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Defining Moments: Ashish Bhasin: Mr Resilience

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 11, 2011
Ashish Bhasin, the CEO of Aegis Media, shares his experience of turning around businesses over the years and talks about the values that kept him going in good times and bad.

About eight or nine years into the job at Lintas, the then CEO Prem Mehta, who's always been a mentor wanted me to head the Madras branch. I was hesitant since it came much earlier in my career than I had expected, but Mehta said he believed in me. So, I landed up there one fine day. I didn't know the place or the language, plus the branch wasn't doing well at all and it was a fairly messy scenario.

And, when you're the head of a branch you're in charge of everything, from the cleanliness of the balance sheet to the cleanliness of the toilet.

What we were able to achieve in two years was phenomenal. The office was in a shambles when we started out, so we physically did up the office, won a record amount of new businesses and from a sleepy, old, low-profit agency, we made it very profitable. We nearly doubled the growth of the branch and got the Agency of the Year award as well in that year.

Those were two glorious years and it was a great learning for me on how to build and manage a team, do up an office, handle cash flow, handle legal issues, think on your feet, and so much more. All that held me in good stead, and later, I was handed over SSC&B to turn around. Once again, I managed to do it in two years.

Another defining moment was when I decided to leave Lintas after nearly 21 years because a great opportunity came by in the form of Aegis Media. At Lintas, we had already sold our majority stake to IPG and I wanted to experiment with something different.

It was a significant moment because I was leaving a place where I had spent two decades and was going to a new one. There was only Carat and it was hugely loss-making again. But, by that time I had already built up an experience and reputation of turning around businesses, so that gave me the confidence. What made it even more interesting was the fact, that shortly thereafter, we were hit by the worst global recession. But, with all the experiences one builds up and with some luck and good wishes, we were able to turn that recession into a good opportunity. I'm so proud when we look back to just two years ago, when we had started off with a single agency Carat.

Today, we have Posterscope, Isobar, iProspect, Vizeum, and now, Brandscope and every business that we've launched has been profitable from day one.

One key motto in my life was inspired by my school principal who had said, "Devotion to duty determines your destiny." I really believe in that, because what you put in is what you get. Also, against all the pressures and all the odds, always do what is right and in the end it will always work out. With due respect to this industry, I believe one should have a lot of resilience because people don't realise how difficult the business of advertising and media is, and you can easily burn out and be finished.

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