Profile: Roopam Garg: Homecoming

By Anushree Bhattacharyya , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Planning & Buying | June 14, 2011
After trotting the globe, Roopam Garg, the newly-appointed chief operating officer (COO) of ZenithOptimedia, has returned home to India. Garg talks about his adventurous ride so far.

As a child, Garg kept moving cities in Uttar Pradesh due to his father's government job, which meant new schools and a new set of friends each time. And, this pattern has continued well into his professional life, too -- moving to new destinations and making new friends.

Having obtained a degree in Mathematics, Statistics and Economics, Garg joined the Centre for Management Development (CMD), Ghaziabad, to pursue his MBA. His aim was to become a financial advisor.

But, life had different plans for him. In 1993, D K Bose, media director with HTA (now JWT), and part of the visiting faculty at CMD, inspired him to opt for media planning for his summer training session. Garg completed his summer training at Tara Sinha Associates (Now McCann Erickson) under N Narayanmurthy, who was head of the media function.

The few months at Tara Sinha Associates turned around his life. Post his MBA, Garg joined R K Swamy BBDO as a planner. "I was the lowest paid in my batch," he chuckles.

After spending a year at the agency, he moved to Lowe Lintas as senior planner, where he worked for the next three years.

Garg's next destination was Starcom MediaVest, where he worked on the Dabur business for six months, before he was included in the team pitching for the P&G (Proctor & Gamble) business. He shifted his base from Delhi to Mumbai.

In 2000, Garg joined Rediffusion-Y&R's media buying arm Media Edge (now Mediacom) as media services director. At Rediff, he worked on the Colgate business. Rediffusion, at the time, had pitched for the Tata Corporate account, which included 17 brands, and won it. "This one was a very complicated one, as we had to make sure that we worked with every brand independently, and created a separate solution for each of these brands," he said.

Garg recalls how the pitch coincided with his marriage and that he had to delay his honeymoon by a month. "It has been tough, but I have enjoyed every day of my work," he says.

In 2003, Garg took up an international assignment, as the head of the Mediacom Dubai office, and was in charge of Nokia in West Asia and North Africa. (This was before the outfit was acquired by WPP).

For Garg, this was an interesting experience since he got to see the outside world and the way it functioned. "However, I also realised that Dubai makes you lazy," he grins.

It was an offer from Starcom China in 2005 that persuaded him to pack his bags again. There, he started with the P&G haircare business, and was subsequently named the head of planning for the P&G team -- a position previously held by two other Indians, Praveen Tripathi and Ravi Murthy.

After spending around 40 months in China, Garg felt the urge to do something else apart from planning. He approached his bosses. Phil Talbot, CEO, ZenithOptimedia, Asia-Pacific, gave him the opportunity to lead the Vivaki operations in Vietnam.

For Garg, Vietnam was exciting. "We won a lot of business against GroupM, which was fun," he adds.

Additionally, he launched the fourth media agency of the company Equinox, and also introduced In-Sight DNA 2.0 in the country.

After spending two years in Vietnam, ZenithOptimedia offered him an opportunity to be part of the global planning team of Reckitt Benckiser in London.

Garg shares, "London was great because this was where I got to see the other part of the world."

For Garg, every time he decided to switch, he thought of returning to India, but each time he landed up in a new place with a new set of responsibilities. "And, now that I am back, it is a sort of homecoming," he smiles.

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