Ashwini Gangal

"I remain an unabashed bull in India": Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP

WPP supremo Sir Martin Sorrell on why he is bullish in India and more.

At an event held in South Mumbai last evening, WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell gave a quick round-up of the media scenario in this part of the globe. "India is the last BRIC standing," he punned, saying the country is followed by China, Brazil and Russia, in that order, when it comes to growth in the media sector.

"We'll grow by 10 per cent in India, this year," he said in the context of WPP, "It's a strong picture." The global figure is five per cent.

"I remain an unabashed bull in India": Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP
"I remain an unabashed bull in India": Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP
In this market, his network's growth is expected to be largely organic. Focus areas are technology, data and content. Growth drivers include e-commerce, shopper marketing and 'proximity retailing'. Interestingly, he called India an "under-branded and under-advertised market."

Is he bullish in this market? "I remain an unabashed bull when it comes to (being bullish in) India," he said in good humour, adding, "It would be arrogant to believe the British or Americans can produce better ad-media agencies than India could, over the next 20-25 years."

In fact, to illustrate his point, he went as far as to say, "It has become unfashionable to talk about the Brits, today!" He's bullish when it comes to China too, by the way, despite the current economic turmoil there.

The trend for BRIC is an upward one. Of that, Sorrell is very sure. "The West has neighbourhood envy," he said, insisting that, in general, there's a shift in power to "the East." Moreover, 2016, he promised, will be a better year for the advertising industry; GroupM forecasts a four to five per cent increase in ad spend.

In a nutshell: The coming year will bring tepid top-line growth, little or no inflation and a pressing need to focus on procurement and cost. "Difficult, but manageable, times ahead. We have to run our business carefully. If you're running a legacy business, you'll have to keep costs under control, as pressure from 'the disruptors' is building," he cautioned, referring to brands like Uber and Airbnb.

WPP's Key Announcements

Sorrell and his team made several announcements at the event. First up, the formation of experiential marketing network Geometry Global | Encompass Network (GGEN), a collaboration between experiential marketing companies Encompass (Indian) and Geometry Global. With 400+ employees across Mumbai and Delhi, the entity will offer services such as shopper marketing, rural marketing, large-scale events/exhibitions, urban consumer marketing, digital activation and field marketing.

The management and advisory board will comprise senior executives from JWT, Ogilvy, Encompass and Geometry Global; the business will be aligned with JWT South Asia. The Network will work closely with GroupM through a partnership called Geometry@GroupM.

About this, Sorrell said, "When WPP decided to set up a horizontal activation platform we combined OgilvyAction, G2 and JWT Action (North America) to form Geometry Global. Today, Geometry Global is working for some of the world's best brands in almost 60 markets around the world..."

Second, WPP is working towards consolidating the CSR activities of all its member companies in India under a single umbrella, namely, 'WPP India Corporate Social Responsibility Foundation'. An education programme targeted to reach 20,000 children between 11 and 18 years of age, over the next three years, has been launched; the group has ear-marked Rs 33 crore for this initiative.

Third, WPP announced the foray of its data firm Data Alliance into India. This is the first market in the Asia-Pacific region the network has expanded this offering to. The objective is to enhance data-driven solutions and activate e-commerce, mobile and social data strategies in India.

In India, Data Alliance is supported by GroupM (Mindshare, Maxus, MEC, Mediacom, Motivator, Xaxis and Madhouse), Kantar (IMRB, Millward Brown, TNS and Worldpanel), Wunderman and Ogilvy.

Lastly, WPP and the Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI) announced the launch of the Mumbai campus of the ISDI WPP School of Communication. The inaugural batch comprises 60 students. This partnership marks WPP's foray into the Indian education sector. The college will offer a professional three-year undergraduate certification program (work-study model) in the field of communication.

About this, Sorrell said, "At our recent meeting with Prime Minister Modi in New York, organised by Rupert and James Murdoch, he suggested the media industry develop universities to train and develop the considerable young talent India has. This initiative represents WPP's initial response..."

Added Ranjan Kapur, country manager, WPP India, "A small but important step has been taken to fill the resource gap in our industry. It is a demonstration of the collaboration between 'academia' and 'industry'..."

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