Getting set for Mindshare Mena: Ravi Rao

07 Apr,2015


As you read this, Ravi Rao, until recently Leader of Mindshare, South Asia is gearing up for his role as Chief Client Officer, of the group’s Middle East operations which he takes up next month. As he readies for it, Mr Rao tells Pradyuman Maheshwari about the things he is sad to leave behind – a great team, some good clients and the street food of Mumbai.


Your thoughts as you take on the assignment of Chief Client Office-MENA…

I’m excited to be back in MENA in the run-up to the 2020 Expo and of course the 2022 World Cup. The role enables me to uplift the Mindshare product and go on to become the trusted advisor to all our clients in the region.


Will it be a homecoming of sorts? We’ve heard that you enjoy Dubai more than Mumbai. You can tell us the truth – we won’t lynch you for it!

Though my real love is Mumbai — with Old Monk, the Jehangir Art Gallery, Colaba Causeway, the monsoons, and mouth-watering street food every Sunday after a two-hour session of badminton — Dubai has its share of eateries from over 100 countries, great shopping, Zaatar, clean beaches, a mix of the West and the East. The truth is, I always miss the ‘other side’. It is only a three-hour plane ride away, so I will continue to make frequent trips back.


On a serious note, what would you say were the highs and lows of your stint as head of Mindshare South Asia?

The biggest high was my Fulcrum stint. There is nothing like Unilever and – in my second avatar – winning pitches. The amount of adrenaline and high energy that I see in the team, is fantastic and allows up to keep raising the thinking and learning quotients. I hit my all-time-low in the last few weeks, when I knew it was time for me to wind up and that I would leave behind some great clients and team members who were far better than me in several aspects but made me shine.


Did you have a happy relationship with you clients?

Yes, with all of them. Some were easy to deal with; some made us really happy. But there were a few tough ones, too, that exasperated the team. But never once did this lead to any animosity.


You’ve always been busy – lots of travel, clients meetings etc. And just when you should be enjoying the fruits of your labour, you’re moving. Shouldn’t you have chosen to stay on in India?

Who isn’t busy in our industry now? This is a place where you get a lot of nibbles as you go along, never a big, fat feast at the end, to savour, relish and relax. I have had my share of wonderful nibbles. Why not get onto the other side of table now – not necessarily another table –for a new set of highs?


Any lows? What has been you lowest moment?

When the competition won a battle, once in a while, I felt a momentary low. But then you bounce back and say, “What the heck; Mindshare always wins the war”.


Any regrets?



What about the Emvies last year?

[That was] a momentary despair in the longest winning streak of Mindshare. We will continue to haunt others, year after year.
The last year-odd has also seen you as Chairman of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC).  How has your tenure been… a thankless job?

Despite the acrimonious and inaccurate comments that made the gossip columns, I don’t take anything personally. The IRS is a fantastic product, designed and implemented by all the three stakeholders. But sometimes, there may be some bad losers. I am pretty confident that the industry needs a robust measurement metric, and the IRS is one such currency. It is here to stay.


But the IRS has just not taken off and has been mired in much controversy. Your thoughts?

The one for 2014 has just been released. Controversy is created by a few people who have time on their hands. This has only helped in realising that the IRS product is good. Everyone wants an increased sample, yet the same people who want the increase, do not want to pay for it. But I see that everyone will have to pay, in the near future.


South Asia versus MENA – what are the key differentiators?

The challenges remain the same – diversity and complexity. A robust quantitative research is still an issue in the Middle East, but the digital [space] is far ahead of South Asia. The heterogeneous mix of nationalities in an agency really adds to great learnings, both at a professional and a personal level.


What would make you return to India? Any plans?  It’s too early for retirement plans for you, but any thoughts on the next 10 years?

No plans, I make them as the need arises. But one thing is for sure, there is nothing called a retirement plan and I will continue to work, learn and teach. In 10 years, will it be anything to do with advertising or media? The answer is no.


If you had the opportunity to relive the last three years as Leader, Mindshare South Asia, is there anything you would do differently?

I would have celebrated every single month with my team for so many wins, successes and milestones. Lucky to have had a great team.


This interview first appeared in ‘dna of brands’ dated April 6, 2015


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