Anushree Bhattacharyya

The Indian Express Group brings Express Adda to the city; gets Sir Martin Sorell as the first guest

The first night of the Express Adda saw Sir Martin Sorell, chief executive officer, WPP Group, along with Shekhar Gupta, Prasoon Joshi and Uday Shankar discuss brand India and its interesting positioning of 'the fastest growing economy'.

The Indian Express Group has launched the concept of Express Adda (the Bengali term for a form of intellectual conversation among members). To kickstart the discussion, the group brought Sir Martin Sorell, chief executive officer, WPP Group, as the first guest, along with Prasoon Joshi, executive chairperson, McCann Worldgroup India, and Uday Shankar, chief executive officer, STAR India.

Talking about the initiative, Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief, The Indian Express, said, "Usually, we all meet each other in some social gathering or the other. However, only some time back I realised that we know very little or nothing about each other. Keeping this in mind, we have started the Express Adda -- a platform for people who have something in common, to sit together and have a meaningful chat."

Sorell talked about a similar concept called 'Unconference' that the WPP Group organises every year. He said, "Each year, about 350 people from the WPP group gather in Athens for the 'Unconference'. At the venue, we put a white board, where anyone can write a topic that is then discussed or talked about."

Next, Sorell spoke about brand India. He added, "Every year, Y&R conducts a brand asset analysis of all countries, and the research states that brand India has improved significantly over three-to-four years, and has successfully positioned itself as the fastest growing economy."

Joshi then asked what was it about India that interested him -- the business or the culture? He also wanted to know how the brand had improved.

To this, Sorell replied, "While the United States, with a population of about 300 million people, is a homogenous country, India, on the contrary, is completely different from the lot. This is an extremely diverse country, with a population of more than 1.2 billion people. Secondly, India has improved by leaps and bounds because of the advent of new media or digital.

"Also, the country has gone through geographical changes. What is interesting here is, the Indian economy does not depend on export and sales, it's mostly about consumption. All these factors, in turn, have ensured that no multinational company can stay away from India if it wants growth. Lastly, it is incredible to watch economists and businessmen discussing the 8-9 per cent growth rate of the country, while the rest of the economies in the developed world are growing at 1-1.5 per cent."

Shankar of STAR India asked if the job of building brand India is done and the country has earned a dividend of 1.0 per cent, is this the beginning of 2.0?

To this, Sorell explained, "We are all working towards developing a long-term strategic plan for the further growth of the country. By development, I mean development of infrastructure -- both soft like 2G, 3G and broadband, and hard, like railways, roadways and many more, ensuring growth of technology and spread of education. Therefore, it's pertinent for any country to work on these pillars to ensure future growth. I am bullish on India's ability to achieve the next level of growth, but one cannot ignore the fact that India got its act together after the end of its camaraderie with China."

Towards the end of the discussion, Sorell cited the example of the riots in the UK, saying that while things have changed drastically with digital playing a very important role, one will, at the same time, have to face the other side of this medium, which is uncontrollable and messy.

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