Madison@25: Andre Nair, Ashutosh Srivastava,Vikram Sakhuja, Shashi Sinha, Lynn de Souza, Ambika Srivastava & Divya Gupta on the formidable frenemy

21 Mar,2013

Madison and Sam Balsara are so close to each other’s identity that while talking of one, people start talking of the other. The same happened in the case of these honchos. It is almost as much a tribute to 25 years of Sam Balsara in the industry as it is for Madison World.








Andre Nair, (Former CEO GroupM South Asia), Chief Operating Officer, DatVietVAC Group Holdings

For me, Sam Balsara & Madison represent two aspects; each the maker of the other.


Madison: Joyously Indian to its core, they’re a competitor to be reckoned with. They jealously retain their clients and pitch clever, selectively & aggressively; no secret to their success & expansion over 25 years. And, through its history, Madison has grown & given opportunity for new bold leaders, like CVL Srinivas & Punitha Arumugam, to rise.


Sam: Outside the competitive arena, as a key industry leader, he lives up to that old Ogilvy aphorism – a gentleman with brains, who works tirelessly with other leaders for the general betterment of the industry.


Here’s to Madison and their next thriving 25 years!




Ashutosh Srivastava, Chairman & CEO, Global Emerging Markets, Mindshare Worldwide

My first encounter with Sam was years ago when I used to run Fulcrum (Unilever’s media AoR@HTA ,now JWT), prior to setting up of Mindshare in India – when Sam was looking for a person to replace Sriram who had moved to Singapore with Starcom. Sam was by then a charismatic industry leader with high credibility among clients, and Madison was seen by the advertising firms as an upstart, disrupting the establishment and breaking up the full service agency model.


While I did not end up joining him in Madison, I did end up joining that industry. That one conversation with him really deepened my resolve to do what I could, along with other like minded colleagues, to get WPP to bring Mindshare & Maxus (Maximize in those days) to India. The rest, as they say, is history! Personally speaking, it certainly inspired me to get to where I am today, and I hold Sam in the highest regard as a pioneer in the market, who showed us the way. Even after WPP set up GroupM and carved out a dominant share in the market, we always saw Sam and Madison as a worthy ‘frenemy’ in the market. ‘Frenemy’, because they had similar values as us, they were a worthy competitor in pitches who always had good talent, had trusted relationships with their clients and for a long time, were very careful about who they chose to work with – Sam is always a man of his word, and was extremely careful not to overcommit to new clients without first making sure his existing clients got the highest value out of their relationship with Madison. So bitter competitors in pitching for new business, but similar views and vision on what would grow and strengthen the media agency sector. And eventually as frenemies, we ended up doing a JV together, to set up an independent Mediacom in India !


Congratulations and best wishes for your 25th!


Vikram Sakhuja, CEO, Maxus Worldwide

I’ve known Sam for 20 of the 25 years Madison has been in existence. It dates back to 1993 when in P&G I took on the Media Manager role. In those days Media planning and buying were managed through full service agencies, and I introduced the notion of a consolidated Buying AOR (subsequently both Planning and Buying). Madison won the pitch, and Sam’s personal entrepreneurial style had a lot to do with it. With Sam’s support we pioneered the afternoon slot / as well as India’s first daily strip – Shanti on DD. And that was a start of a very productive relationship that continued when I moved to Coca-Cola and held a Media pitch there. Sam’s greatness lies in his high client orientation, his indefatigable energy, his deal making angles and in those days an ability to get quality talent like D Sriram, CVL Srinivas, Ajit Varghese and Lakshmi Narsimhan into Madison to work on our business.


Even as a competitor it is a pleasure to work alongside Sam. He is a true statesman and puts industry interests above own. He continues to have an amazing eye for detail, and is practical to boot. For me, Madison and Sam are inextricable. I have learnt a lot of the Media I know from him, and he continues to inspire. I wish both him and Madison warmly on this milestone.


Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Media Brands

I have immense regard for Sam as an individual. At the time when media was not much recognized by the industry, he came to the forefront and provided industry the needed pedigree. It was largely his efforts that brought credibility to media buying business,


Madison has definitely grown a lot – and created many milestones. Challenge now is to scale up and keep the momentum going. Organisation is built on culture and systems – and I am sure focus is on the side now – Sam whenever he decides to leave, would leave a legacy. Challenge is to take it up from there.


Lynn de Souza

Madison and Sam have always fascinated me. A true blue Indian story of guts and glory, innovation, ambition and perseverance. And often a bit of healthy jugaard!


They believe in the strength of long term relationships, and are not afraid to ask for what they deserve. Sam’s energy is legendary and he built a successful empire largely on his ability to drive himself, and build lasting relationships with key team players and clients.


I wish them 25 more years of pathbreaking game-changing success.


Ambika Srivastava, Chairperson Vivaki Exchange India, Vivaki

I have always admired and respected Sam. There are two things that I would love to mention – one, that Madison has provided very good talent to industry in leadership roles – CVL Srinivas, Ajit Varghese, Punitha Arumugam. It is just amazing. It is a place from where leaders have emerged – it is Madison’s great contribution to the industry, and a tribute to Sam’s leadership.


Second, Madison has always been very tough competition. When you win against Madison – the win is far sweeter, because the competition one knows is formidable. It is not that every pitch we competed has converted into a win for us – but whenever it has happened, it has been exciting.


I admire Sam for his energy and that he finds time to do so much for the industry as well.


Really very good people.


Divya Gupta, CEO, Dentsu Media

My full salute to Sam and his team


Madison’s client roster, the deep relationship and tenure it enjoys with these clients, speaks volumes.


Just when you think you have managed to get a lead on Madison, Sam pulls out a rabbit from nowhere! By far one of the toughest competitors to go up against in a business pitch… I have had the misfortune of learning it the hard way!


Sam’s passion, drive, tenacity is legendary. Madison stands testimony to this.


I wish Madison and Sam an equally dynamic and successful future.


Interviewed by Ritu Midha


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