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Profile - Anita Nayyar: Steely Calm

Nayyar got into media planning at a time when it was male dominated. Now, after 20 years, hers is a much-respected name. afaqs! profiles the outgoing CEO, India & Southeast Asia, Havas Media.

Behind that calm exterior of Nayyar is a steely determination to conquer new challenges. Nayyar has witnessed the massive change the media industry has gone through first-hand, in a career that spans over two decades. And now, in her new role as director, customer strategy, Bennett, Coleman and Co (BCCL), she is gearing up for another set of challenges.

Anita Nayyar

Nayyar, who holds a bachelors degree in Microbiology with a background in Pathology, had no connection with the advertising and media industry. She says, "I dreamt of becoming a doctor and despite making it to two colleges, I could not get an entry because I was not a domicile of Maharashtra. So I returned to Delhi and started working as a microbiologist (in the early '80s)." While in Delhi, her desire to go beyond the world of science led her to pursue marketing courses.

At the same time, she got a job at one of the popular agencies of that era, Interpublicity. The agency was known for handling some of the biggest businesses such as Kelvinator and Coca-Cola. "I finished Masters in Marketing while still working at the agency," she adds.

Life changed for Nayyar after she joined Ogilvy, where she got an opportunity to work under Roda Mehta. It was from Mehta that she learnt the science of planning, "Before that, it was mainly gut feel or buying media during Ramayana or Mahabharata (the blockbuster serials on Doordarshan) or on the first page of the Times of India or Hindustan Times."

Calling Mehta a great influence in her life, she feels that today, about 90 per cent of people in the top rung in the media industry had worked with Mehta at some point in their careers. The next phase of learning came after she joined Lintas (then known as Initiative Media). The agency gave a lot of importance to the 'art of servicing'. It taught her the dynamics of how to service and sell a plan to a client, keeping the necessary objectives of the brand as well as the client's demand in mind.

"I joined the agency during the mid-'90s and it was during this time that the 'agency-of-record' (AoR) process started. Lintas became the first AoR for Maruti Suzuki, followed by LG Electronics," remarks Nayyar.

Nayyar spent - on an average - about five to six years each in the agencies she had worked, except for Mudra, where she stayed for just a year. "By the time I shifted to Mudra, the concept of a full service agency had got completely eroded. Media, being the lesser mortal, was left to survive on its own," she remembers. The year 2000 saw a change when media planning became a serious business proposition with 'profit centres' being introduced. Around the same time Nayyar made a shift to Mediacom.

She reminiscences, "With the concept of a full-service agency being diluted, agencies now operated as standalone business entities working on balance sheets and separate profit and loss accounts. These years saw the transition of media as a business to the business of media."

Life took another turn when she moved to Starcom in 2003. "This was an interesting phase because I was responsible for setting the Northern India branch and developing it. When I joined, the branch was doing business worth Rs 5 crore. By the time I left, it was worth Rs 125 crore," she recalls fondly.

In 2007, she moved to MPG as CEO. She was later promoted as CEO, India and Southeast Asia of Havas Media. "When I sit back to retrospect, it gives me a nice feeling as most of my journey was not all planned. Looking back, there is no regret as I have lived with one motto all my life - There is no shortcut to success. And I have worked really hard to achieve mine," says Nayyar.

Follow Anushree Bhattacharyya

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