afaqs!

Bates 141: Of mergers, restructuring and changes

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 22, 2008
The top level management has undergone further changes after Subhash Kamath's exit

A & #BANNER1 & # search through the archives with the keywords, Bates 141, and one is guaranteed a string of restructuring and merger stories among other things related to this WPP owned agency. The latest dates back to the end of September 2008, involving a number of top level shifts and shunts, following chief executive officer Subhash Kamath's exit from the agency and entry into BBH India.

This development led to Sandeep Pathak, aka Pat, being promoted as CEO of Bates 141, Manosh Mukherjee taking up the newly instituted post of chief operating officer, and Dheeraj Sinha taking up the reins as chief strategy officer.

However, Bates 141, in order to pump in some more "fresh blood", has made further senior level appointments in its Delhi office. In an exclusive chat with afaqs!, executive vice-president Jayanto Banerjee, executive creative director for copy Suchitra Gahlot and executive creative director for art Nitin Suri spoke at length about their respective roles and the road ahead for Bates 141, as they complete a week at the agency.

Jayanto Banerjee

Suchitra Gahlot

Nitin Suri
Banerjee, entrusted with the role of heading the Delhi wing, bears diverse experience of 16 years in the ad world. Out of the 16 years, Banerjee has spent 13 working with various branches of Euro RSCG (in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Dubai). Prior to joining Bates, he headed the Dubai wing of Euro. Some of the brands he has handled include Philips, Bajaj Auto, Reckitt Benckiser, Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

Both Gahlot and Suri are heading the creative department of Bates Delhi as a team.

Gahlot has 10 years' experience, involving stints at Rediffusion, Contract and Enterprise Nexus. Prior to joining Bates, she headed the copy division of Ogilvy RedCard, a subsidiary of Ogilvy Group Singapore, where she handled clients such as BBC World, The Economist and Durex. Besides that she has handled Hindustan Times, Blenders Pride, Red FM, NIIT and Hutch too. She has won a gold at Cannes, a number of One Show pencils and brought home one of India' first D&AD's early in her career, among other honours. Her work has been featured in various archives.

Suri has 15 years of experience in the industry. He started with Interact Vision and later moved to Rediffusion DY&R (now Rediffusion Y&R), where he spent 11 years working on brands such as Airtel, Maruti Suzuki, Lufthansa, GPI, PVR Cinemas and W, a women's apparel brand. He was responsible for some key Airtel campaigns. Prior to Bates, he was working with Dentsu Marcom. He has won a number of Abbys and awards at the LIA and New York AdFest, among others.

When quizzed about the long prevailing unrest and instability at Bates, Banerjee replies diplomatically, "Change is inevitable and the whole process has two sides to it. On one hand, it erodes away talent, and on the other, it pumps in fresh blood. It is true that Bates has reinvented itself within the last 50 years, but it has also become an agency that 'dares and is young at heart'. It is devoid of red tape and the old way of doing things.

"We are very much focussed on the APAC market since we are part of one of Bates' key markets in the world - India and China. The world is looking at us with a lot of expectations. All the mergers are over, hopefully, and with the building blocks in place, there's no stopping us."

Commenting on the opportunities in the Delhi market, Banerjee says, "The perspective of international businesses is shifting from Mumbai to Delhi. With more MNCs headquartered in Delhi and the city's infrastructural and geographical advantages over Mumbai, the Capital is very much in the forefront of things. Our strategy is very simple: Get talented people, do great work, keep clients happy."

Interestingly, both Banerjee and Gahlot bring with them international exposure, while Suri has experience in dealing with multicultural setups. The trio is extremely interested in exploring avenues in the realms of both new media and emerging media, including mobiles, the Internet, iPods and gaming.

"The opportunities are endless and all you need to do is tell your story well," quips Suri.

Banerjee adds to that, "A mobile is the first thing a person switches on in the morning and the last thing that he switches off at night. Even after knowing this, the best we have come up with in terms of promotions are a bunch of lousy SMSes. Another virgin territory is gaming. We have had in-film placements, but how about exploring in-game placements now?"

Gahlot stresses on the content part and asserts, "It is about how effective your content is and not just how many boxes you have on offer for the consumer to click on. The content must be enticing enough for the consumer to look out for more. Also, such forms of media are easy to track and measure. So, if the content is right, then there is every chance of getting the consumer to your side and making him the 'PR agent' of the brand itself."

When asked about the new mandate passed by the WPP Group restricting hiring and staffing within its partners, following the global economic meltdown, Banerjee says, "The Delhi wing is not aware of such developments and, therefore, we are very much on a hiring spree. A head of planning is what we need next."

Though Banerjee refused to comment on the annual billings of the agency, he maintains that Bates 141 is healthy and profitable. "There have been multiple changes and mergers, but our client base has not been dented," he asserts.

For the record, some of the clients that are handled by Bates Delhi are Dabur, Radico, Hitachi, Businessworld, Usha, Unicef and the Apeejay Group.