It’s official. Vineet Gupta & Aditya Kanthy to take over from Madhukar Kamath at DDB Mudra

21 Mar,2017


By A Correspondent


When we first got wind of this a few month back, we were surprised ourselves. Well, almost. So we asked our contactpoint at the Omnicom-owned agency, and she feigned ignorance and asked how could it be…


But it was clear that the transition was happening. Madhukar Kamath, longstanding Group CEO and Managing Director of the DDB Mudra Group, was moving on. He had taken additional charge as head of MICA in Ahmedabad. That was to be his future, along with some allied ventures.


So one thought the baton would be passed on to SonalDabral who is officially the second-in-command. Creative guru, well-respected in the industry and he was designated: Chairman and Chief Creative Officer.


Or would it be someone imported from the DDB fold from elsewhere in the world.


But first read the news, and then let’s try and interpret it for you: “Madhukar Kamath, Group CEO and MD, DDB Mudra Group, has announced a phased leadership transition for the group. Effective April 1, 2017, Vineet Gupta, currently Chief Digital Officer, DDB Mudra Group will be appointed as Group CEO (Designate) and Aditya Kanthy, currently Chief Strategy Officer, DDB Mudra Group will be appointed as Group Managing Director (Designate). Effective July 1, 2017, Gupta and Kanthy will formally take over as Group CEO and Group Managing Director respectively. To facilitate a seamless transition, Kamath will continue to work closely with Gupta and Kanthy as Executive Chairman of the DDB Mudra Group, till end-December, 2017.”


Rather than appoint an oldie into the system, DDB Mudra has chosen those who have age to their advantage. Both Gupta and Kanthy are under 40.


But it also clearly sends a message on the shape of things to come. By appointing Vineet Gupta as Group CEO, DDB Mudra has clearly underscored its thrust on digital. Gupta, it may be recalled, entered the system only when he 22feet, his digital marketing agency, was acquired by DDB Mudra in February 2014 (the report). Last year, in end-August to be precise, along with Kanthy, Gupta was elevated as Chief Digital Officer. Kanthy, who has been part of the system for 14 years was appointed as Chief Strategy Officer (the report).


It also sends a clear message to SonalDabral and other seniors in the system. That DDB Mudra may be a creative-led agency, but it’s digital and data and P/L management that are the future.


Here’s what Chuck Brymer, CEO, DDB Worldwide said in a statement: “Madhukar and I have been working on the transition process for over the past year. We have undertaken a fairly comprehensive evaluation of talent, both externally and internally, and I am glad that we’ve identified the new leadership team from within the Organisation. The transition process couldn’t begin at a better time, with 2016 being one of the best years for the DDB Mudra Group in terms of both revenue and margin growth. Both are immensely talented, business oriented and client focused. They bring together diverse skillsets of growing businesses by building and leading excellent teams.”


Commenting on this, Kamath said: “At the beginning of 2016, I had announced my intention to retire from the Group by end of 2017. I have always been a firm believer in empowering young talent and seeing them deliver beyond expectations. Vineet and Aditya have exemplified this in their respective careers so far. As a team, they bring together the best of business, technology, strategy and an appreciation of creativity. I am excited about the next three quarters where I will work closely with Vineet and Aditya in ensuring a smooth transition. I congratulate them and wish them all the best.”


As the news is trickling in, not everyone is really surprised. Bringing youth to the leadership has worked elsewhere. Like at Leo Burnett. Saurabh Varma, now CEO of Publicis Communications, was not part of the adland single malt club. But he has managed to turn around the agency, and rise within the group.


The challenges for Gupta and Kanthy are greater. First, will the twin leadership work. There ought to be one clear boss and joint leadership structures are a little tricky. But even if that gets licked, DDB Mudra needs a Leo Burnett-like reinvention. It’s still got some good clients, but competition is forging ahead. On the awards circuit, the agency is a laggard and it’s not exactly known as a creative powerhouse. The Pan Bahar Pierce Brosnan campaign was its buzziest last year.


DDB Mudramax is now aligned with OMD and the activation-outdoor-BTL business lost bigtime when Pratap Bose and Mandeep Malhotra quit to start Social Street.


Kanthy summed up our sentiment while speaking to The Economic Times: “We are good but I don’t think we are great yet. Our competition doesn’t shake in its boots when they think of us. That’s our task.“


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