The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the lockdown to extend till 17th May 2020. The recent outbreak of the COVID – 19 is also seeing a tectonic shift in most people’s lives. There are so much stress and anxiety about job losses, loneliness, and other factors. But this lockdown has also changed the way organizations are thinking, the way they work, etc.
MediaNew4U spoke to Rana Barua – CEO, Havas Group India for his perspective on the ongoing crisis.
It has been nearly a month since the lockdown, how are you coping and boosting the morale of the team?
It has been an amazing learning experience. I think I can safely say we have all settled into a pattern of WFH and coping well in spite of many challenges with occasional days that seem to pull one down. At a senior leadership level, as a group we ensure we talk to each other very often thus sharing all the challenges, issues, and ironing out the difficulties. Communication is the key in times like these.
We have launched an initiative called “HAVAS TALKS” it is a knowledge-sharing platform where leaders from our Havas Group companies and guest speakers from other industries are invited every week to talk about interesting and relevant topics. Also, to keep our employees energized and engaged in these challenging times, we have multiple fun and interactive sessions throughout out the month.
Havas has 6 agencies and big clients, how are clients responding during this period of crisis?
We have a dynamic list of clients and thus all sectors are going through their own changes, and unique requirements and needs specific to them. Some are very active and engaging a lot, many are relooking at the strategies, recreating objectives, reshaping plans and others are planning post COVID19 innovative plans of (re)entering the market and engaging with the consumers. The period has been of resilience and partnership which will stand for many years going ahead as we understand the unprecedented situation and respect for each other has increased multi-fold.
As India Head what is your strategy to stay ahead of the curve?
I don’t think there is “a” definite strategy of staying ahead of the curve. It is an amalgamation of clear leadership skills, staying focused at the task at hand, understanding your client’s problems, challenges, working very closely with them, supporting your people & talent as they need to remain continuously motivated to deliver results in these trying circumstances, relook at the business models to figure unnecessary costs – remove them for good if need be, add expertise that seems to be in order and sharpen it quickly so that it starts contributing to the ecosystem. So as you can see, it is a continuous process of evolving, change and speed to react which will ensure that one is prepared for the emerging world.
Globally we are seeing an economic slowdown. China has reported 17% fall in revenues, how are you envisaging India’s ADEX growth post COVID 19?
We do not have a definite impact on the numbers yet. It is linked to our GDP – Moody’s prediction is that the India GDP growth will be at 2.5%, which is half of what was projected to be around 5.3%. We all know there is a link between Adex, ad industry numbers and the GDP growth. So, it will come down perhaps between 1.5 or 2X of that. We have to be positive that the impact will not be dramatically high and that can only happen if we resume services soon and get our operations back into a momentum quickly. We will all know by Q3 (Oct-Dec) of this year the real impact. It all depends on how long the lockdown stretches which impacts manufacturing, work, and supply thus leading to less consumption. With a gradual opening, a good monsoon, a better consumer sentiment and hopefully lesser fear and panic we will be able to stem the downturn a bit. I would say let us all be optimists but keep in mind this year is going to be super tough and extremely challenging.
How are brands in this lockdown looking at their advertising strategy and also which sectors will benefit?
With long lockdowns, staying home, catching up with family time like yesteryears – appointment viewing, watching is back and as a result, some mediums are benefiting disproportionately over the others. Thus news, OTT, a lot of classics, movies (new) are being watched and the numbers are showing dramatic results. Many brands that need to be active now are actively engaging with their consumers, by using all the mediums very sensibly and extremely well. Many mediums that are not available because of the lockdown – and are gearing up slowly to get active as the partial markets start opening up.
Plethora of anxiety issues, job losses, brands rethinking their ad spends, what will be your one positive Mantra to think positive in these trying times? The millennials have never seen something like this. What is your advice to them?
All I can say is – stay positive, confident and be assured that this will pass (soon). I know it seems so irrational, unfair and frustrating but we have to keep calm, stay focused and ensure we come out victorious. It seems like a long, dark tunnel but there is a light that awaits, and we must together walk in this long tunnel – help each other, be there for one another, speak/talk to friends, colleagues, family. It is totally unprecedented so please understand there is no ‘one” mantra that will work – and one more thing – keep the sense of humour active – laugh, listen to jokes – be cautious of fake news.
Any negative impact on traditional media, say Print and OOH?
I do not think there is a long-term impact. The nature of the business and the current circumstances is naturally making it difficult for print, OOH, events, activations and many such. So – are they impacted: Yes. Will they bounce back – Yes, I am confident.