Profile: Sourabh Mishra: Unconventional strategist

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | October 30, 2012
A series of unconventional choices stand out in the newly appointed national planning head for Bates India Sourabh Mishra's career.

"The kind of choices that I've made had many people asking, 'are you out of your mind?'," opens Mishra, describing how his foray into advertising shocked his engineer father.

Sourabh Mishra

Mishra, who holds a post graduate diploma in marketing from The Times School of Marketing, started his career as a management trainee with Contract Advertising in 1992. But, few people know that after he finished his diploma, he was actually placed in Bennett Coleman and Company (BCCL). "But I quit the job almost before I joined." This move came as a rude shock to his parents.

Contract Advertising was to start a new programme called 'Windows'. Mishra quit to join the agency at almost half of the salary that he was drawing at Times. "When my father heard Contract, he asked, 'aren't they giving you a job, they are taking you on 'contract'?" recalls Mishra.

At Windows, all the trainees, whether in creative, planning or client servicing, were brought into a classroom situation for six months and were paid a stipend just to learn. "This was the most amazing experience of my life. The two personalities that influenced my thinking were Subhas Ghoshal and Subroto Sengupta. Also, this was the first time that I actually learnt something in a classroom."

After the programme, everyone expected him to stay back in Mumbai. But he went to Bengaluru. "This branch was really struggling at that point in time; the entire senior team had left and a new team was in place." At that point, all his batch-mates warned him that, career-wise, it was a suicidal move.

However, Ishan Raina and Umesh Shrikhande at Contract Advertising assured him that if he wanted to return at any point, he simply had to call and come back.

He has high regard for Rohit Srivastava and Ravi Deshpande. "When I finished four years, Rohit asked me whether I was open to the idea of moving to Delhi to head planning for the branch. I moved and, that year, we won many new and big businesses there," he recalls. But, he had to move out of Delhi because the weather "didn't suit my young son".

Back in Bengaluru, one of his clients asked him to move to the client side. In 1999, he moved to BPL Telecom business group, where he worked for less than a year as senior manager, brand planning. "But I started missing the excitement of an advertising agency," explains Mishra.

Later, he joined Ogilvy Bengaluru as planning director in 2000, before moving to McCann Erickson, Bengaluru as planning director in 2001. "One fine day, Santosh Desai, who was there that time, got in touch with me. It was an interesting assignment as McCann Erickson was launching ITC Aashirvaad," says the planner.

After a short stint of a year at McCann Erickson, he joined Ogilvy's Mumbai office in 2002 at the same position. "Everyone asked me, 'why are you leaving McCann, it is a planner's agency, whereas Ogilvy was creatively driven". He went ahead as Madhukar Sabnavis promised to set up a full-fledged planning function there.

In 2004, Mishra moved to Everest Brand Solutions as vice-president and national planning director, where he worked till 2007. "This was the first time that I was working on the agency as a brand. We were also pitching for new businesses, but I was working on brand Everest."

In 2007, he joined TBWA as chief strategy officer after a short stay at Reliance Capital, before moving to Saatchi & Saatchi in 2009. "Saatchi & Saatchi had a fantastic reputation when I joined." Six months ago, he decided to take a sabbatical. Then came Bates. What excites him about Bates is that it is one of the strongest integrated offerings in the business. "The chance to go and drive this integration is very exciting," he declares.

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