Here come the game-changers of the Indian Media, Marketing and Advertising industry this year – the nominees for IMPACT Person of the Year

29 Oct, 2018 by TEAM IMPACT

Every year, the IMPACT Person of the Year title is awarded to a distinguished person from the advertising, media and marketing industry, whose phenomenal achievements include not only working wonders for his or her own company or organisation, but also efforts that have far-reaching impact in the industry on a larger canvas. The year 2018 holds a similar promise, but as we proceed to announce the nominees for the award this year, the choice before us is even tougher than earlier.

As the industry recovers from the after-effects of demonetization and imposition of GST, the last-mile efforts at consolidation to grow media revenues in combination with data is actually beginning to show results. The mobile or second screen is evolving, rapidly fuelled by over-the-top (OTT) platforms and alternative forms of content that are being created and consumed in fast growing volumes. In the words of Sunil Lulla, Group CEO, Balaji Telefilms, “Indians will now enjoy multiple content forms in an easy to access, anytime, anywhere basis. The future is here and upon us.” In the media domain, the Indian Premier League (IPL) moving from Sony Pictures Networks India to Star India is being seen as a major driver of a sharp swing in fortunes within the broadcast industry. Added to it is Star India’s OTT platform Hotstar garnering huge viewership of over 200 million during IPL, demonstrating just how the OTT medium could be scaled up to become truly mass and mainline.

Elsewhere, the hallmark of Year 2018 is being acknowledged as the ‘coming of age of digital as a platform’. “Significant media budgets are now being rightfully aligned to digital. It’s no more play money,” says Dheeraj Sinha, MD, India and Chief Strategy Officer, South Asia of Leo Burnett. It’s also the coming of age of several new digital business entrepreneurs, aided by the rapid rise of Internet consumption in the country. Meanwhile, the Indian creative industry is basking in unprecedented international recognition, even as top brand marketers push the limits of excellence and redefine the marketplace.

In this backdrop, we present the case for each of our nominees to win the IMPACT Person of the Year 2018 award. If Naveen Tiwari, Founder & CEO, InMobi managed to get the Bangalore-based ad tech major to arrive in the Big Boys club of digital advertising, then Ritesh Agarwal, Founder, Oyo Rooms, a 24-year-old college dropout, was able to build a $5 billion business and legendary admen Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and Creative Director, Ogilvy South Asia and his brother, Prasoon Pandey, Founder of Corcoise Films, did the country proud by becoming the first Asians to be awarded the prestigious Lion of Saint Mark at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year. If Rajan Anandan, Vice President, Google, South East Asia and India , has doubled the company’s India business from what it was in 2013-14, driving forward India’s Internet consumption overall in the process, then Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman, HUL, Nadia Chauhan, Joint Managing Director and CMO, Parle Agro and Deepak Iyer, Managing Director, Mondelez International, India are taking the FMCG giants to newer heights. If Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India pulled off the unimaginable with the Indian Premier League and success of Hotstar, then Sriharsha Majety, Rahul Jaimini and Nandan Reddy, co-founders of Swiggy, became one of the fastest entrants into the billion dollar club of start-ups. Each of them more deserving than the other, the question is, who will become the IMPACT Person of the Year 2018? Read on to know more about these super-achievers.

[The profiles are placed in no particular order]



A college drop out at 17, entrepreneur at 19 and a billionaire at 24, Ritesh Agarwal’s journey so far is nothing short of a fairy tale. He started Oyo Rooms in 2013 with the aim of providing safe, clean and affordable hotel rooms to people. Five years down the line, Oyo has become a member of the coveted unicorn club, India’s second most valued start-up after Paytm. With an enviable list of investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital and Greenoaks Capital, and most recently Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund investing $1 billion in Oyo, its valuation currently stands at a little less than $5 billion.

