CVL Srinivas to helm WPP India

18 Oct,2017


By A Correspondent


It’s a Diwali announcement that has caused much.

WPP, the world’s largest communications services group and also the biggest in India, has announced the appointment of CVL Srinivas at Country Manager of WPP India. He takes over from Ranjan Kapur, in addition to his responsibilities as head of GroupM

South Asia. Kapur will continue as Chairman of WPP India, helping Srini, as Srinivas is better known in the fraternity, and focusing on his schools (including the ISDI WPP School of Communication in India) and foundation initiatives.

“Horizontality is WPP’s number one strategic objective and Srini’s additional role in India will be to ensure that WPP works together as effectively as possible to provide clients with effective and efficient solutions,” the communique notes. This quote has also been attributed to WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell in some media.

Srini took charge of GroupM South Asia as CEO in January 2013, taking over from Vikram Sakhuja, now Group CEO, Madison Media and OOH. Sakhuja had taken on a global role of CEO, Maxus Worldwide (now merged with MEC to form Wavemaker).

A media industry veteran of over 20 years having done his mechanical engineering from BITS Pilani and an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur, Srini spent most of his career with GroupM/WPP where he helped incubate India’s first media agency ‘HTA Fulcrum’ in 1995 when Hindustan Unilever awarded the media AOR to HTA (now JWT). Srini later led the setting up ‘Maxus’ in India and helped grow it in a very short span of time into one of the leading agency brands in the country. He was made the Asia-Pacific CEO of Maxus in 2006. Srini has also held leadership positions in Madison, Starcom and The Times of India group.

So what’s got Srini the top job? For one, Srini championed a transformation program at GroupM South Asia to make it a future-ready organisation. Under his leadership GroupM has won a record number of new businesses, incubated several path breaking initiatives in digital, mobile, content, data analytics, talent management and won numerous prestigious awards making India one of the most successful GroupM operations globally.

Well, that’s what the communique tells us. What insiders and industry biggies tell us that Srini has been quietly aggressive and led the Sorrell agenda of making his various media businesses future-ready. Which he did very efficiently at GroupM.

Sorrell, like captains of other leading media services networks, has underscored the need for collaboration and integration across WPP’s various arms in India and across the world. “Srini achieved this with much success within GroupM too,” says a former GroupM senior employee, adding: “Remember, leading the various arms of GroupM is also a challenging ask, but Srini did that successfully.”

A senior employee of a rival network said that one of the highlights of Srini’s success is that he has allowed his CEOs to flourish, but also kept ensuring that the GroupM brand gets more dominant. A CEO of a media company told MxMIndia that it was thanks to Srini’s backing that BARC could be up and running in super quick time. Remember, TAM is a jv with Nielsen and Sorrell would’ve obviously liked to protect his business interests by keeping TAM active on television viewership measurement.

In fact that appeared to be the sentiment for a while, until Srini is said to have emphatically backed BARC. His role with with other industry bodies like the AAAI, RSCI, ABC and MRUC have also been praised by peers. He is also a founder member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) in India, and is active in industry conferences and events.

In India, WPP companies (including associates) generate revenues of US$600million with 15,000 people, and it will be Srini’s agenda to ensure that all elements of the business work in unison. WPP also owns large agencies/networks like Ogilvy, JWT, Kantar, Genesis Burson-Marsteller amongst others.

A question that has been asked is that while Ranjan Kapur was exceedingly senior in the system when he took charge of WPP as Country Manager, will other senior CEOs in WPP India companies like Piyush Pandey, Tarun Rai, Preeti Reddy agree to work under Srini’s leadership? According to what some insiders and a former WPP/GroupM biggie told us, that Srini is perhaps the best person for the job. He has hands into various businesses already and will hence help achieve the horizontality, and by his very nature and temperament, he will not come in the way of various group companies at all.

But the clincher was what one WPP hand who is now in a global position said: “Does anyone have a choice? The media business is going through interesting, yet tough times. Digital is going to dominate us, though we don’t really know how. It is critical that even a successful network like WPP ensures that its various companies do not work in silos.”


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