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Arvind Sharma bids adieu to Leo Burnett India

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 28, 2013
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Saurabh Varma, regional chief strategy officer of Leo Burnett Asia Pacific, has been named CEO of Leo Burnett Group India.

Arvind Sharma, chairman and CEO of India subcontinent at Leo Burnett, has put his papers to pursue other business interests outside the industry. Sharma quits after a stint of 30 years at the agency. Saurabh Varma, the current regional chief strategy officer of Leo Burnett Asia Pacific, has been named CEO of Leo Burnett Group India.

Arvind Sharma

Saurabh Varma

The appointment is effective as of November 1. In his new role as CEO for the India operations across Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru, Varma will report to Jarek Ziebinski, president, Leo Burnett Asia Pacific.

Nitish Mukherjee, director on the board of the company, will play a key role in this transition as a strategic consultant. He will work closely with the local and regional leaders of Leo Burnett to ensure smooth running of the business. Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that Mukherjee's designation has changed from that of managing director of the company to the director on the board of the company, as mentioned in the press release.

In 2007, Leo Burnett had named Nitish Mukherjee as managing director. Mukherjee, who was earlier leading Leo Burnett's second agency, Orchard Advertising from Bengaluru, was mandated to oversee Burnett's Mumbai and Delhi offices.

Armed with a management degree from IIM Ahmedabad, Arvind Sharma spent the first few years of his career in marketing, at Voltas. He joined advertising in 1979 at Clarion McCann. In 1983, he moved to Chaitra as account director. In 2002, Sharma was promoted as chairman and CEO of the agency. He also had a hand in the creation of the agency's second network in India, Orchard Advertising, and the agency's media arm, Starcom.

Sharma has also worked on the executive committees of Advertising Club of Bombay, National Readership Survey Council, Advertising Agencies Association of India and Media Research Users Council.

Speaking about his decision to move on, Sharma says, "I had a very long and fruitful run as the leader of Leo Burnett in India subcontinent. As I approached the company-defined age of 58, I would like to start something totally new. I look back at my 30 years at the agency and 21 years of leading it with a great deal of satisfaction."

According to Sharma, the discussion of his quitting the job has been going on with Tom Bernardin, chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett Worldwide, since the last two years. Now that he has put in his papers, Sharma will take a break for six-eight months before embarking on a new journey. He is, however, yet to make up his mind on which industry or sector he will try his hands on.

On this development, Bernardin says, "We would like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude and appreciation to Arvind Sharma. He has worked tirelessly over the past 30 years to build Leo Burnett into one of India's leading creative agencies and laid down a solid foundation for the agency to progress to the next level. During his tenure, Arvind built a stellar client base that includes blue chip multinational and local clients and nurtured some of the brightest stars within the Indian advertising industry today. Though he remains available for his advice and counsel, we bid farewell to Arvind today, in his official capacity, with our very best wishes and as a dear friend."

Ziebinski states, "I'd like to thank Arvind for his contribution to our success and close collaboration over the past four years since I arrived in the region. I wish Arvind nothing but the best for his new future."

Commenting on his new role, Varma says, "Over the years, I have always kept a keen eye on the developments in India and in some ways, I felt like I have never left. I look forward to coming back with a fresh perspective gained from my time away and bring the best learnings of Leo Burnett network to India. Being a part of the regional team for Asia Pacific has given me a unique perspective and experience of diverse markets across the region and I look forward to bringing this understanding to my new role. Together with the management team, most of whom I already know and have the privilege of working with, we will be focused on driving a positive change for the agency to take it to the next level."

Varma spent the first nine years of his career in advertising in India. He began his career with DDB India and within four years of being in the business, he was made head of account management at TBWA India. In 2013, Varma launched Leo Burnett Institute of Behaviour (LBIB), a Singapore-based consulting, innovation and research division of Leo Burnett Group with Asia-wide remit.

Varma has won more than 100 pitches during his career. Some of them include IOC, Fosters, Hyundai, Kinetic, Courts, Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports (MCYS), Singapore Sports Council (SSC), Ministry of Development Authority (MDA), IKEA, Great Eastern, Samsung, Maxis and Twinings, amongst others.

Leo Burnett Worldwide is an American advertising company, created in 1935 in Chicago by Leo Burnett and is now a part of the French group, Publicis. Its clients include McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Marlboro, Maytag, Kellogg's, Procter & Gamble and others. It has 97 offices in 85 countries and more than 8,500 employees.

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