Agarwal’s entrepreneurial story has been fascinating. He dropped out of college because a structured and arbitrary fashion of learning wasn’t really his cup of tea. While he did enrol himself in the University of London’s International Programme by the Indian School of Business and Finance, Delhi for the sake of his parents, Agarwal learnt much more by attending entrepreneurship events and by travelling across the country to research and strengthen his business idea.

What started from a single hotel in Gurugram has today expanded to 8,500 properties. Oyo has also launched in China, where it aims to become the largest hotel chain. Subsequently, it has plans to enter the UK and other European countries, as well. Agarwal is also eyeing the Japan market, with plans to enter it ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games. By 2023, the 24-year-old Agarwal aims to turn his venture into the world’s largest hotel chain. Agarwal’s is an inspiring story of turning one’s dream into a reality.


People are all that matters,” Deepak Iyer, Managing Director, Mondelez India once wrote in a column for a business magazine. As the head of one of India’s most loved chocolate brands, the importance of being a people’s person could not have been emphasized more, and it is Iyer’s strong belief that creating a passionate team with a strong sense of vision and purpose can make a world of difference.

“India was a standout with revenue up double-digits behind strong volume gains,” Dirk Van de Put, CEO, Mondelez International said in a recent investor call. Indeed, Mondelez India delivered its fourth straight quarter of double-digit revenue growth in July this year, and the man at the helm who has played an instrumental role in driving this consistent growth is Deepak Iyer.

Iyer, who joined the Mondelez India team in 2016, and is also part of the Asia-Pacific leadership team, looks at the sales side of business and has played a key role in introducing new sales initiatives, reduced product time to market and ensured a strong brand presence on e-commerce platforms. New product launches and entry into new categories have also helped Mondelez bolster its growth. Mondelez India entered the adult health malt food segment by launching Bournvita for Women, while also introducing new products like Fuse and Lickables. Strengthening its presence in rural India, the company has invested in special capabilities required for a heat-sensitive product, since the last couple of years. Moreover, the company now has its own gifting website and frequently ties up with different platforms to improve consumer experience, while also increasing touch-points to reach out to consumers, making the portfolio much more visible.



Jointly winning the Lion of St Mark – the highest honour at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, earlier this year, propelled Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and Creative Director, Ogilvy South Asia and his brother, Prasoon Pandey, Director, Corcoise Films to the top of the advertising world. Legends in the Indian media and advertising space, the recognition was an honour not only for the two brothers, but for the Indian advertising industry as a whole.

The award recognises the entire body of work by the brothers Pandey. The first Jury President from Asia at the Cannes Lions Festival 2004, Piyush Pandey won his first two Cannes Gold Lions for his work on an anti-smoking campaign in 2002, marking the start of global recognition for a man who was already a creative legend in India. He is synonymous with his legendary work on brands such as Fevicol, Luna, Cadbury and Asian Paints, besides several popular Hindi ad campaigns during the 1980s and 90s, which went on to become household names. In recognition of his stellar contribution to the advertising industry, the Government of India awarded him the Padma Shri in 2016.

The man behind the famous Fevicol and The Times of India advertising campaigns, Prasoon Pandey also directed Ericsson’s ‘One Black Coffee’ in 1996, the first Indian campaign to win a Cannes Lion. A highly accomplished director, who has won recognition within India, as well as globally, Prasoon Pandey started out with humble beginnings, first training as a graphic designer, then a film writer at Lintas Delhi and eventually taking on the role of Creative Director of Lowe India. He set up his own production company, Corcoise Films, in 2002.


Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India, spearheads the network’s expansive journey in India, and under his leadership, Star India has grown more than three times in revenue.

Gupta has been instrumental in exploring new content genres, introducing multiple platforms for content delivery, spearheading the growth of HD and expanding the portfolio of Star’s channels through a series of new launches. Gupta, who led the refresh of Star Plus’ brand identity, is also credited with bringing in a fresh perspective to Hindi General Entertainment. He has also been instrumental in the re-launch of Star Sports and introducing the Pro Kabaddi League and Indian Super League.

