Alokananda Chakraborty

Mudra, Delhi, eases out 15 employees; strives for competitiveness

Fifteen employees at Mudra’s Delhi office were offered a severance package recently. Most of these people were in the studio and in media operations at the agency

Mudra Communications' Delhi office is in the midst of the biggest churning ever. Close on the heels of the departure of senior vice-president Nita Kapoor in February, at least 15 employees at the branch office were offered a severance package with a day's notice. These people were asked to go on February 28, and the move takes the staff strength at the branch down to 96 from around 111 at the turn of the new year. "The whole effort was aimed at rightsizing the Delhi branch and drive competitiveness," says Hemant Mishra, executive vice-president.

Mishra explains the reason for the decision. "When I took over in September (2001), I realised there were a lot of people in various departments who were not being utilised fully. Most of these people were in the studio and in media operations. And some of them have been around since the time Mudra was set up. Many of these guys did not/were not able to keep up and adapt to the changes in the industry or with changing technology. My effort has been to do away with the excess staff."

The development assumes significance when seen against the backdrop of two interesting developments. One, the departure of key professionals from the branch with disturbing regularity. Mudra's Delhi office has, in the last six months, witnessed the departure of four very senior and talented people - Nita Kapoor, Samit Sinha (ex-COO, Mudra, in August last) and the creative duo Freddy Birdy and Naved Akhtar (December last). Two, the report doing its rounds that DDB, which has a 10 per cent stake in the agency currently, is looking to "substantially" hike its stake in the Ahmedabad-headquartered agency by the year end. In fact, if industry buzz is anything to go by, "a lot of Mudra's recent efforts are aimed at cleaning up its act, and look lean and competitive when DDB comes in to take the tally".

No confirmation was available on either of these from the official sources at Mudra. Mishra, for one, is quick to dismiss all of this as "pure gossip". "At least we have no information here that such a thing (DDB hiking stake in Mudra) may be happening," he says. He, however, specified the terms of the severance package. "We have given these people one-month's salary in lieu of each year they have put in at Mudra. The biggest package has gone to somebody who had served 17 years here and he took away 17 months' salary. I guess that is a very fair deal. Many of them would have retired in some time. Instead of letting them retire in due course, we have actually paid them to leave," points out Mishra.

Mishra says the whole exercise was done to ensure there was minimum pain. "Mudra has never retrenched people; that's not our culture. Even when agencies like HTA, Lowe, Contract were laying off people, we trying to ‘find' work for some of our people and keep them employed. However, over time, if there are six people in your office who are working hard, and there are another four who are not, you realise you can't get the efficiencies you desire."

With this round of rightsizing behind him, Mishra is working at the two big tasks on his agenda now - drive creative leadership and strengthen the planning department at Mudra's Delhi office. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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