Profile: Partha Sinha, the restless wanderer

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 19, 2008
The account planner is looking forward to his next move, which will take him to BBH as one of the three people heading the agency's India operations

He is & #BANNER1 & # now part of an Indian triumvirate at BBH India. Partha Sinha who recently quit as chief strategy officer, Southeast Asia, Publicis Ambience and Publicis India - spoke about his impending move and career spanning 18 years.

"Planning and strategy," says Sinha, "were never top of the mind initially. Like every student from IIT and IIM, I joined a foreign bank when I finished studying." He was brand manager at Citibank for the Diamond Club Card, Master Card and Visa Card.

But a series of coincidences later - including a meeting with Ranjan Kapur of O&M - Sinha joined the agency in 1994. Kapur, incidentally, is an ex-Citibank man. Sinha had worked with Citibank for close to four years before he moved to O&M; within a year, he was asked to start the planning division.

"I had no idea about planning at the time and neither did O&M," he divulges. But he took to it like a fish to water. Sinha headed the department until the digital revolution took the nation by storm in 1999.

"I was one of the first customers of VSNL when it launched Internet services," shares Sinha. The engineer in him wouldn't let the digital revolution just pass him by. O&M did create a digital department, but Sinha had different ideas.

He moved out and joined to head strategy and content. The learning curve at, he states, was his steepest - it lasted 10 months. The site was set up in three months flat with 15-16 hours of work inputs every day. But then, Indiainfo's IPO plans got stuck and the site wasn't doing as well as was expected. Sinha was stuck between choosing to work with a more established Internet company or a media house. He chose the latter.

Thus began his stint at Zee TV as head of marketing. With his "natural flair for the English language and the fact of having been part of literary groups while at IIT", Sinha thought he'd involve himself in the content aspect of the programming at Zee. And he did.

But with time, restlessness set in and it started to dawn on Sinha that advertising was where he wanted to be. In 2002, he joined Publicis India as head of planning. He took up the role as a challenge because, at that time, Publicis was not doing too well.

"Media is a very executional game. At a certain level, it didn't excite me as much," he confesses. That excitement surfaced at Publicis and he stayed there for six years. Sinha laughs at how he insisted on being based in India if he were to accept the post of chief strategy officer. Moving out of the country is something that he "will not do impulsively". Sinha is confident about the team he has left behind.

So, what made him move out of an organisation where he has done his longest stint? "I know I was doing really well, but as in earlier instances, restlessness set in and I took up another challenge," he says matter of factly.

At BBH, he sees a thrill in building something out of nothing. "It's a new game. Agencies in India have been known for either their creative work or good strategy. But with BBH, it's getting the best of both worlds. The hope is to create a better, not necessarily bigger, place from where creative solutions will be delivered," he says.

Sinha also feels that the chemistry that he shares with Priti Nair and Subhash Kamath, who heads BBH with him, is great. "If there is a team that can create BBH India, it is this team," he declares.

Sinha, an "armchair sportsman" who loves music, is a great fan of Aamir Khan Saab and Rashid Khan Saab. Though he himself cannot sing, he points out like any proud father that his 12 year old son, Atreyo, is taking music classes.

(Profile is a regular column which peeps into the career path of senior advertising, media and marketing professionals who are currently in the news.)