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I would rate Wavemaker's performance in 2020 A+: Ajay Gupte, CEO – South Asia, Wavemaker
Ajay Gupte, CEO – South Asia, WavemakerBI India
Wavemaker India has won new businesses worth over Rs 700 crore in 2020

I would rate Wavemaker's performance in 2020 A+: Ajay Gupte, CEO – South Asia, Wavemaker

Wavemaker India has won new businesses worth over Rs 700 crore in 2020
  • In a difficult year, Wavemaker India's performance, according to its CEO, Ajay Gupte has been A+, and understandably so. In a year when many agencies are struggling, Wavemaker India has won new businesses worth Rs 700 crore.
  • In a conversation with Ad & Media Insider, Gupte discusses the year almost gone by and also looks back at the last 3 years, on the agency's 3rd anniversary.
The year 2020 has been a difficult year for not just the advertising industry but the world in general. A recent report by KPMG stated that India’s media and entertainment (M&E) sector will take till 2022 to recover from its current levels.

However, there are a few organizations and agencies that took the challenge head on. They innovated, acted with agility and made the most of an otherwise challenging year.

It’s been 3 years since GroupM merged its agencies MEC and Maxus into Wavemaker. Since its inception, Wavemaker has been able to win an enviable roster of clients that include Mondelez, Vi and Mother Dairy, among many others. Moreover, the agency also clocked in new businesses worth Rs 700 crore. Some of the newly won accounts included Sun Pharma, Chumbak, Religare Healthcare Insurance (now Care Health Insurance), Lido learning, Glance and Supr Daily.

On the agency’s 3 rd anniversary, we caught up with Ajay Gupte, CEO – South Asia, Wavemaker who took over the reins after Kartik Sharma moved on from the agency early this year. It’s been an eventful year for both him and the agency and he walks us through all that happened at Wavemaker and how the agency managed to win Rs 700 crore worth of new business in such a tumultuous year.


Q) Let's look back at what has been a very difficult year for the world in general. How has Wavemaker fared during this adverse year?
Yes, it has been a very difficult year for all of us. The year has been tough on business and on our people. No one has ever experienced being in such a lockdown before, so everyone is trying to grapple with this phenomenon in the best way possible.

We’ve made concentrated efforts to take advantage of adversity to accelerate on the journey to achieve our ambitions. In many ways, Covid-19 has brought the future closer. The consumer journey has been altered. Digital plays a much more integral role from brand discovery to purchase. This has enabled us to bring into play the investments we have made in better understanding the consumer journey, in delivering meaningful engagement with the consumer and in effecting purchase.

I am hugely proud of the team for showcasing great agility and acclimatizing to the changes. The year wouldn’t have been easy without the support and trust shown by our clients and partners. Despite being such a tough year, Wavemaker India has managed to clock in new business worth Rs 700+ crore. What more could we ask for!

Q) You took the reins as the CEO of the agency in one of the most challenging years in recent times. What were your key focus areas and your strategies that helped minimize the impact of the pandemic on the agency's numbers?

I do like to look at things positively. Looking back at the year, I think I’ve achieved what I couldn’t otherwise achieve in the normal scheme of life. I was able to meet a large number of our clients (although virtually) within these 6 months. It would have otherwise taken me more than a year to meet our entire client roster. I’ve regularly interacted with our team across the country, which would have been otherwise very difficult, had we to do this in person. So I would say we have been able to make the most of what was dished out to us.

As Wavemaker, we believe in investing in capabilities to build tools which will help us and our clients grow. Automation, analytics, data & technology, digital are some of the key areas where we have been investing continuously. These investments have proven effective as 2020 has altered the consumer journey to a large extent. However, we were able to navigate through these changes and offer appropriate solutions to clients to engage with the consumer along their purchase journey. The work we have done in this year has helped us add that much more value to our clients, thereby strengthening our relationship with them.

Q) There has been a lot of movement when it comes to the leadership team in Wavemaker. Kishan Kumar MS, Premjeet Sodhi, Vishal Jacob and Mac Machiach have taken over key roles. What are your expectations from this power-packed team?

