Vaishali Verma, the new CEO of Initiative India, tells us about the priorities of her new role, focus on talent and linking media to culture
Q] What excites you about your new role as the CEO of Initiative? What are the top priorities in your new role?
Initiative is a legacy brand, and I feel fortunate to lead the next wave of growth for the agency. Media is in its growth phase right now and I am extremely excited about riding this growth wave for Initiative.
Client relationships are always a top priority for us. It doesn’t matter if it is a big client or small one – all our clients are important to us and my priority will be to strengthen existing client relationships. The next big priority is to get the best talent on board. We already have some excellent talent across all our offices, but we are looking at getting more people on board and grooming them the Initiative way.
Q] What will be Initiative’s greatest strength in an increasingly competitive environment?
The greatest strength for Initiative, and in fact, for all IPG Mediabrands agencies, has been strategy. So while client mandates are often awarded to the agency with the cheapest rate, I am a firm believer in strategy. Strategy and people are key to our success. At the end of the day, it is our people who make things happen, and so in the years ahead, I plan to immerse myself in getting our strategy on point and roping in the best people.
Q] Do you think companies like PwC, Accenture, Adobe etc., could pose a threat to media agencies?
India is still an underleveraged market and the challenge now for media agencies will be about how to raise the bar and how to offer more ROI-driven solutions. So, if we are able to partner with an Accenture or Google and create more impactful partnerships, I foresee more of a convergence happening in the media space with these players. Therefore, I wouldn’t really call them a threat.
Q] Tell us about the talent pool at Initiative, especially the teams servicing the big accounts.
In terms of size, brands like Amazon and Reckitt Benckiser are fairly large businesses for us, and are among the top advertisers in the country. We have a robust team of 70-80 people working on a business like Amazon today, and I am proud to say that over the past four years since we have been handling these large brands, we have seen zero attrition. I am a firm believer that you build businesses, designations and culture around people. It is extremely important to get the right talent, to be able to retain them and to make the workplace a happy one that encourages personal and professional growth. We are lucky to have such a large, excellent team. At the same time, we are also looking at hiring and strengthening our leadership team at Initiative – the strategy, analytics and key business heads. You will see a strengthened leadership team in the coming months.
Q] You have said that at Initiative, culture is used as a bridge to stay relevant. Tell us a bit more about that.
Understanding culture really helps us better comprehend why people behave in a certain way or consume a certain kind of content. Cultural insights are a key factor for media planning. So we link our media solutions to culture, finding relevant and opportune moments to reach consumers. There is a complete cultural planning process we go through when we create strategies for our clients. Media planning is embedded in culture and hence we try to link our media to that.
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