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Home > Business > Special

Will M&C Saatchi be India's favourite?

Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi | October 13, 2005

The welcome mat's out. And M&C Saatchi is ready to receive visitors... er, clients.

The London-based advertising agency recently set up shop in the capital after it acquired creative workshop Dhar & Hoon, and roped in former JWT president Kamal Oberoi to head the new organisation, M&C Saatchi Communications. Ajit Hoon and Abhinav Dhar remain directors in the new agency.

There are already 10 other M&C Saatchi offices across Asia, and the new agency has a long way to go to earn its spurs. Even Kim Walker accepts that. But the president and CEO (Asia) of M&C Saatchi isn't too worried about being a small, new fish in the rather-cluttered Indian advertising pond. "We don't want to be the biggest but the most sought-after in this industry," he says.

The leitmotif of the new collaboration will be simple, uncomplicated advertising. "It's very easy to complicate things but our vision is to simplify ideas, which is the most difficult part in advertising," says Walker.

Until now, M&C Saatchi's Asian operations have all been greenfield projects; the Indian agency is its first collaboration in the region. That's easily explained: India is a more complex and mature market and the British parent wanted to begin with a more substantive base.

"We were looking for a set-up with a fair amount of experience and expertise. Dhar & Hoon gives us a good platform to enter the Indian market," adds Walker.

It's a win-win situation for both sides. While Saatchi gets a hassle-free entry into the domestic advertising industry, estimated at around Rs 11,800 crore (Rs 118 billion) and clocking double-digit growth, Dhar & Hoon now sheds its "creatives only" tag to become a full-service agency.

Besides, it will probably get to add M&C Saatchi's international clients to its roster. That's an impressive list: Saatchi's clients in Asia include Qantas, AIA, Zuji, O2, Coca-Cola, Tourism Australia and Mandarin Oriental.

It's been a good year for the British company. Apart from the prestigious London 2012 account, where it created a campaign to promote London's bid for the Olympic Games, the agency has also added clients like British Airways, ITV and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Within the Asia Pacific region, revenues have increased 11.2 per cent to 23.1 million and operating profits are up by 38.9 per cent to cross 2.7 million.

Does this mean that clients like British Airways and Qantas will be serviced from India? Walker remains non-committal. "We will focus on those clients who don't want to clutter their ideas," he adds.

Clearly, the newly-created Indian arm is hoping to share in that good fortune. Work has already started on a few global accounts, such as the Australian Tourism Board and the Indian operations of an insurance company. Says Kamal Oberoi, "All the existing international clients who have a presence in India will be serviced from India, if they want us to do so."

Over half the revenues of M&C Saatchi's Australia office and 30 per cent of Singapore's revenues are from non-advertising services. Walker is open to establishing a similar business model here as well. "We will do events, direct marketing or digital marketing, if an advertising campaign needs it," he says.

Adds Oberoi, "We will also provide non-advertising services to clients, if necessary, although the focus in the beginning will be on the core advertising services."

Competition from the entrenched players is likely to be fierce. So what's the game plan? First off the bat is to work with Dhar & Hoon's existing client base, which includes Dabur Real, Honda cars, Sony Wega Theatre, Punj Lloyd, Revlon and Milkfood. "A few of these clients have international aspirations and we would be glad to help them expand
outside India," says Walker.

Pitching for new clients will follow and Oberoi is confident that M&C Saatchi will measure up well against the competition. He points out that the bigger players have become "sluggish" over the years. "Being small, we will be more nimble. Besides, we roll up our sleeves and work with clients. We will be a completely sales-oriented agency for our clients," he adds.

Before that, though, the agency needs to grow its presence in the country. Offices outside Delhi are being considered, with Mumbai and Bangalore topping the list of possible destinations. Orders have already been placed for more welcome mats.

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