Prachi Srivastava
Defining Moments

Defining Moments: Kartik Sharma: The 'Unplanned' Planner

Kartik Sharma, MD, South Asia, Maxus is the man at the helm of Maxus India, the recently crowned Media Agency of the Year, on the key defining moments of his 20 year-long career so far.

I'm a Mumbai boy, born and brought up in a middle class South Indian household. It was a family of music teachers, thanks to whom I grew up listening to and deeply appreciating the nuances of music. I completed my graduation in commerce from RA Podar College (1992). During that time, a commerce graduate was expected to have only one path in mind - to become a chartered accountant. But I wanted a bold and different path - the world of advertising. My interest in advertising started during my college days; more than TV programs, I loved watching the ad breaks. That was also the period when India had just opened up to this field.

Defining Moments: Kartik Sharma: The 'Unplanned' Planner
Following my graduation - as destiny would have it - I got a call from O&M and was delighted to get a job as a management trainee (client servicing), in the finance division. The then head of the division recruited me on one condition - that I get a professional degree after working for a year. After a year, as promised, I quit O&M to pursue an MBA from Narsee Monjee, Mumbai. These two experiences moulded me into the professional I am today.

During my MBA, I interned at Grey. The next defining moment of my life was when, as part of the campus recruitment process, I joined HTA (now JWT), in the client servicing department. That was the year the agency was appointed as Unliever's AoR, and Fulcrum was born.

After three months of joining HTA, out of the blue, I got a call from Ketaki Gupte's office; she was heading the media function at HTA. She suggested that I join the media department of HTA. I was worried and apprehensive; I thought media was all about numbers and computers. But she convinced me and reluctantly, I agreed. Within a few days I got the opportunity to work on several Unilever brands. Unilever was considered to be the mecca of advertising and media; the experience taught me a lot about media planning and buying. Thanks to Ketaki, I have not looked back since. This was my second defining moment.

While I was with HTA, Lintas Media approached me and asked me to work on Unilever's oral care portfolio. Joining Lintas changed my life. It strengthened my understanding of media. In fact, I started loving media.

Many of my defining moments have been totally unplanned. And I have been fortunate to have been guided by industry stalwarts like LV Krishnan (my mentor at HTA), Kenneth D'Souza (my first boss at Lintas) and Andrey Purushottam (servicing head, Lintas, Unilever business).

The next defining moment came in 2001, when GroupM was created. I was with O&M, and the media departments of WPP's agencies - O&M, Contract Advertising and JWT - were being merged to create separate media agencies. That's when I became part of Mindshare.

Then one day I got a call from Madison Media. Though I was not looking to shift, I met Sam Balsara. The profile he had in mind for me was that of reviving Madison Media Research Center, the research and analytics division of Madison.

Back then, I felt there was a lacuna of good, indegenious media tools in the industry. So I ended up developing many media tools. I also did lot of analytics during my five-year tenure at Madison. It was a defining time for me.

In 2007, Ajit Varghese (now CEO, Maxus Asia Pacific) asked me to join Maxus. It was an opportunity to handle the P&L side of things. Joining Maxus was another defining moment. At Maxus, I was part of the Hutch-to-Vodafone brand transition, for which we executed a bold, disruptive media roadblock. 2007 onwards I have been with Maxus in various roles.

The last defining moment was when I was given the opportunity to head Maxus South Asia in 2014.

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