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Former JWT India digital head on leaving agencies after 22 years: ‘Re-invention is taking too long’

An Indian advertising veteran has spoken of his decision to leave the creative industry after 20 years, due to agencies dragging their feet on digital transformation.

 

Rajeev Sharma, who recently left his role as digital head for J. Walter Thompson India, said that while the agency had made “great steps” towards digital reinvention through acquisitions, it remained bogged down by silos and processes.

Having now founded his own company Awrizon Consultancy, Sharma said he now hopes to “help demystify the whole maze” of digital strategy, analytics and user-experience across India, Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia about his decision to fly solo, he said: “We were getting too siloed and this re-invention journey was taking a bit too long. I wanted to have the freedom to cut the process and make things happen. Clients were getting restless; they didn’t want too many unproductive meetings – they wanted clear articulation of what needed to be done and what needed to be achieved. In JWT, we were like a start-up stuck in a large agency despite the top management trying their best to change things around.

“It’s not just JWT, most [agencies] have realised time is running out. And they have embarked on individual journeys. Whether its acquisitions or new skills or spanning off new entities they all are doing it. From being able to look at data, insights to building solutions for different consumer experiences, its an entirely different game now. Most agencies are finding it hard to grasp this sudden change.”

Sharma, who has worked at other agencies including TBWA, Ogilvy and Tribal DDB during his 22-year career, first began consulting for American real estate firm HomeUnion in India last year, before officially launching his own company this week.

Speaking about the digital landscape in India today, Sharma added that while there is a “great appetite for good work”, much of the output is executed with a “strange, hurried and mostly tactical” approach.

He said: “The young continue to notice new developments and check winning case studies, but are not able to map it with the bigger organisational goals and revenues. On the other hand the senior guys aren’t fed the right metrics so they cant set the right priorities. So there is a big gap and when a CEO wants to know whats going on, they do not get the clear picture or know the right problem to address, even if they are measuring the right things. We can help demystify the whole maze, there is a gap to fill.”

He added: “Every step in the consumer pathway provides a unique opportunity to the brands to capitalise. India is a big growing market and largely untapped in this field.”

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