the 'unsung' creative heroes - Balwant Tandon, Imtiaz Dharker, Mubi Pasricha, Usha Bhandarkar, Kersy Katrak, Prasoon Pandey, Gautam Rajadhyaksha, Anita Sarkar, Madhu Bhandari and Josy-Neville.
Mehta has always been a believer in training talent. In the 1980s, he set up the Lintas College of Communication, which ran training programmes for all disciplines within the company. Northpoint, the training facility owned by the Lintas Employee Welfare Trust, is testimony to Mehta's commitment towards in-house training for Lintas staff.
Mehta adds that he is pleased that Lintas today is attracting some of the best talent internationally. In the past, Indian managers sought opportunities in the international system. "There was recognition, albeit grudging, of the quality of Indian talent even 20 years ago," Mehta recalls. A large number of senior Lintas managers found opportunities outside India. Some names Mehta recalls include Deep Kaul , Ajay Shrikhande, Ajai Jhala , Sabyasachi Mishra and Sanjai Srivastava. "But today, India and our company are capable of attracting the best international talent right back, and managers are as likely, if not more, to choose the Indian company," he points out.
When asked about his course of action now that he has chosen to retire, Mehta says, "I have not taken a break in 10 years, so that would be the first thing on my agenda!"