Nishi Suri made news earlier this year when she returned to the Indian advertising industry as Chief Operating Officer, Cheil, South West Asia, in January. The advertising veteran leverages over 25 years of experience in the domain and has had stints at Ogilvy & Mather in Shanghai and her last assignment was asWorldwide Managing Director with Ogilvy & Mather in Miami.
Suri believes that one of the fastest things you learn when you get into advertising is to keep your ego at home, and is all geared up to take Cheil India to the next level, and while she is working towards taking Cheil to the No. 3 position in India within the next 2 years, the agency is looking to hire people who are very entrepreneurial in spirit with a hunger and appetite to help achieve its ambitious growth targets.
“Specifically, we are looking for talent in e-commerce, digital media, retail operations and intelligence and brand developers,” she shares.
Suri believes that “Regardless of how the advertising industry has evolved and changed in the last several years, the good news is that the brand has become even more significant as consumers spend their time across multiple platforms today.
“The not so good news is that there’s an entire generation of digital natives who’ve grown up being very comfortable driving executions in digital and social media and who just don’t get the ‘brand’ side of it. There’s also huge fragmentation to the point where Peter doesn’t know what Paul does on the same brand. That needs to change. I am glad that clients are demanding seamless integration, which is forcing agencies to get back into one building and work together just like it used to be prior to the digital era as well as when media teams were integrated with creative teams,” she adds.
Edited excerpts from a free-wheeling conversation with Suri on Cheil being ‘unavoidably integrated’, acquisitions, what is being done to change the agency perceived as primarily a Samsung agency and more...
Which verticals are you looking at for acquisitions?
M&A, especially in digital, is one of the important strategies to achieve our goal of reaching No. 3 in India by 2019. There are about 327 digital agencies in India with about 50% in Mumbai. While a few renowned agencies in the digital space have been taken over, there are other agencies that have been doing great work. We are aggressively scouting for such agencies and might look at acquiring 3-4 in due course of time.
Cheil today is primarily viewed as a Samsung agency, what is being done to change this?
All these years we have been focused on growing the Samsung business. However, even as Samsung continues to be our principal client, beginning 2015, our mandate has been to expand our business and client portfolio. Since then, we have won some significant clients such as Jet Airways, adidas, NGC, Fox Life, Grant’s, Apollo Munich, In Shorts, Abbott, HCL Healthcare among others. So at a very basic level, we need to create awareness about our new client acquisitions.
At a strategic level, we want Cheil India to own the positioning of being a new age agency where technology informs and inspires creativity. We want to be that ‘unavoidably integrated’ agency with a digital first approach that’s inextricably connected with ATL, Retail and Activation.
What are the changes you made since your donned your role at Cheil? How are you going to scale-up operations for the agency?
Cheil India stands at No. 5 among the top 5 advertising agencies in the country. Undoubtedly, that is been one of our best kept secrets. However, moving forward, my primary goal is to take Cheil to the No. 3 position within the next 2 years. We have raised the creative bar internally, for ourselves, and we can see the difference in the quality of our work on Samsung, Adidas, National Geographic and other brands.
In order to scale up operations, we will do three things – continue to develop new specialisms in Digital and Retail, increase our presence significantly and at an accelerated pace in Mumbai, and new business development both organic and inorganic.
Within Digital, we have just set up in house e-commerce capabilities. Almost 30% of smartphones are sold online and hence this was an imperative for us. The e-commerce service is currently being provided to Samsung but in due course of time, we plan to provide this service to other clients as well. We will also market some of our digital products such as Cheil Pulse, which is our Social Analytics tool, organically and to potential new clients as well.
We are also in the process of scaling up our retail specialism by moving up the value chain through developing shopper intelligence. While demand for a superior shopping experience is evident in the metropolitan cities, the Tier II and Tier III towns are also rapidly acclimatising to the changing landscape of the Indian retail market. We have already started implementing solutions for our clients leveraging retail insights provided.
While we are ‘unavoidably integrated’, especially as we have a single P&L, from a structure standpoint we have embarked on integrating creative and planning resources across the board, especially ATL, Digital and Activation. This is giving us a massive edge in the way we develop integrated creative and marketing solutions for our brands.
How much does Cheil India contribute to Cheil Worldwide revenues?
Cheil India is the most important market for Cheil Worldwide after China. As such, the India market contributes significantly to Cheil Worldwide. In a recent visit by our Global CEO, Daiki Lim, he emphasised on India being the second HQ for the network.
How much does digital today contribute to the overall revenues for Cheil India?
Cheil owns a unique positioning of being a Tech driven creative agency where the work speaks for itself not just in India, but across the network. We are the second largest digital agency in India and have a strong team of 130 digital specialists including Social, ORM and E-Commerce.
What are your priority areas for the agency this year?
Our first priority is to be known as a new age creative agency, continuously innovating through new specialisms such as e-commerce, retail intelligence and leveraging technology to deliver unique experiences to consumers.
We want to continue to strengthen our relationship with Samsung, giving the brand a unique voice and continuous innovation in new specialist solutions.
Last, but not the least, it is critical to build that depth of leadership within the organisation and we will focus our efforts on developing a 2nd and 3rd line of first class integrated leaders.