You have rightly termed the team as power-packed and I’m quite fortunate to have such a great team. A highly experienced leadership team is the biggest asset of any agency and I am glad we have the best minds leading Wavemaker. The mandate given and expectations are very clear – keep, growing by positively provoking ourselves, our clients and our partners. Investing in the right talent, nurturing the existing talent along with providing cutting edge solutions to our clients to help them grow is the focal point of our business and offerings. The team needs to keep this at the essence of everything they do.

Q) Wavemaker completed 3 years. What have some of the agency's biggest milestones been so far?

We have had many milestones in this last 3 years. Right from winning Agency of the year in 2018 at Emvies and winning client of the year for Vodafone for 2 consecutive years in 2017 and 2018 at EMVIEs have been one of the most memorable moments for us. We also launched the Content Effectiveness lab with Ogilvy, launched the first-ever influencer marketing offering ‘Thrive’. We created some great analytical tools like Athena, the budget optimizer tool created by our analytics team for L’Oréal which has been highly appreciated by the client and our global teams.

Q) Give us a report card for Wavemaker in 2020. How would you rate your performance so far, in terms of new account wins, the quality of work and overall performance?

If I have to rate the performance of Wavemaker in 2020, I would rate it A+. We have brought our capabilities in data, analytics, content and Technology to the fore by doing some fantastic work for our clients. Very happy with the way the teams have been able to rally together for our clients bringing in learnings from all over the world and using our tools with insights and recommendations to support our clients in this time. Additionally, winning new business worth Rs 700+ crore in an exceptionally tough year like this has been a phenomenal performance. We’ve bagged new accounts like Sun Pharma, Chumbak, Religare Healthcare Insurance (now Care Health Insurance), Lido learning, Glance, Supr Daily and many more. We have also won the e-commerce mandate for Mondelez. Additionally we’re hoping to hear some more positive news in the last 2 months of 2020.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more than this in a year when the world is grappling with challenges and trying to keep business sentiments high.

Q) Tell us about some of the work done this year so far that you are proud of.

We have been extremely proud of the work we have rolled out in this year. Creating engaging content campaigns for our clients was one of the highlights and we have done it exceptionally well. Some of our noteworthy campaigns are ‘Maa ka Haath Ka Khana’ with the famous stand-up comedian Zaakir Khan for Mother Dairy, Thank You campaign for Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk, Myntra Fashion Super star, Iss Saal Har Ghar Pandal for Gemini Oil to the latest Cadbury Celebrations to help the local businesses which suffered during the pandemic. Also we are hugely proud of the amazing work done for the launch of Vi! All these great pieces of work have been pulled off successfully while the teams were working remotely.

Q) In today's environment, what does it take to become an agency of the future?

In today’s VUCA world, it’s difficult to always predict the future but we can prepare for it. 2020 has been a real test of agility and collaboration. Investing in data and technology to deliver effective solutions with the consumer at the centre is key. Also absolutely essential is the investment in automation to ensure that the basics of implementation and reporting are efficient and error-free, allowing talent to focus on brand requirements.

Q) The lockdown also led to some great innovations. How have you as an agency innovated in the past 7 months to ensure you have an edge?

Our digital and tech teams have been constantly working on devising newer modules for clients that will help them connect better with their consumers. The initial phase of the lockdown got us all thinking and reassessing our business plans and we have sharpened our capabilities in data and analytics and technology.

We have implemented several path-breaking innovations for our clients too. One such innovative product we launched for one of our clients was an online platform to allow the client to train and equip their on-ground support team across the country. The product was developed within 10 days and implemented by the client at a lightning speed as that was the need of the hour.

Q) As we inch towards 2021, what will your key focus areas be as a leader?

Our focus will always be on our clients, our people and our product. We will remain to build on our capabilities while we will continue to positively provoke ourselves, our clients and our partners. Upskilling our capabilities and training our talent will be a high focus area. We will continue to invest and enhance our capabilities in e-commerce, content, data, analytics, technology and measurement. In early 2020, we announced Positive Provocation as our proposition and backed it with our Operating system which consists of three major aspects – Unlock, Transform and Maximise. We will ensure every Wavemaker is equipped to Positively Provoke our clients to maximise growth.