Biprorshee Das

Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway

Continuing with the series of people movements in the industry in 2010, afaqs! runs a recap on the key appointments in the digital space.

The digital space - the most happening space, as touted by many - witnessed significant developments in terms of people especially in the second and third quarter of the 2010.

Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
In the beginning of the year, Rajesh Aggrawal, president, Dentsu India had disclosed that the agency had identified digital as one of the key growth areas indicating Dentsu's intention to beef up its digital department. MSN India's Krishna Prasad was roped in as chief experience officer to head its digital division in March. Prasad, with 16 years' experience, quit MSN India after a seven-year stint in October 2009.

Mainly responsible for creating content strategies and alliances to drive internet users to MSN India network websites, Prasad was also part of the team that launched MSN Search and MSN Video in India. Having begun his career with advertising, Prasad says that his decision to return was prompted by the desire to do more than just basic work in the digital space.

"As a publisher, you are almost at the end of the chain. Working with an agency gives you the opportunity of bringing to life the digital experience starting at zero from the planning level," he says. Coming from Microsoft, a company starkly different when it comes to work culture, Prasad says it was a challenge to make the initial adjustments and adapt.

Much has been spoken about the potential of the mobile medium in India given its penetration in the country. With the rising number of service providers and handset companies, it is but an obvious medium for marketers to target.

In perspective, the second quarter began with Media Contacts' (Havas Media's digital arm in India) Kushal Sanghvi moving on to join StratosHear Technologies, a mobile technology and marketing firm as executive director, business development, media and alliances.

One of the founding members of, Sanghvi has more than 15 years of experience in the media space working with companies such as The Times of India Group, Fremantle Worldwide and Reliance ADAG.

At StratosHear, Sanghvi will 'drive' alliances with telecom and media companies to grow the company's business in India and other markets. Sanghvi says it was a particularly difficult decision to leave Media Contacts after having spent a reasonable time building up the brand and the company.

According to him, the decision was inevitable since mobile was a key area to work on - one that boasts of high penetration and yet being nascent when it comes to being exploited as a marketing medium.

The challenges before him were two-fold. One, hiring people in a company that was relatively new and secondly, trying to bring about a change in the mobile marketing habits of the industry.

Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
Network18 lost an experienced hand when Surya Mantha joined venture capital firm, Omidyar Network, as director. Mantha, who was executive director, convergence at Network 18 had also worked with Web 18 as its chief executive officer for about four years.

At the venture capital firm belonging to Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay Inc, Mantha focuses on investment areas related to digital media, consumer internet, mobile value-added services and mobile payments.

And then there were those who chose to move on from their existing responsibilities to form start-ups of their own. Prasanth Mohanachandran and Karl Gomes joined hands to set up a digital agency called AgencyDigi. Mohanachandran had recently quit OgilvyOne as the executive director, digital services, OgilvyOne and Neo@Ogilvy after spending about a decade with the Ogilvy group.

Mohanachandran has had prior experience of managing a start-up, his own digital agency, eDeltaC Communications, which was eventually acquired by the Ogilvy group in the year 2000. eDelta Communications was later rechristened Ogilvy Interactive and, then, Neo@Ogilvy. Gomes, ex-NCD, digital, Rediffusion-Y&R has many years of experience in the digital arena.

Having spent more than 13 years in the industry, Gomes has been involved with the digital medium for nearly 10 years. He worked as an independent consultant after he quit Rediffusion-Y&R in 2009.

Mohanachandran says that the belief that everything is - or will be - digital, led to the birth of AgencyDigi. Much like Sanghvi, he too says that the biggest challenge was getting the right talent. "I know we have managed to tackle this to a large extent when I see our belief reflected in the team's passion," says Mohanachandran.

STAR India roped in Lalit Bhagia as vice-president, digital in June. Bhagia was with Digitas, the digital marketing agency of Publicis as executive vice-president and head, Asia Pacific, digital. He left the agency after over eight years to move to the client side where he is responsible for both internet and mobile properties of STAR India.

"I looked at my role in STAR as one that could possibly shape the entertainment industry of India given the changing habits of media consumers because of the digital medium," says Bhagia.

According to him, expectations are huge from the digital business of STAR and a lot of questions on the ability of the medium to be able to build a scaleable business will be raised. The mandate before him was to convince everybody that it is a business which can generate revenues and scale for the company in both the short and long term.

Bhagia sees consumers at one end who continue to do appointment viewing and have just begun to consume media on the mobile using traditional applications. At the other end is the lean-forward consumer who wants to control the media he consumes at his time and pace and on the device he wants to.

"The first one is a definite and immediate opportunity while the second one is what we need to invest in for the future. Having done so, now the key challenge is to be able to execute on our plans," says Bhagia.

Moving further into the year, LinkedIn decided to discontinue its association with NetworkPlay, the exclusive seller of its ad inventory in India.

The US-based business networking site appointed Dhiman Mukherji at a senior level position in ad sales along with Sunny Saurabh as head, advertising solutions. Mukherji was head, ad sales at while Saurabh was working with UTV New Media as assistant vice-president, web entertainment.

Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
Flashback 2010: Changing lanes in the digital highway
With its ever-increasing popularity, social networking site Facebook finally started hiring in India by setting up base in Hyderabad. Facebook appointed Kirthiga Reddy as director of online operations and Manoj Varghese as director of user operations. Reddy with 14 years of work experience joined from the US-based Phoenix Technologies where she was the vice-president and general manager and headed the India operations.

Varghese worked with Google in his last assignment where he was director, people operations, responsible for human resource and staffing function for Japan and the Asia-Pacific regions. He has also worked with Dell India, Infosys Technologies and Maruti Suzuki.

Among other movements during the period, Yuzdi N Badhniwalla joined Bengaluru-based online ad network, Ozone Media as vice-president, marketing, sales and alliances. Badhniwalla had recently quit Starcom IP, the digital arm of Starcom MediaVest Group as general manager. roped in Darpan Jain as chief operating officer besides making a few senior level appointments for ad sales. Jain joined the online cards website from Firefly e-Ventures, the digital arm of HT Media where he was the deputy general manager, technology.

Among the significant appointments made in the third quarter was getting in Niraj Seth as chief marketing officer, a newly created position. Seth joined Cleartrip from, the online jobs portal where he looked after the markets of India, Middle East and South East Asia. Says Seth, "My strength lies in understanding the consumer's mind and connecting brands with the consumer's heart. Having done that right in Monster, I thought it was time to move to another exciting category."

He sees travel as a price-sensitive category and believes that there is a need to bring in a strategic approach to brands along with tactical campaigns that continue to be important.

ESPN STAR Sports also beefed up its digital team with Arvind Mahendru who joined the channel as head of digital media to look after properties such as mobile, 3G, streaming and website from both the business and the development perspective. In his previous role, Mahendru was the senior vice-president, new media at India TV interactive.

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