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BW Businessworld

‘I Am Very Bullish On India’

In a conversation with BW Businessworld’s Noor Fathima Warsia, Yannick Bolloré, chairman and CEO of Havas, says the mandate to run a holding company also meant an opportunity to do things differently.

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Yannick Bolloré, chairman and CEO of Havas, says the mandate to run a holding company also meant an opportunity to do things differently. And the 35-year old Bolloré seized the opportunity when he called ‘together’ all Havas agencies to collaborate under the same brand name. Unheard of for a holding company, the approach was made possible due to Havas’ modest scale; and if the company’s revenue in the third quarter is anything to go by, ‘together’ is auguring well for Havas. Edited excerpts:

Q. Earlier this year, in continuation of the collaborative approach you started in 2014, all of Havas management came together at what you termed as the ‘Havas Together’. What was the key takeaway?
When I took charge of the company in mid-2013, gathering the team and paving the way for sustained collaboration became the number one mandate. Our growth last year and the revenue numbers this year indicate that we have been on the right path. Our global meeting ‘Havas Together’, with which we kicked off the year 2015, was the first time all our senior managers came together from across our offices where we planned the year and our next steps. It was an important experience for me. Havas is unique because we have decided to bridge the silos and integrate our services under one brand name. We adapted to be most efficient and to build momentum. My biggest takeaway was that the time we had invested in establishing the new approach had paid off, and we were poised to take on any new challenges.

Q. Challenge has become the keyword this year with markets across the world having been impacted. As caution becomes the new normal, how are marketers’ expectations from agencies changing?
It has required of us to do more for less. The pressures of the global economy perhaps highlight this some more. However, it is prudent to not be afraid of the changes around us. We must seize opportunities and embrace innovation.

Q. What would you say are some of these opportunities?
The top priorities would be investing in creativity, content and data. India has very rich local content, and ultimately it is content that is instrumental in reaching audiences. We have a lot of room for growth in India and in our endeavour to be the most innovative company in India, we will focus on all of these areas.

Q. Are acquisitions included in your next growth steps in India?
Acquisition is a question of opportunity. I would not say it is vital for us, but we are interested, especially when it helps in bringing in capabilities that are in line with our growth objectives and also talent. However, it is important to continue to be innovative in the market, invest in people and client services. At present, both Havas Creative and Havas Media are doing a great job of this. The next step for us is to push collaboration forward.

Q. You were in India earlier this year. What was the core objective of the visit?
The revenues in India grew more than 20 per cent last year, and this year as well we are looking at a high double-digit growth. I am very bullish on India. That being said, it is not just about the revenue but about who we are and what we stand for. I would like for us to be seen as the most innovative and forward-thinking group. That is being much more ambitious than just growing revenues. I spent time with my team, with our clients and other industry stakeholders to better understand the nuances of India and what is expected from us. We work closely with many technology leaders such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and we have various learnings that our team in India can bring to our clients here. The direction is clear — we have to be the best in class.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 30-11-2015)