Ashee Sharma

Profile: Mandeep Malhotra: The 'Rocket Singh' of Outdoor

Malhotra recently partnered with Pratap Bose to launch India's maiden advertising conglomerate - The Social Street.

Back in the days when advertising was uncommon as a career option, Mandeep Malhotra, who describes it as his "first love," knew that it was exactly where he wanted to be. After a six-year-long stint, Malhotra quit DDB MudraMax as president in May.

Profile: Mandeep Malhotra: The 'Rocket Singh' of Outdoor
The outdoor honcho began his career as an account executive with the capital's iconic fast food joint Nirula's. From there, he went on to study advertising in Australia, where he was picked up by WPP's Total Media to work in the media buying space.

His next assignment was in space selling with Indian daily Asian Age. In a major breakthrough, Malhotra sold the first-ever full page ad for the publication. "It was a big thing. It was as if I had arrived in life," he beams.

Around the same time, Clear Channel, a global OOH giant, was entering India. Malhotra moved to Chandigarh with them. In what was until then a 'no-outdoor city', he got the first-ever sanction for outdoor advertising. Later, he worked briefly as an entrepreneur before joining Rediffusion DY&R's (now Rediffusion Y&R) outdoor division in Hyderabad.

At Rediffusion, he was soon given the mandate to head the Hyderabad and Bengaluru circles. He went on to become South head and chief manager-new business development, national. "I had the sales instincts in me, which helped me pick up business wherever I went. Some people have it in them, like Rocket Singh," he jokes.

It had been two years heading the national portfolio when Pratap Bose, who was then with Ogilvy, called him for a meeting. He was scouting for talent for RMG David, now Brand David. Though Malhotra admits that Ogilvy was "culturally exciting" and also a big name, he resisted the offer for a month until convinced with a better deal.

Sharing his experience at Ogilvy, he says, "The brand complimented my energy and passion. I was given the RMG David mandate. We did really well and were known for our guerrilla ways of targetting."

It was 2008. Bose had moved to Mudra and wanted his former colleague to accompany him. Sensing a better growth opportunity, Malhotra joined him in December. At Mudra, he was responsible for retail activation and OOH, and building the MudraMax portfolio.

In 2011, Mudra became part of Omnicom Group. Malhotra was appointed head of MudraMax, where he ran the entire portfolio, except media, for almost three years. "The change brought with it new relationships, learning and international exposure, but there was also a downside to it. Independent agencies are bought out for what they are, but later expected to homogenise in the new environment," he says. Malhotra decided to quit Mudra.

While he took up various roles all these years, Malhotra says his success came from on-ground deliveries. Some of the brands he enjoyed working on were Aircel, Reebok and Idea Cellular. In Aircel, he found the scale of innovation and Reebok gave him the freedom to experiment. He appreciates the transparency that Idea brings in on all partner agencies.

Recently, Malhotra joined hands with Bose in the launch of India's maiden advertising conglomerate - The Social Street. He believes that, as consumers evolve, technology will play a crucial role for the industry. Describing the venture, he says, "It will be a mix of fun, laughter and technology. It's important to experiment whatever you take to the consumer, whether in retail or experiential space. One has to play with technology and learn from mistakes, but be the first one to learn from them."

"We will focus on providing efficient business solutions for clients. The team will be trained on technology, and investments will be made to equip them with the knowledge to deal with the changing environment," he adds.

He believes that people and the ability to adapt to changes are the only two important things in the communication business. If one has that, he says, "The rest falls in place."

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