Arijit Ray, the newly appointed CEO of Dentsu Communications, believes in the power of building teams more than building offices. "People and environment are everything. You have to build organisations around people," he says.
With new responsibilities in the forethought, Ray reflects his voyage with individuals, teams and organisations, over last 20 years in advertising.
Ray loves the warmth of the people in Kolkata, has great friends in Delhi and has learned to adjust to the demanding life in Mumbai. Ray finished his schooling from Bandel (a town 60 km from Kolkata) and the family moved to Delhi. "I did B.Com Honours from Bhagat Singh College. My brother-in-law was at Contract Advertising," he says, referring to how he got acquainted with advertising as a career option.
Ray's career began with the Delhi-based Alfred Allan Advertising in the early '90s. "I wanted a summer job." The manager liked Ray's work and offered him a full time job, after he finished his summer training. "I was hesitant as I was still studying," recalls Ray. In 1992, Triton Communications was being launched in Delhi. "I joined their start-up team here."
He managed brands such as Geep Batteries, Salora TVs and Fax Machines and Flury's Tea and Confectionery Products. In 1993, he moved to Rediffusion DY&R, working on brands such as Godfrey Phillips, Rothman's, United Airlines, Ericsson Mobiles, Canon Copiers and Singer Sewing Machines. "My love was Godfrey Philips. I became the key pioneer of cigarettes, although I never smoked."
At Triton, he picked up the "fundamentals of professional account management - the importance of client meeting reports, the values of responsiveness and experience of launching a brand."
Being a part of a start up team meant that each one shouldered more responsibility than usual.
Rediffusion was about belonging and empowerment. "I started realising that I had the potential to do good things. At a time when there was tremendous churn, I stayed on for more than six years at a stretch."
In 1999, Ray moved to McCann Erickson, Delhi as an associate account director. He led the Nescafe business that launched the 'Taste that gets you started out' communication, integrating it into Nescafe's then global communication platform 'Open up'.
He moved back to Rediffusion Delhi as account director in 2000. "As I was known as the cigarette guy, they called me back because at that point in time, they had won Four Square and it was the biggest brand of GPI." One day, he got a call from the head office and he was asked whether he would like to move to Kolkata, because Rediffusion's Kolkata office needed leadership.
In 2001, he finally decided to take the plunge and move to Kolkata as branch head.
In two-and-a-half years, Ray turned the business from a one-client operation to a stable seven-client operation, which included three big 'Kolkata' brands (Tata Steel, Keo Karpin hair oil and Birla Cement). "I got fantastic support from the team," says Ray. "That was when I understood the power of building teams more than building offices."
Ray was also toying with the idea of going to Mumbai. In early 2004, he joined Ogilvy Mumbai as vice-president and head of its Specialist Auto Practice Group, leading work on brands Bajaj Pulsar and CEAT Tyres. He also led the team that launched one of the most successful bikes, the Discover, where he led the negotiation for Jackie Chan to endorse the brand.
He then moved to Saatchi & Saatchi in January 2005, as business head, Mumbai operations. "At Saatchi, I had the privilege of working on roles I had not done before. The role of telecom knowledge leader helped me sharpen my brand stewardship skills." Three years later, Ray joined Mudra as executive VP and head, Mudra West. "We had six-seven businesses when I joined. The brief that Madhukar Kamath gave me was clear: take this office to the next level." He got several businesses like Lavassa and Economic Times - Power of Ideas, propelling Mudra to greater heights.