Features

How I got here…MediaMath’s Rahul Vasudev

In this edition of 'How I got here...', MediaMath Asia-Pacific managing director Rahul Vasudev discusses his career from the dawn of digital marketing in India, bringing science to advertising and working at three different companies named 'media'

Education

My father was an officer in the army as I was growing up, and as a result my early education was spread across half a dozen schools in different parts of India. This in itself was an invaluable education in that I had to adapt to various cultures – India has 23 official languages and nine recognised religions – and worked with people from different backgrounds, with whom I built lasting connections.

I studied engineering at BMS College in Bangalore, though I spent less time in the classroom, and more in the playground, playing  in cricket, basketball, badminton, and tennis for the university. While I was keen on further education, an MBA in particular, it later became apparent that a stint working in the real world would be of enormous value, so I spent the next few years working not just for engineering firms, but also  advertising agencies. I later used this experience to obtain a dual-major MBA in marketing and operations.

My start

With a background in engineering and surrounded by other family members who are marketers, I was always passionate about bringing an angle of scientific thinking to the largely creative approach to advertising.

My digital marketing career began in 2002 at Mediaturf, which was the first internet marketing company in India, founded when digital advertising was first being introduced in India. To emphasise the state of the industry back then, one of my biggest tasks was to convince publishers to accept third party ad-served creatives.

In 2006, I had the opportunity to help build MediaCom’s digital operations in Singapore. This was the start of my journey in regional advertising and an eight-year love affair with MediaCom. There, I worked on what was then of the most exciting brands in the world – Nokia.

With Nokia taking off, and on an exciting trajectory, I had a chance to return to my calling of building teams from scratch, with the Procter & Gamble account.  It was P&G that taught me to question and build advertising and marketing programs that truly focused on brand building. I realised how many clients and agencies that I had worked with in the past focused purely on media metrics, rather than business metrics.

During this period, I also chanced upon a rather select group of people who were defining and creating the future of advertising – programmatic. These later became MediaMath. Rather than taking a backseat and just being a user of these tools, I wanted to be at the forefront of shaping the future. I bid farewell to my friends at MediaCom, and moved to MediaMath – by now my third company with ‘media’ in its name.

Approach

Truly believing that programmatic is defining the future of marketing; my goal is to continue building a team that is as excited about the industry as I am.

I believe in growing the share of the entire pie and love to contribute and give back to the company and industry when given the opportunity. As newer advertising practices and rapid advancements in data and media technologies unfold, there is an urgent need to educate marketers in the region on advancing programmatic platforms. 

Highs and lows

High

It was truly one of the highest points of my career, when P&G choose me as the recipient of their “Industry Game Changer” award. To me, there was no greater honour than the recognition by the client, that the work we did was impacting real business.

Low

Having been the architect of teams  across several companies, the biggest ‘lows’ I’ve had were the times I’ve had to leave a team of people that I hired, groomed, and grew to love. In the professional world, one has to move on but I cherish the relationships that I’ve built throughout my career.  

Do’s and don’ts

Do

Spend time with your family. As I travel extensively for work – two-thirds of my time, in fact – it does take its toll both mentally and physically. While exercise and a good diet is important, the most important thing I advocate is spending time with your loved ones. That is my personal formula for destressing.

Don’t

Change a job for money. Just don’t. Do it for passion, for the chance to try something new, and the opportunity to learn something new. It seems like an old-school approach, but it has certainly paid off for me. The chance to learn beats everything else.

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