"I am an oxymoron … I mean, will be one … very soon. A Bengali entrepreneur!" laughs Samit Sinha, chief operating officer of Mudra Communications, Delhi, for another 22 days.
Yes, the countdown has begun. After a two-year stint at India's No 4 advertising agency, Samit will move on by August end. And he would be the second branch head of Mudra to put it his papers in a span of just over a year. But no, he is not joining another advertising agency. Or, for that matter, starting his own creative hotshop. Samit Sinha is setting out to create a "separate space" for himself.
But first, the necessary details. This move will bring to an end his "highly rewarding advertising career" spanning 22 years, two markets (Mumbai and Delhi) and three disciplines (creative, account management and account planning) in three agencies - Lintas, Clarion (Bates India now) and Mudra. As for the pecking order at Mudra, Hemant Mishra (earlier vice-president) has been promoted to executive vice-president and takes over the responsibility of the Delhi branch of Mudra. Nita Kapoor (earlier vice-president) has been promoted to senior vice-president and will, apart from taking care of her current brand portfolio, take on the additional responsibility of business development.
For Samit, the next destination is Alchemist Brand Consulting (ABC), which happens to be his 'brainchild'. Alchemist, says Samit, will not compete with advertising agencies, conventional consultants, research outfits and creative boutiques. So where does ABC fit in in the life of a brand? Says Samit, "Alchemist's objective is to address the need for brand specialisation - helping organisations realise their complete brand potential through enabling, consulting and aligning. Enabling key members of the organisation to learn how to think and live brands. Consulting to plan and execute effective brand strategies. And, finally, aligning the organisation and its stakeholders around the brand."
ABC would run on the belief that business is about managing brands and brands are about managing communication. Samit puts it into perspective. "Since the most sustainable competitive edge in business is increasingly being reduced to just communication, organisations need to become brand oriented. Which no longer means merely managing a successful external perception about the company and its offerings, but also aligning all its processes around it to make it an internal reality."
But is this the right time to start a new venture, given the overall gloom in the business scenario? Sinha thinks the timing couldn't have been better. "I have chosen this time because, in October, I will turn 40. You could call this a way to get over my mid-life crisis." On a more serious tone, "Alchemist has been in my mind for five years now. But I started working on it actively only about four-five months back." As he sees it, there's a lot that needs to be done in the brand planning area. "Till yesterday, if the marketer/advertiser was 'generally' right, he still had a chance. Not today. I am banking on the fact that the market is going to be less and less forgiving."
Samit will be partnered in this venture by two of his ex-colleagues from Clarion, Sanjeev Sarna and Suprio Guha Thakurta, both of whom have had expansive stints in advertising and marketing.
A full-fledged entrepreneur at 34, Sanjeev runs his own full-service advertising agency, Studio Communications. His tryst with advertising began with Sista's. He spent time in Everest, McCann-Erickson (on Nestle) before joining Clarion. Moving to Clarion's Bangalore operations, he worked intensively on BPL, which proved useful when he handled the Philips account at Lintas, Calcutta.
Thirty-six-year-old Suprio started his career in marketing at Union Carbide in 1987, moving on to Titan, and Godrej & Boyce thereafter. His move to advertising is a story in itself. Over beer with some friends who worked in advertising, he decided on impulse to abandon a successful career in sales and joined Clarion, Bangalore, in 1997, subsequently moving to Delhi as client services director. In July 2000, he quit to explore the rapidly mainstreaming function of HR management, setting up Open Services with a friend from B-School.
Samit says Alchemist's USP is a combination of skills - encompassing knowledge management, sound analytical abilities as well as inspired creativity - that is not available in its entirety elsewhere. "That's because management consultants and market researchers find it hard to understand the world of creativity. On the other hand, advertising agencies are not structured to provide focussed, quality attention to brand strategy development on an ongoing basis, especially where media commissions are not assured for the immediate future," he adds.
ABC would be looking at two different types of clients. "One, large clients with big budgets, who would be looking at reducing the margin of error. They could be global companies aiming to localise their communication and strategies. Two, there could be small clients with strong communication needs, but without a big enough budget to hire the services of big agencies or consultancy firms. Broadly, ABC's clients will be in the two extreme ends of the spectrum."
Alchemist Brand Consulting takes off on September 1, 2001.
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