Born and brought up in Kolkata, Navin Khemka never dreamt of joining the media. Like most others of his generation, he was also preparing for chartered accountancy, but fate had something else in store. He got through MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications and Advertising), one of the management institutes he had applied at.
Today, after nearly two decades, he remembers his stay at Mudra as some of his best days simply because of the phenomenal learning in a short time.
One of the innovations, he remembers, for McDonald's was recording the creatives on VHS tapes and then distributing it to local cable operators to play before the start and at the end of new movies.
Believing that the time for media independents had arrived, Khemka moved to Carat Media in 2002 but only for a short stint. He later got a chance to work as an investment director for the Pepsico business in India at Mindshare, an opportunity that he grabbed.
It was a challenging role because Pepsi was a big brand. Unfortunately, he had to move out within a year as there was a structural change in the organization and he was being transferred to the Central Trading Group, which had just been set up. While he wanted to remain close to a brand, Mindshare asked him to manage several accounts at once. "That is not what I wanted to do," he says.
At that point Cheil was setting up shop in India and Khemka was called up, since he had had prior experience with Samsung. It gave Khemka the opportunity to be close to one brand. "At that time, cricket was gaining momentum. So we used Samsung. In the entertainment zone it was the Samsung IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Award, which is still going strong." When Samsung's global team decided to split the account and began appointing global agencies, Khemka decided to move on and joined ZOG, a small agency that had just won the Nestle account.
At ZOG he was not confined to a single role. "I joined there as an investment person in the buying team for the Nestle business, then moved to HP," he recalls. He was later handling a business unit that had 3-4 big accounts of Rs 150 crore each. Khemka was never "bored" at ZOG.
The smaller, the better
I have always handled at least one or two top 10 clients of the country - Samsung, Pepsi, Airtel, Hero, Reckitt Benckiser and Nestle were some. And because I have always worked in Delhi, I have not come close to FMCG brands. New age clients are the ones I understand well, ones that were launched in the last 15-20 years," he explains.
As he moves from ZOG to Maxus, Khemka finds himself more client- and brand-focused. He does not go by size, but with the need. He believes that a client - and his expectation - is changing phenomenally. Therefore, one needs to give holistic plans while the teams have to be prepared.
So what is he going to do at Maxus? "I need to keep the pace with the changing times, because if we lose the pace, we lose the clients."