N. Shatrujeet

Mudra is not just a collection of DDB and Reliance businesses: Madhukar Kamath retorts

Madhukar Kamath, MD & CEO, Mudra, reacts to some points made by Ali Merchant, director, Triton, in the course of the latter’s interview with this website

We've always suspected - with good reason, may we add - that the interviews that agencyfaqs! conducts with leading industry professionals and opinion makers tend to create little ripples as they go along, shaping points of view and endlessly adding to the industry's collective conscious. However, every now and then, there comes an interaction with an industry professional that stirs up a small storm, leaving in its wake a heated exchange of words and opinions.

So, if our conversation with Ogilvy's Sonal Dabral saw a pointed rejoinder from Balki (R Balakrishnan of Lowe) last May, it's now the turn of Madhukar Kamath, managing director & CEO, Mudra Communications, to rebut a couple of points raised by Ali Merchant, director, Triton Communications, in his interview which agencyfaqs! featured two weeks ago.

Before we come to Kamath's grouse against Merchant's comments, let's first understand the genesis of the complaint. In response to a series of questions on Triton's stature in the industry vis-à-vis the ‘big boys' (a term Merchant used to describe India's biggest agencies), Merchant said in the interview: "I'll tell you which agencies I mean by ‘big boys'. I'm talking about J Walter Thompson, Lowe and O&M. Let's see about Mudra Communications… Well, it has a couple of accounts out of its DDB connection, and almost everything else is out of its Reliance connection. What does it have of its own?" He then went on to say, "…show me an agency that has had the kind of brand profile and lineup that we have - not through somebody like a Reliance sitting above it or because a multinational partner gave it some big businesses, but because it got business on its own."

Kamath is clearly displeased with the tone and nature of Merchant's comments. "My first reaction to the comment I read about Mudra being a collection of DDB and Reliance businesses is one of simmering anger," he says. "It made my blood boil, and I am aghast, as nothing can be further from the truth."

Presenting his case to disprove Merchant's statement, Mudra's honcho says the only globally aligned DDB business Mudra handles is that of a couple of Henkel Spic brands - Henko detergent and Fa deodorant, to be precise. "Although these are good, solid accounts, they constitute less than 5 per cent of Mudra's business," insists Kamath. With regard to Reliance, although he agrees that Mudra handles almost the entire portfolio - Vimal, Reliance Infocomm, Reliance Energy, Reliance Petroleum, Reliance Capital, Recron, Reliance Pipes and Reliance's corporate account - he maintains that "All this, put together, doesn't account for more than 15 per cent of Mudra's billing."

"We are proud to be a part of the team that works on big Reliance brands, across sectors, and we are very happy to be working with Henkel as well, but the two add up to less than 20 per cent of our business," Kamath says. Incidentally, Mudra claims to have closed 2003-04 with a billing of Rs 850 crore, which Kamath says is up 12 per cent over 2002-03.

"A statement to the effect that we are merely a sum of DDB and Reliance businesses belittles the relationship Mudra has with innumerable clients and brands across the country," Kamath says, adding, "It is particularly damaging considering we (Mudra and Triton) share a very big client in Paras Pharmaceuticals, and Mudra handles 10 Paras brands (including DermiCool, ItchGuard, D'cold, BoroSoft, Krack, Livon and Dr. Lips) which account for some 70 per cent of the Paras business."

Listing Mudra's non-DDB and non-Reliance businesses, Kamath points out that apart from the Paras brands, the agency handles Godrej's hair portfolio (dyes and colours), Godrej FairGlow, Godrej No 1, Godrej Nimin, Godrej Real Good Chicken, Rasna (including Rasna Utsav, Rasna Juc-Up and Rasna Shake Up), Dhara, McFils extruded snacks, Orpat bulbs, Astral CPVC pipes, Yamaha motorcycles, Electrolux, Samsung (Team Samsung and Samsung CDMA phones), HBO, Dabur (including Vatika, Anmol and Hajmola), Orient fans, Nestle Milkmaid, TI Cycles (including flagship brand Hercules), RmKV Silks, Peter England, TTK Prestige, McDowell's (including Derby Special and a new range of ready-to-drink brands), KINFRA, Deccan Herald, Cycle agarbathi, Paragon footwear, Duroflex, LIC Housing Finance, Hindustan Petroleum's lube brands, Big Bazaar, Air-India, LIC, Hindustan Motors, Epson, Nutrine and Satyam.

"All these brands and accounts contribute to the bulk of Mudra's business, and neither Reliance nor DDB have had a part in any of these acquisitions," Kamath says. "We have grown some of these brands from scratch, and we are getting more and more business from our clients every year, be it Dabur, McDowell's, TI Cycles, Rasna or Godrej. I think that is a measure of how we are not just a collection of DDB and Reliance businesses."

Replying to a question on whether Mudra would, in the days to come, become increasingly dependant on Reliance as the company activates its various enterprises nationwide (particularly Reliance Petroleum, Reliance Energy and Reliance Capital), Kamath says, "Reliance is a Mumbai-based business, and Mudra has very good engines of growth in the North and the South. Across Mudra, growth is in the blood, and we are mounting an aggressive push to build clients across the country to maintain the 15-to-85 ratio between Reliance and non-Reliance businesses."

"Also, Mumbai presents growth opportunities in quite a few categories where Reliance doesn't have a presence," he continues. "And Mudra is getting aggressive in Mumbai by building strong teams that can go after non-Reliance businesses." Kamath adds that the agency is looking to close the current financial year with a billing of Rs 1,000 crore. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com