Is all well at Bates?

By Tuhina Anand

 

It doesn’t require any insider to tell you this. Bates, ‘the changengage people’, has been going through too many changes and appears to have failed to engage its own people. Amidst the numerous rechristening from Bates Clarion, Bates Enterprise, Bates David Enterprise, Bates 141 to Bates Asia, the agency has seen losing many of its top talent especially in the last three years when the entire transition happened from Bates Enterprise to Bates David Enterprise and then to Bates 141.

 

Bates Asia a,s it is known today, is part of the WPP network. The reason behind so many mergers that the agency has gone through was to create a large or mid-sized agency rather than having too many boutique-sized in the bouquet. However, among all these mergers, the agency has lost its focus says an insider who has been closely associated with the agency. He says that there are so many changes not just of top management but also of methods and philosophies hence leading to a lack of focus in the agency. He said, “The agency is not sticking to one story but has been moving ahead without any plan thus lacking any consistency.”

 

Sometime in 2005, Bates India and Enterprise Nexus merged with Subhash Kamath was appointed as the CEO while Mohammed Khan, the founder of Enterprise Nexus took charge as the Executive Chairman. While the agency was still trying to adapt to these changes, another merger was announced. This was in 2007, when David, Ogilvy’s second agency that was headed by Josy Paul was merged with Bates Enterprise. Paul decided not to get into this new entity especially as David was his own baby probably not wanting to see his agency being sandwiched between Bates and Enterprise.

 

However, Bates David Enterprise didn’t last long and in between one saw Bates acquiring Sercon which was essentially a BTL agency and the agency took on the new avatar of Bates 141. In all this, Subhash Kamath, the CEO moved out to BBH. During the period, there were many exits from the agency, including that of Alok Agrawal who was heading the Delhi branch, Ashok Vidyasagar, the Bangalore Branch head among others. Russell Barrett quit Bates where he was the ECD to join BBH. Not to forget, in the APAC region too there were movements, like in 2010, Edward Pank the MD of Bates 141 had quit. Jeffrey Yu, the Chairman of Bates141 quit and so did Digby Richards, the CEO of Bates 141 Asia Pacific. The reason for quitting of Yu was over ‘disagreement of the future direction of the agency network’. That’s when Tim Isaac, the current Chairman of Bates took over.

 

There was management rejig in 2008 post Kamath’s exit with Sandeep Pathak being appointed the CEO, Manosh Mukherjee as the COO, Dheeraj Sinha, Chief Strategy Officer and amongst others significant being Sonal Dabral being appointed India Chairman and Regional Creative Director. Also Sagar Mahableshwarkar joined as the National Creative Director for Bates141 in 2010. So for a bit it seemed Bates141 had finally settled it at least with its top management in place. However, there was no buzz around the agency. The news of Colgate-Palmolive business being parked at Bates brought some cheer.

 

It was only in October 2011, it was announced that Bates Asia will take its current avatar sans the 141 tag. However, with the recent development of Dabral moving out who had just started to be a visible representative of Bates Asia and then soon after news of Sandeep Pathak too quitting has led one to question if all is well at the agency? Senior people within the agency vouch that there is nothing wrong at the agency and its mere coincidence that two senior resources are moving out at the same time. But it is learnt that many at the agency also the senior management are already circulating their CVs and looking for greener pastures.

 

But one does wonder whether all these mergers really did any good to the agency of paved way for this kind of instability. It definitely is a herculean task to merge two agencies what with staff, designation, accounts, office and different methodologies. And to think that Bates has been on this path since 2005 definitely gives a shaky image to the agency. Let’s just hope that Bates Asia has reached its final avatar and the agency will only grow from now as the worst has happened. However, as an aside, there is always the possibility of merging with big daddy Ogilvy!

 

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