Defining Moments: Rohit Ohri: Destiny's Child

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 03, 2014
Rohit Ohri, executive chairman, Dentsu India & CEO Dentsu APAC attributes his success to his mentor Ram Ray and the 21 years of experience that he gained in JWT.

I was studying to become a cost accountant, but I always had a creative bent of mind and was actively involved in theatre. Life took a turn in 1989 when I met Ram Ray, the chairman of the Kolkata-based ad agency, Response. Although I applied for a finance profile, Ray felt that I'd do a good job in account management and hired me as a management trainee.

Rohit Ohri

He left an indelible mark on my personality and taught me values, principles and how a discerning eye for detail is a must for advertising professionals. During a year-long stint with the agency, I reported directly to him and worked for 18-20 hours everyday, including weekends. The gruelling schedule made me the professional I am today.

My next stop was JWT Kolkata. I spent 21 long years of my life there. Although I worked with an array of brands the crucial point was when I shifted base from Kolkata to Delhi. I was just two weeks into the Delhi office (Pepsi was its biggest account) when we had to create a campaign for the upcoming cricket World Cup. Pepsi's 'Yeh Dil Maange More' campaign was undoubtedly one of the defining moments of my career. I have to mention Vibha Paul Rishi (Pepsi's head of marketing then) who entrusted faith in me and supported me.

'Dil Maange More' became the anthem of the nation. There are times when you think you have done your best work and for me that was absolutely my most fulfilling time as a brand head. My association with Pepsi brought me into the limelight. I went on to head JWT Delhi. I don't work on the brand anymore, but I only drink Pepsi and nothing else. It is a huge sense of loyalty that I treasure.

While leading JWT Delhi, my mandate was to create a culture of winning. We won some big accounts including Airtel, Bharti Walmart, CWG, Sony, Nokia and so on. It changed the whole paradigm and made JWT Delhi the most profitable office in the JWT World. I had the comfort and security of a big agency. We were on a winning spree.

But then once in a while you just sit back and ask yourself, 'Is it me or the agency?' That was when I felt a strong urge to 'free-dive'. I needed a platform to stand on for it and decided to take up another challenge and moved to Dentsu.

Three years ago, when I joined Dentsu it needed to be recast and rebuild because the previous leadership had left and it had few accounts. I realised that a lot depended on what decision and course I take. The training that I received at JWT helped me. The fantastic thing about Dentsu is the empowerment it gives to its local leaders. When I joined, we weren't sure if we would be able to succeed in establishing it in India because of the enormous quality gap between Dentsu India and the global agency. Bridging it was a daunting task. But overcoming the odds bring enormous amount of satisfaction and we managed to do that in these three years.

I travel to Japan at least four to five times a year and there is a great amount of learning that Tokyo has to offer. In India, we have great plans in terms of creativity and innovation, but the operationalisation leaves a lot to be desired. In Japan, implementation is far more efficient and strategic. That is something we are amalgamating in Dentsu India. Unlike other mega networks, Dentsu is an integrated agency - it has never separated its services because it believes in delivering an integrated communication.

We created a unique model in India under the Aegis Network with Taproot (creative agency), Dentsu (communication agency) and Webchutney (digital media agency) working as a seamless whole. This has become a case study for Dentsu to implement this in other markets.

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