Nothing more rewarding than happy clients: Ajit Varghese

23 Sep,2013


An engineer from an agricultural university in Orissa followed by an MBA from Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneshwar, Ajit Varghese started out as a research executive at IMRB. He moved to Initiative Universal Media to work on the Hindustan Unilever account after which he had a seven-plus-year stint at Madison where he was COO.  He joined Maxus India in 2006 and was later elevated to being Managing Director for the South Asia region. Within hours of an embargoed announcement reaching the media, Mr Varghese took time out to respond to MxMIndia’s queries:


This indeed is great news. And a sweet recognition of the work that you’ve put in. But would you rather have been anchored in Mumbai than Singapore?

Thanks a lot. It’s a sweet recognition for the hard work that “Team Maxus India” has been been putting over the last so many years. Singapore as a location does give an advantage for traveling across many countries plus our most of our regional hub team sits out of there. Otherwise location has never been a consideration for the shift.


Ajit Varghese to take charge from Neil Stewart as CEO, APAC at Maxus

Media agency conglomerate GroupM has elevated Ajit Varghese, Managing Director, Maxus South Asia to the role of CEO, Maxus Asia Pacific. In his new role, which comes into effect on January 1, 2014, Mr Varghese will oversee Maxus operations in all Asia Pacific countries. He will take charge from Neil Stewart, who is being promoted to the new position of chief client officer, Maxus Global. He will work closely with Mr Stewart during a six-month transition period and report into Mark Patterson, CEO, GroupM Asia Pacific and Vikram Sakhuja, CEO, Maxus Global.


Said Mr Varghese: “The last seven years has been an exciting journey; we have built a strong portfolio of clients, secured their trust, delivered them a world-class product and picked up many accolades along the way.” Although he will relocate to Singapore, India will continue to be part of his scope and will, as he says, remain close to his heart.


CVL Srinivas

CVL Srinivas, CEO, GroupM South Asia, said: “Ajit has been an outstanding leader for Maxus and has helped create a very unique culture at Maxus and truly embodies the Maxus spirit. All of us at GroupM are very proud of his achievements and wish him the very best in his new role”. Mr Varghese had incidentally taken charge of Maxus a few months after Mr Srinivas left the agency in 2006 as its CEO for India and Asia Pacific.


Vikram Sakhuja

With Mr Varghese helming Maxus on an APAC level, the media agency now has Indians at the helm at the global and regional levels. Last year, Vikram Sakhuja was appointed Global CEO of the agency. Said Mr Sakhuja on Mr Varghese’s elevation: “Ajit has displayed exceptional leadership to make Maxus one of India’s best and biggest agencies. I have no doubt that with his brand of entrepreneurial leadership, Maxus APAC will scale new heights.”


Maxus Global clients include UPS, Barclays, Church & Dwight and Fiat where on Asia-Pacific, its clients include L’Oréal and JetStar


As you look back at your seven years as head of Maxus India (and South Asia and Motivator), what do you see as moments that have been very satisfying?

Yes, many many satisfying moments:


A. the fastest growing agency, most dominant profile agency for more than three years in a row

B. maximum number of awards year on year across all industry forums

C. by far the most awarded in the new age digital and technology fields across all industry forums for last 2years.

D. a team of 330+ people who demonstrate absolute quality of PACE  (passionate, agile, collaborative and entrepreneurial) and a stable leadership team who has been in the system for more than  five years!!

E. Last but not the least, establishing the second agency Motivator  – a force to reckon with in the last 1.5yrs.


So thanks to my team I am now able to take on more responsibilities.


Any unfinished items on the agenda?

May be winning at Emvies is an unfinished agenda 🙂 Otherwise, the aim has always been to keep improving our thinking, adapting to “change” and help lead clients’ brand thrive the pace of change around us.


Having worked closely with Neil Stewart until now, you would be familiar with the work on hand. What will be your primary targets as Maxus APAC head after you have settled in?

Luckily Neil is very much in Maxus taking up a global role and will be operating out of Singapore. Plus we have kept a six-month transition period for both the roles to take full shape. So, I will be working closely with him, understanding the job at hand and areas that we need to scale up into the future.


You’ve been seen as a hands-on CEO of the India and South Asia operations. As APAC CEO, the role would be more supervisory since there will be country heads who will be reporting to you. Is this a change that works with your DNA? Or will you continue to be hands-on with clients?

Every job comes with a change in role and our ability to adapt to the needs. Being ‘hands on’ and ‘lead by example’ is pretty much what leadership jobs demand these days, so will continue to work on getting the balance right as we go along. Luckily, Maxus has pretty much established and stable leadership teams across most of the countries that we operate out of.


At an APAC level, how’s the business been given the overall spends environment?

Maxus has been the fastest growing agency across the globe over the last three years. Am hoping we continue the run for a few years more.


As you pass on the baton to a successor in a few months from now, are there any ‘Dos and Don’ts’ that you would like to offer him or her?

Absolutely nothing.. Anybody who could continue to win clients trust and confidence, manage the best talent out there and build the culture of being different and innovative, Maxus will offer enough flexibility and agility to adapt to new processes, way of working and thinking.


Maxus India has been called a ‘dominant’ player by RECMA, has been a recipient of many awards… which of these has been the most memorable accolade?

Most memorable accolades come from our clients – by staying with us for the longest time. There is nothing more rewarding than when we see happy clients and their businesses growing.


There are three months before you take on the new role and these three months also comprise the crucial festive third quarter. And then the handovers. Loads of action ahead?

India continues occupy a very significant part of the Maxus APAC. So our eyes and ears will continue to be close to ground here to get 10 out of 10 from our clients! We have kept Jan to Jun 2014 as a period of transition between me and Neil, so that we have enough handholding time of our clients’ business even for 2014.


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