The network also made news last year after it spent a whopping Rs 16,347.5 crore for the telecast rights of the popular Indian Premier League tournament. Gupta then confidently went on record to say that Star India would break even on IPL this year itself. The network gives him credit for making it India’s first media company to have a completely digitized back-end. Gupta has worked on introducing multiple technology initiatives, enabling digital video delivery with starsports.com and Hotstar. Hotstar, Star India’s OTT platform, saw one million downloads within six days of its launch in 2015. With content available on its platform in 18 languages, the platform today is one of India’s most downloaded apps and has over 350 million followers.

Gupta joined Star India in 2009 as the Chief Operating Officer, moving from Bharti Airtel. Today, he is always on the lookout for new efficiencies and new technologies to brace up the network.


Sriharsha Majety, a BITS Pilani and IIM-C alumnus and Nandan Reddy, also from BITS Pilani, were initially working on a logistics platform called Bundl Technologies, which failed to take off. However, at the same time, the duo realised the scope of the hyper-local delivery business catering to the food order and delivery space, which was largely untapped at that time. That was when they roped in IIT-Kharagpur alumnus Rahul Jaimini, and the three conceptualised Swiggy in Bengaluru in 2014.

Majety set up the company based on a simple premise – “We aim to change the way India eats.” And the three founders have managed to do that, while getting their basic service of logistics right. The founders don’t even shy away from calling themselves boringly predictable, as long as they are able to get their basics right. Thus, despite being a late entrant in the online food ordering market, Swiggy has today become India’s fastest start-up to find its place in the unicorn club. Today, it has successfully toppled its competitors like Zomato and Foodpanda. That the unicorn company is on the right path is clear from the fact that venture capital firm, Naspers Ltd, is planning to further increase its stake in Swiggy by investing $2 billion.


Naveen Tewari, Founder, InMobi is today one of the most sought-after leaders in the tech-start-up space. In 2007, Tewari, along with co-founders Mohit Saxena, Amit Gupta and Abhay Singhal left their well-paying jobs to launch his start-up mKhoj from a Mumbai apartment. However, the market was not ready for it; hence the idea didn’t fly. After several experiments with formats, the three partners launched a new version of mKhoj, tweaking their model to focus on mobile advertising. The turning point for their fortunes came after they met Ajit Nazra of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), and Ram Shriram of Sherpalo Investments and walked away with an investment of $8 million. With new funding, the company focused on strengthening its base and moved to Bangalore, and by 2009, the company had grown to a team of over 75 people, with four offices around the world. In 2011, SoftBank entered India with a $200 million investment in InMobi. To drive a stronger international appeal, Tewari changed the company’s focus completely towards mobile advertising in 2012. Over the next few years, he took the company to a whole new scale altogether, launching the ‘InMobi Ad Tracker’, a real-time mobile conversion tracking platform for advertisers to evaluate ad spends, the ‘InMobi Lifetime Value Platform’ for publishers and app developers to customise plans according to consumer behaviour patterns, etc. A series of acquisitions led InMobi to become one of the largest India-based platforms defining mobile-first customer-engagement through its list of products ranging from app distribution and monetization to brand advertisements, with over one billion monthly active users across 160 countries and 138 billion monthly ad impressions. In 2018, InMobi announced a global partnership with Microsoft to power cloud-based enterprise platforms for marketers, combining the power of InMobi’s Advertising and Marketing Cloud capabilities with Microsoft Azure’s global cloud infrastructure, using artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics, to give a boost to its status as one of the largest providers of advertising and marketing solutions.

Today, the firm is supported by investors such as SoftBank, KPCB, Sherpalo and the UC-RNT Fund and it is a global brand with offices across the US, UK, China, Australia, Taiwan and a large part of Europe. Tewari’s brainchild is now recognised as a 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 company and as one of Fast Company’s 2018 Most Innovative Companies.


