Defining Moments: Ishan Raina in quest of something new everytime

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | June 12, 2009
The man who doesn't mind wearing many hats, shares the three moments in life that defined his career, which spans over three decades

Meet the man who doesn't mind wearing many hats. Ishan Raina was chairman and CEO of the EuroRSCG Group in India between 1998 and 2006. He was also a board member for EuroRSCG Asia-Pacific and is a member of the executive committee of EuroRSCG Worldwide. Raina still serves as chairman of MPG India (Havas Media) and Connecturf, the online media solutions company.

Two years ago, he set up one of the first - and now one of the largest - out-of-home (OOH) companies, OOH Media. Today, the company operates over 5,000 screens across 22 cities in India. He shares some turnaround moments from his long career.

Raina has had his fair share of excitement in life. He has revived agencies, set up his own, and led from the front in a career of just over three decades. The IIM-Calcutta alumnus has worked closely with and led many agencies including biggies such as Lintas and Contract. In 1995, at age 37, he became the founder-CEO and joint-venture partner of EuroRSCG Advertising Worldwide, starting off with just one big client - and went on to win plum accounts like Dabur, Hindustan Lever and HDFC Bank.

"If I go back in history, there are three defining moments in my life. In April 1989, at the age of 30, I left Lintas and joined a then dying company called Contract Advertising because it was in big trouble. I joined as executive director. It taught me a lot because I had to 'create' clients compared to Lintas where there were existing clients," recalls Raina.

What fell into his lap was what had earlier been a very good company. He had no clue what had gone wrong but he ended up getting three loss-making offices (Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata) to run. "It was not very exciting, with no clients. This taught me 'creation' of clients as opposed to 'managing'. This was one opportunity to learn and I was lucky to get it at a young age."

The second defining moment was setting up Euro RSCG, the first multi-national Indian start-up, in 1995-96. That was a defining moment for two reasons. "Firstly, because no one had ever done it (there were always Indian companies with MNC investments or MNCs that had been here for 30-40 years, but nobody had done or seen an MNC start-up). Secondly, I had to jump out of my comfort zone, like I had done with Contract, and become an entrepreneur."

There were other important moments like setting up MPG, but according to Raina they weren't 'defining' because it was when everything was going well. "The latest defining moment, of course, was leaving my comfort zone for the third time and starting up OOH Media two years ago, when I could have just cruised along in EuroRSCG as chairman. It was a question of creating a new media in India, which had not been done before."

Something new every time. That seems to be Raina's way of taking a break. "It seems like it's been an eight-or-10-year itch for me," he laughs. "But more than anything else it's been the question of 'creation'. While Lintas taught me management, Contract taught me creation, and it was this that continued into the conception of Euro RSCG too."

If he is lucky, smiles Raina, there won't be more defining moments. But can 'creating' ever be pushed into cold storage? Raina's answer: "I have had more than my fair share of excitement in my career."

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