We’re in a good place in comparison to our competitors and I hope DAN India continues to stay ahead of the curve: Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin talks about his roadmap ahead for the networkDAN
  • After taking on his new role, Bhasin is deep-diving into different markets under his jurisdiction, to make sure that the network is ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow, head-on.
  • He believes that their effort at future-proofing the network has ensured that it is more well-placed today, when compared to its opponents.
  • Bhasin shares that a lot of the network's success can be attributed to the One DAN philosophy, which he will continue to strengthen.

In September this year, Ashish Bhasin, the then CEO Greater South, and chairman and CEO – India, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) became the first Indian executive ever to lead the entire Asia Pacific business for the Network. He was also the first Indian to enter DAN’s Global CEO executive team.

Since then, Bhasin, who is now based out of Singapore, has been constantly on the move. I spoke to him this Saturday and I realized he was travelling the whole weekend. “Things have been busy. I have been moving around a lot. Today I am in Shanghai, and tomorrow I will be travelling to Taipei,” he said.

Bhasin took over the Network reigns as Chairman and CEO, DAN, South Asia in 2015. However, his journey with this organization began much before. Dentsu acquired UK’s Aegis Media to form Dentsu Aegis Network in 2013. Soon after, he pumped his way through to catalyze the expansion of the then relatively new network with around 45-50 employees under its roof to its current strength of 3,700 people. He grew the network on the back of smart acquisitions and continued focus on Digital. His ambition? To build DAN into the country’s most innovative, future-proofed market-leading network.

In his new role, Bhasin shares that his primary focus would be to understand how each of the markets under his jurisdiction work and to make them future-ready.

Bhasin’s key areas of focus

As he starts deep-diving into the different markets under his jurisdiction, for Bhasin the most important thing now is to make sure that the network is ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow, head-on.

He explains, “At the moment, our industry is undergoing a lot of change. There are different opportunities and challenges, and it differs from market to market, country to country. The biggest challenge for agencies today is to be future-ready because the consumer-and-client expectations are changing rapidly. My aim will be to help future-proof the network and its agency brands and to continue to stay ahead of the curve.”

Ashish asserts that DAN began to focus on becoming agile, and thus, adapting to market changes, rather quick. Consequently, the network is today is much more well-placed when compared to its opponents. “We are in a very good place compared to most of our competitors today. But we also want to make sure that we take full advantage of that,” he adds.

For a while now, Tim Andree, Executive Chairman and CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network, has been talking about the agency’s ‘One Dentsu’ philosophy. His aim is to approach the entire organization as one group and encourage collaboration within the group, while focusing on one P&L.

Bhasin gives a lot of credit for the network’s recent success to this philosophy. “I've always believed in what we then used to call the ‘One DAN’ philosophy. Now, it manifests itself into our one P&L philosophy. That's perhaps one of our single biggest strengths compared to any of our competitors, and it’s the most important area we need to work on. This philosophy helps us smash silos. We’ve done it within DAN and if we’re able to do it as One Dentsu, that’ll be really great,” he says.

Expectations from the India business

While this year proved to be sluggish in terms of growth for the overall industry, Bhasin shares that their attempt at future-proofing the network insulated some of the slowdown for them.

“Relative to the market, we've had good growth. However, it has been slower than what we had anticipated in the beginning of the year. Towards the middle of the year, there was a noticeable slowdown, but we are relatively better off because of our high skew on digital,” says Bhasin. Currently, close to 48% of DAN India’s revenue comes from its Digital business.

Commenting on his expectations from DAN India, Bhasin says that he can only expect the group to grow at a healthy rate every year. “If we talk about DAN India, I would expect every year to be better than the previous. It is a high growth market. 2019 will turn out to be another record year for us and I would definitely expect that 2020 should be well ahead of 2019. While this year we witnessed a slowdown, next year the advantage of a lower base should work in our favor,” he shares.

He adds that his biggest expectation from India is that it will be a frontrunner of growth for the organization. “For a long time, we’ve been following the West when it comes to advertising. But today India is poised in a place where it can start leading many areas.” His voice is ringing with optimism.

Currently, the India business is being led by Anand Bhadkamkar and Bhasin is confident that he’s the right choice for the role. “Anand has been a part of the organization for over a decade now. I truly think he is one of the finest managers we’ve got. He is calm and balanced, and you get a sense of confidence when you talk to him. He's got a sharp business sense and I have no doubt that he’ll do very well. He’s also has the ability to carry the team along very well and that will stand him in good stead,” says Bhasin.

What lies ahead for DAN

Bhasin shares that the rise of DAN as the No 2 Group in India in 2017 was one of the biggest landmarks for the network. He says, “While I won’t call it a vision, we had set a mission to becoming the No 2 group in India, and we reached that place way ahead of the anticipated time. We have come from nowhere. With just about 50 employees, and from a loss-making agency, we have now turned around to become a business that is growing fast, making high revenues and profits, and doing so, in a relatively short time.”

However, he doesn’t want the achievements to make them complacent. “At that point of time, we wanted to be the network of the future. Hence, our focus was on future-proofing and the emphasis was on digital, search and performance. And we’ve achieved that. But it’s not the time to simply look back and rest on your laurels, particularly in this era of constantly changing client and consumer demands. We have to continue on our path of future-proofing. I believe going forward, MarTech, Data Management and CRM are the kind of areas that will become more and more important for our clients. We’ve been charting the path and defining the course. We did acquisitions at a scale that nobody had ever done. But I would hope that DAN India continues to be ahead of the curve. It's a continuum. We started on a journey and now we must make sure that we keep accelerating it,” says Bhasin.
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