This world has lost its glory, lets start a brand new story, now, my love. You think that I don’t even mean a single word I say… croons Ronan Keating as we wait for Raj Kurup, the former executive creative director at Grey Worldwide (India) Pvt. Ltd, to answer his cellphone. A fairly apt choice of ringer tune, considering that Kurup recently put in his papers after a three-and-a-half-year stint at the agency.
“It was my job to bring Grey to the top, and I have done it. It’s time to move on to something else,” he says. The agency recently bagged second place at both the Abby Awards and the Goafest 2007. So, why leave when Grey Worldwide (India) is doing so well? “Ambition,” Kurup answers with a wry smile.
Kurup is not the only one chasing “ambition”. He has set up an agency, CreativeLand Asia with Ajay Nair and Vikram Gaikwad as partners. Juniors such as Anu Joseph, Payal Juthani and R. Venkatram.too may follow Kurup’s lead. All of them won multiple awards at both the Abby Awards and the Goafest.
Grey Worldwide is not the only one facing such across- the-board attrition. Over the last few weeks, other advertising agencies have also lost talent from every rung. After three years at McCann Erickson (India) Ltd, senior creative directors Raghu Bhat and Manish Bhatt decided to move back to the agency with which they started their career—Contract Advertising (India) Pvt. Ltd. But it is not ambition that leads them to seek greener pastures. It is opportunity.
“In India, the communications scene is evolving rapidly, especially in areas such as retail and digital. People are spending far more time on their computers and mobiles than watching TV. So, while McCann had perfected the 20-second commercial, I thought it was time to move to a place that is investing in these newer areas,” says Raghu Bhat.
Bhat is just one of the many senior people who left McCann Erickson recently for “better opportunities”. Others include senior people such as Ajay Gahlaut, Nima Namchu, Vistasp Hodiwala, Sudip Bandhyopadhyay and R. Rajesh. Such an across-the-board exodus would indicate that there is some problem brewing in McCann Erickson. “In this industry, proper credit and recognition for the work done are very important,” says a McCann employee, on the condition of anonymity.
But then there are high-level exits in other agencies too. Ashok Karnik, VP, creative, Euro-RSCG Advertising Pvt. Ltd, is also on his way out.
The talent churn, however, isn’t restricted to advertising agencies alone. Pradeep Iyengar, who had spent four years at media buying firm, Carat Media Services (India), put in his papers recently. While the former executive vice-president (West and South) is yet to reveal his next assignment, he says that his decision was driven largely by his desire to “move to the next level and get international exposure”. Some more people from Carat are likely to follow Iyengar to his next assignment.
Ditto for Rajiv Gopinath, who quit MindShare India a month ago to join as senior vice-president at the Madison Communications Pvt. Ltd, Delhi. Similarly, Hemant Choudhary quit Maxus India to join Starcom Mediavest Group as the general manager, Delhi. So what do such high-level shuffles imply for the ad and marketing world? Exits at senior levels may lead to a talent crunch at some agencies, but it also implies new opportunities for people at all levels.
Experts say such movements in the industry are not uncommon during this time of the year. “This massive churn over the last month is probably a combination of factors that are common across all sectors. Most people at the junior- and mid-level move jobs after their appraisals as it gives them stronger negotiating power in their new jobs,” says Nita Joshi, K&J Associates, a Mumbai-based executive search firm. “Not to mention the fact that a booming economy is also throwing up more opportunities in the advertising industry,” Joshi adds.
Poaching is also a factor that is worrying agencies. A lack of talent in creatives is forcing ad agencies to woo the big names in other agencies. “The fact that most of these people are going to agencies is probably just a variation (in the trend). We (the advertising industry) continue to loose people to other sectors that pay better money,” says Jagdip Bakshi, CEO, Contract Advertising (India) Pvt. Ltd. Small consolation in churn time.