afaqs!

Profile: Arnab Mitra: The right calling

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | October 28, 2011
afaqs! explores the journey of Mitra, national director (digital), Starcom Mediavest, in the digital world.

Socially, and otherwise, beer can be a great connector. Take the case of Arnab Mitra, the tele-caller-turned-coder who became a digital media professional over beer, at a pub in London, 11 years ago.

In 1999, after completing his Bachelor of Technology (Information Technology) course from Kolkata, Mitra did not take up a software programmer's job. Instead, he went up North and joined a business process outsourcing outfit called Teleperformance (in Gurgaon) as a tele-caller. Bored flat in three months, however, he decided to return to engineering, tried an off-campus interview at HCL Technologies' Noida, and got the job.

He joined as assistant systems engineer and was assigned the task of coding for mainframe computers for British Telecom, a client of HCL's at that time. In 2000, HCL offered him an assignment to work in London at the British Telecom office. Mitra accepted.

It was while drinking beer in a pub in London that Mitra met David Wilson. "We chatted and he told me that he was doing work for one of Europe's biggest affiliate ad networks TradeDoubler, and that he was the owner of ePurple Media, a digital agency." Though Mitra had no idea of what affiliate ad networks were at that time, he accepted Wilson's offer to come over to his office after work hours and spend some time. "I will show you what I do, was what Wilson told me," recalls Mitra.

"I went there. Within a month's time he offered me a job and I joined as a trainee executive," says Mitra. What was it that led to this change of heart and career? "Any technology that shows a visual change in front of my eyes excites me. I found the web, a fusion of art and technology, quite interesting. Cobol and mainframe coding did not excite me simply because one can't figure out the impact of his work visually," Mitra points out.

Under Wilson, Mitra learnt the tricks of digital marketing. After working in all departments of ePurple, the agency gave him a dedicated mandate. He handled digital duties of various brands like British Telecom, Barclays (credit cards business) and 3 Mobile. "I faced quite a few challenges while working in the UK. I had to work a lot on my English and there were accent issues. I was not aware of the psychographics (of consumers) and did not know the history of brands in the UK. Also, the UK market was much more developed in the digital space, and it took me some time to match their pace," he says.

Mitra often visited India to find vendors from whom he could outsource some digital work of ePurple. "During my visits, I figured out the potential and opportunity for me to come back to India, implement my digital media learning and make a big jump. I was in a market where a sweeper knew how to leverage search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing, and I came to India where even many senior-level marketing people were not aware of SEO," Mitra points out. This was in 2005.

In October that year, Mitra joined the digital agency Indigo Consulting. Though he did not stay there for long, Mitra was part of the team which won the Asian Paints website development business. Post that, Mitra moved to Pinstorm in April 2006 for a year. "I was mainly handling the UK clients. But then, I did not see much value in pitching to marketers sitting in the UK so that they could get their search work outsourced from India."

In the next four years, as is wont with digital people, Mitra moved rapidly from Ignitee Digital to Media Contacts, the digital agency of Havas Media. Then came Starcom Mediavest. Mitra also runs Binary Edge, a digital media education venture, on a not-for-profit basis, along with some other senior digital media professionals in Mumbai.

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