Alokananda Chakraborty

Param Saikia to join Publicis as COO

For Publicis, this would mark an end to the search that began when Praveen Kenneth, then chief executive officer, put in his papers in January this year

Publicis India is back in the news. Not because of another round of mergers and acquisitions or any major account gain. But for finding itself an operating head.

Param Saikia, director at Euro-RSGC, is slated to join Publicis as chief operating officer. While Saikia was unavailable for comment, his appointment was confirmed by Bharat Dabholkar, managing director, Publicis India. It seems Saikia, who is set to take up his new assignment on July 15, will be based in Delhi and will report to promoters Bharat Dabholkar and TN Ravindran. For Publicis, this would mark an end to the search that began when Praveen Kenneth, then chief executive officer, put in his papers in January this year (his official date of release was April 1). Agency sources say Kenneth left the agency as he could not see himself ‘fitting in' in the new scheme of things at Publicis when an operational merger was kicked off with Saatchi & Saatchi about nine months ago.

For media-shy Saikia this would be a key break in his 16-year advertising career during which he has worked on big-ticket multinational clients like Coca-Cola, Motorola and Nestle, an account on which he has worked for 12 years. It is perhaps this exposure to multinational businesses that was key to his appointment - especially so, if Publicis in India is serious about getting business from Nestle. As a matter of fact, the Nestle business worldwide is split between McCann-Erickson and Publicis. In India, apart from getting just about a toehold in Nestle in the form of Pure Life mineral water, Publicis hasn't yet been able to make a major breakthrough into the advertising business of the multinational foods major. Viewed against this background, Saikia's appointment may be indicative of Publicis' growing seriousness about Nestle in India.

Forty-year-old Saikia is expected to bring to Publicis his wide-ranging experience across some of the top advertising agencies in India. A product of Shri Ram College of Commerce and Delhi School of Economics, Saikia's first brush with advertising was at Chaitra (now Leo Burnett) where he joined as a summer trainee, after which he moved to Ulka Advertising (now FCB-Ulka) where he was a senior account executive. Within a year it was time for him to move again, and this time his destination was HTA where he stayed on for the next eight years, before putting in a year at Mudra. In 1995 he joined McCann-Erickson as vice-president and general manager, before hopping across to Euro-RSCG in the year 2000. This experience is definitely come in handy at Publicis, which is aggressively scouting for new businesses - especially those aligned with Publicis worldwide.

Elaborating on Saikia's role, TN Ravindran, joint managing director, Publicis India, told agencyfaqs!, "At Publicis, Saikia's brief would be to retain and nurture current businesses and get new businesses alongside. The other big task would be to seamlessly integrate the operations of the Delhi and Mumbai branches of the agency." For the record, the three promoters Bharat Dabholkar, Alka Dabholkar (Alka has moved on to Parle since) and Ravindran together have a 35 per cent stake in Publicis, while Publicis Wordwide has the balance 65 per cent.

Incidentally, French advertising agency Publicis' acquisition of Bcom3 - the group which also owns advertising agencies Leo Burnett and D'Arcy MB&B internationally - in March this year is not likely to have an impact in the Indian market or specifically to the day-to-day functioning of Publicis India. As Ravindran pointed out, "In line with the international arrangement, in India too it has been decided that the group agencies here will operate independently in the same fashion as the Interpublic Group agencies do." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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