Twenty-six years ago, Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) joined Unilever, helping to set up the business from scratch in Dubai. This was followed by his stint as Chairman of Unilever Bangladesh, which was in the midst of an anti-MNC sentiment at the time. He then went on to serve as Chairman of Unilever in the Middle East, with postings at the London headquarters in between, besides time spent in the Philippines. The year 2013 proved to be an important one for him, as he not only assumed the role of CEO of HUL, but also took over as Chairman of the company from Harish Manwani. Mehta then knew that the brand needed to do something different to tackle emerging competition in the IndianFMCG sector, like Patanjali Ayurved. And he has certainly made an impact, managing to contain Patanjali’s growth over the last year and leading HUL to double digit volume growth in the last three quarters. Moreover, HUL’s EBIDTA margins have shot up from 15% in fiscal 2012 to 21% in fiscal 2018. The HUL stock price has shot up from Rs 619.30 (as of Oct 1, 2013) to Rs 1,648.1 (as of July 19, 2018). For the first time in 13 years, HUL’s market capitalisation has overtaken its rival ITC’s.

Mehta is a Director on the Board of the Indian School of Business, a member of the Breach Candy Hospital Trust, a member of the India Advisory Boards of Harvard Business School and Xynteo’s ‘India 2022’ coalition. Moreover, he chairs FICCI’s FMCG Committee and CII’s National Committee on MNCs.


Architect of the Frooti success story, Nadia Chauhan, Joint Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Parle Agro, has spent over a decade overseeing the company’s growth, and is credited with steering a legacy business towards modern cutting-edge practices and market leadership.

An entrepreneur from age 11, when she started her own baking venture called ‘Just Divine’, Chauhan joined Parle Agro in 2003 when the company was largely a single brand-driven organization with a turnover of Rs 300 crore. Today, it boasts of a turnover of over Rs 2,800 crore, delivering double-digit growth every year. Chauhan has been instrumental in market leadership across every category that Parle Agro is present in, with Frooti and Appy Fizz being two products at the heart of her success. A big feather in Chauhan’s cap has been the large scale organizational transformation that she has led. She led the first round of sales and distribution transformation in 2013, a large part of which involved the integration of technology into their operations. This helped drive the aggressive growth the company has seen in recent years.

With an aim to make Parle Agro the undisputed leading food and beverage organization in India, Chauhan has made some bold investments to fuel the growth of the organization. One such move was naming Salman Khan as the face of Appy Fizz earlier this year, in a step targeted at mass appeal. Appy Fizz is also one of the sponsors of the 12th edition of Bigg Boss, a popular reality show on the television channel Colors. Frooti associated with the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League this year, fuelling a 20% growth for the brand in the South India market. The passion to succeed is something that drives Chauhan and that makes her keep pushing herself and her team to take the company to greater heights.



Rajan Anandan, Vice President, Google, South East Asia and India is a pivotal figure in the company, credited with driving sales and operations sharply upward, increasing Internet adoption overall in the country and accelerating innovation in India and South-east Asia for Google. In fact, he is said to have doubled the company’s India business from what it was in 2013-14.

Anandan brings with him a deep understanding of technology, a track record of investing in many sectors across technology, first-hand experience of working closely with founding teams of start-ups and leading and growing several large technology businesses in the US and India. He is also an active angel investor in early stage technology, mobile and software start-ups.

Under his leadership, Google has worked on the Railways free high-speed Wi-Fi project, which will cover hundreds of railway stations around the country. Anandan has also been involved in Google’s Internet Saathi initiative, which aims to bring more rural women online and empower them. Anandan’s immediate focus for Google is to cater to the various vernacular language (non-English) users in the country, and enable them to access the Internet in their own language. The last quarter saw Google India revenues jump 29%, with profits rising by 33%. Under Anandan’s leadership, the company managed to grow its bottomline from Rs 306.6 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 407.2 crore in 2017-18.

Anandan joined Google in 2011 to lead its India business, after stepping down from his role as Managing Director of Microsoft India, where he was credited with building India’s largest software business.

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