No stake sale on cards: Sam Balsara

22 Apr,2015

 

Hours after announcing the news of Vikram Sakhuja coming on board as an equity partner and group CEO, Madison World Chairman and Managing Director Sam Balsara spoke on the announcement, his expectations from Sakhuja and rumours on stake sale in an interview with Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

This is by far the biggest news of the year in the world of media.  Formidable rivals and now bedfellows, in a sense.  So clearly there is no permanent rivalry, in business?

Yes, that’s true. In today’s complex and uncertain world, one learns to collaborate and compete at the same time. Look at our relationship with WPP. We collaborate with them in Mediacom with our 51:49 partnership and our Madison Media competes  with their Group M at the same time. Telecom companies compete fiercely in the market place for data and voice but collaborate on Towers.

 

We have of course seen you together several times, you would jointly host a media quiz some years back, so there’s clearly a fairly good relationship that both of you have had over the years?

Yes, I know Vikram very closely for the last over 20 years, first as a client in P&G and Coke, then as a media partner in Star and finally as a worthy competitor in Group M. I have the highest respect for him as a professional. WPP recognised his exceptional talent and performance by choosing him to be elevated straight from Country Head to Global Head.

 

I hope your readers appreciate that in my own small humble way I have done my bit to arrest Brain Drain. India has enough potential and can offer rich playing field to top notch Indian professionals. They need not seek greener pastures abroad. I first got Gautam Kiyawat  back from Singapore; now comes Vikram, back from NewYork!

 

Apart from him captaining the ship, what exactly does Madison hope to achieve with Vikram Sakhuja on board? Any specific targets.

You will be surprised , at Madison we are not so focussed on financial targets. Yes we work with budgets, but we understand that budgets are after all budgets. It allows our people to operate in a non-pressured environment which is essential in our creative communication field. Remember, we are not a public limited company and do not have to report quarterly profits. But over a long period of time, I can’t say I am unhappy with Madison’s financial performance. It could be much better. But it’s fine.

 

With someone of Mr Sakhuja’s stature on board, do we see you spending lesser time on the media agency business and concentrate more on others?

I don’t play golf, so I can’t retire! I hope to stay actively involved and useful to the Company and my clients, without getting into Vikram’s hair!

 

This is a question you are asked several times over. But we keep hearing of talks between you and international giants for a possible stake sale. Are discussions still on or with this development, all of that will be on hold?

NO. It is not on the cards. The media and our competition needs something to talk about, so they pick on us. We are fine with that. Any news is good news. We have generally proved most speculative reports to be untrue.

 

A message to competition on clients on the all-new Madison (with Vikram Sakhuja as Group CEO and Equity Partner)?

There’s enough opportunity for every competitor to survive and thrive. Let’s all collectively do a good job. That will make the pie grow.

 

First appeared in dna of brands dated April 22, 2015

 

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