Profile - Nabendu Bhattacharya: Workaholic

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | June 30, 2014
Bhattacharya, founder and MD, Milestone Brandcom, an out-and-out OOH man, looks back at a few key moments in his career.

Nabendu Bhattacharya

Like all Bengalis, my family was also passionate and keen on art and culture. While my father was a vocalist, two of my brothers were creative directors in advertising agencies. I was introduced to advertising in 1993, whilst still a graduate student, when I joined Ulka as a summer trainee. I realised that I was in a non-fussy, but very interesting and dynamic environment.

I worked there for few months and applied for jobs in different cities. That's when I got an offer from Selvel. A client at Ulka told me that it was a big name in out-of-home advertising. Being the passionate workaholic that I am, I requested them for a position outside Kolkata because if I stayed back with my family and my then girlfriend (now wife), I would not be able to work 16-17 hours a day. I wanted to work as hard as I could to learn faster, to grow faster. Choosing to move out of Kolkata to work for Selvel was a big defining moment of my life.

Out in the open

I joined Selvel in New Delhi and loved the first experience with the OOH industry. Coming to work every day gave me a thrill, every aspect - dealing with clients or various authorities like the police - was challenging and I thrived on it. But after five years, the job got a little monotonous and I was thirsty for more.

After Selvel, I had a brief stint with Emirates Neon in Dubai. Though I had joined the agency thinking I'd eventually get to work in the US. That did not happen. As I never really took to Dubai the way I had with Delhi and Mumbai, I quit to join Mudra in India.

At that time, mainstream agencies were looking at exploring the OOH space seriously. Clients were asking for OOH solutions and biggies like Unilever and CitiBank started looking for professionals who could run the business in an organised manner. Hence, they pushed their agencies to do their groundwork to maximise their outreach by OOH. Earlier, media managers used to oversee OOH but without much understanding about the space. Agencies from the business used to create logical, practical deliveries and started hunting for professionals who could manage the field. Mudra, Ogilvy, Portland and Lintas were some of the first to take the initiative.

I, along with Adam Whitford, started Primesite, Mudra's JV with Vertigo in the OOH space. I was the national sales manager (1998). We had clients like Fiat, Maruti, Tata Safari, Samsung. Within a year, Adam left, and so did I.

Ogilvy experience

Joining Ogilvy in 1999 was a great decision. Every advertising professional should work at least once at Ogilvy. If Selvel was an institution for OOH, Ogilvy was the one for advertising. I had joined as a senior consultant and went on to become the president of Ogilvy Action that was contributing 25 per cent to the bottomline of Ogilvy India. We were controlling 50 per cent of the business there - Hutch/Vodafone, ICICI, Star, NDTV Imagine, Colors, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, ITC and Cadbury.

The next defining moment of my career was when I was selected for the Senior Management Development Programme (SMDP) and was flown to places like Bangkok, Maldives, Ho Chi Minh City, Chiang Mai and Cambodia. Thirty people were selected from across the global network and trained to lead an agency or head a business. I learnt how to manage profit centres, how to manage work and life balance, be in the CEO's space to learn situational leadership.

Another milestone

Moving beyond to create another benchmark within WPP to consolidate the OOH business in India was a dream but there were hurdles. It was then that I decided to turn entrepreneur and started Milestone Brandcom with four colleagues from Ogilvy. The agency started with six offices in 2009 and 25 employees. Today, we have 200+ employees and offices/representatives in 42 cities. Within six months we won Colors, McDonald's, Binani Cement, Axis Bank, Dish TV, Tanishq and Tata DOCOMO. And today we have created largest OOH agency in India with 100+ brands in the kitty.

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