Kishan has 16+ years in the media and has been with Wavemaker for the last 14 years and has played an instrumental role in building Wavemaker as one of the biggest media agencies in South India. Kishan’s vast experience across categories, clubbed with his passion and innovation for brand building; make him well-suited to take on the new role.
In this Leaderspeak Kishan Kumar MS – Chief Growth Officer, Wavemaker India speaks on his journey with Wavemaker, his challenges in the new normal and much more……..
As Chief Growth Officer, what would be your responsibilities?
Growth is the heartbeat of any business, more so in today’s challenging times.
At Wavemaker, we strongly believe that there are always better ways to growth. All our people, resources, tools & expertise exist to bring about immediate, short & long term growth for our clients and thereby our people.
My responsibility as the Chief Growth Officer is to mirror this philosophy internally. I work closely with our leadership team to positively provoke and create immediate, short & long-term growth for Wavemaker India.
That includes winning new business, identifying new growth pivots and growing existing client & partner relationships.
Another interesting aspect of my mandate is making Wavemaker famous among relevant stakeholders through our work, our people and our expertise. Globally & regionally, growth & marketing functions go hand-in-hand and that is something I’m looking forward to.
With 16+ years in the media industry how has your journey been, what have been the challenges?
I have had an incredible 16+ years with Maxus &Wavemaker and I am extremely proud of it.
I have been fortunate to have had amazing mentors, fantastic colleagues and incredible clients, many of them are life-long friends now. It is also fulfilling to have mentored a lot of stars whose success makes me prouder.
Over these years, I had the opportunity to don various hats within my organisation, have been part of some path-breaking work that has grown businesses and made a difference to society & people, won some of the most prestigious accolades be it the best in the industry (Cannes, FOMA, Effies, Mashable, Emvies Grand Prix & Client of the Year) or the best within WPP (WPP Crème de la Crème). I also had an interesting international stint that taught me some valuable life lessons.
I have been happy most of these 16+ years; and that is very important for me. Hence, I couldn’t have asked for more!
What has been that one positive mantra in your life?
I am an emotional praani. My brain reports to my heart. I find joys in small life moments; a great meal, a funny meme, a moving story, an engaging chat.
At work, I love the brands I work for and people I work with unconditionally. I strongly believe that our best work is just round the corner. As a leader, I always lead by example. I believe in the inherent goodness in people and values relationships more than anything else.
There’s a quote I saw recently that resonates well with me. It says that in the long-run, it will be kindest who will succeed.I am a strong believer in second chances.
Stay happy, love unconditionally, lead from the front, keep learning, and be kind. That’s my mantra.
Wavemaker recently launched some great tools to help clients during the lockdown. Can you elaborate on this?
Like I said earlier, we exist to help our clients grow better. And we do that by positively provoking ourselves and our clients. Positive Provocation is a philosophy as much as it is a framework, a tool and an operating system combined.
The tool has 3 different dimensions (Maximise, Unlock & Transform) that help us build the foundations for immediate, short-term & long-term growth.
Using provocative planning as the foundation and leveraging our expertise in media, content & technology, powered by GroupM and WPP, I am confident that we are in an enviable position to be growth custodians for brands.
We have seen some outstanding work from Wavemaker in this crisis and lockdown, your thoughts?
Wavemaker is blessed to have this amazing combination of passionate people working on some great brands. Being the #2 agency in India, we try harder and that has led to a great sense of ownership among us. The output then is proud work.
The Mondelez Celebrations Diwali work is a great example of technology &creativity coming together for a good cause.
Our Mother Dairy team in Delhi is using the power of content and storytelling ever since they tasted blood with Zakir Khan’s Maa Ke Haath ka Khana campaign.
I have not seen anything as audacious a launch as the recent Viwhere our team pulled all their might to create a near-universal awareness in a single day!
We have brought content, e-commerce, digital and technology with the tadka of the power of regional on various MTR Foods’ campaigns.
We leveraged IPL team associations for brands like Acko, Myntra, Tata Tea Chakra Gold, Colgate and Mondelez, each association unique in itself.
Our partnership with Pocket Aces’ Loco for Perfetti’s Chupa Chups married nostalgia around old games like Snake to recreate the brand proposition of fun.
The Tata Tea Gold — Amazon Prime — Shakuntala Devi association is an industry first bringing the hottest Covid trends of OTT and Ecom together to drive equity and sales.
There are many more — The PRI Spirit of Scotland work, the Titan Eyeplus Blue for Kids, the Cargill ‘Iss Saal Har Ghar Pandal’ TVC, the Nokia Filmfare Coup, the Chakra Gold #OruTeaSollungo, the Netflix Moodmapping — I can keep counting!
What would be the way forward for Wavemaker with so many recent elevations in the senior management?
The current Wavemaker India ExCo is a healthy mix of people who have been around for a while and people who joined recently. While Premjeet, our CSO, Prerna, our Talent Head and Tushar our Finance Head are relatively new to Wavemaker, they’ve been with GroupM prior. Mac who joined us recently to lead ITC and special projects too is a very seasoned player and a GroupM veteran. They collectively bring an important outside world-view without any historical baggage.
The rest of us–Shekhar, Pratik, Karthik, Rashmi, Mansi, Vishal, Tushar & I — are people who have been around for a while. Sandeep has now moved to head the analytics practise globally and that’s a matter of great pride for us, but he’s always around for any help. What we bring to the table is the historical legacy which is also important.
What binds us together is the passion to win and grow our clients &our people. That’s the vision laid out by both our leaders Ajay in India and Toby, our global CEO. And we do it by positively provoking, pushing the boundaries and holding hands with each other.
On the personal front, who was your first or most significant mentor or teacher in the professional space that you are in?
I joined media when legends like CVL Srinivas, Vikram Sakhuja, Lakshmi Narasimhan were shaping GroupM and the industry. Like an awestruck rookie leg-spinner in the 2008 Rajasthan Royals camp, I looked upto these Shane Warnes for inspiration.
Ajit Varghese had and continues to have a huge impact on me. Ajit showed me the sky and gave me wings. And reassured me that he’s around. Sanchayeeta Verma taught me the nuances of the craft and we were a great combination. I’m inspired by the way Ajay keeps things simple, I wish I could do that. Some of my best work was in partnership with my dearest friend Sai. Unny, an ex-colleague inspired me with his people-first approach.
However, my biggest role model and mentor has been Prasanth Kumar (or PK as he is popularly known). He is my constant energy source, my biggest critic and my sounding board. He demonstrated leadership to a lot of us. He instilled a belief that every problem can have a win-win solution. And he taught us how to be the runway from where your teams can take-off.
There are a lot of my colleagues, clients & media partners whom I haven’t mentioned but are mentors in some sense. Whatever I’m today is a collective influence of the people I met in the last 16 years – be it people at GroupM, my clients or media partners. Cliched but true, I’ve selfishly taken something or the other from most of them that shaped a large part of me.
How do you relax and unwind? Your go-to activities?
I am someone with a multiple-passion disorder. I am a huge cricket fan and I love reading, listening & collecting trivia about the game. The year 2020 marks the 35th year of my career as a cricketer and in spite of familial pressures, I am in no mood to retire anytime soonJ
I picked up Formula 1 again after a long gap and I’m in love with the sport, all over again!
Cooking is a huge stress buster and I do it regularly. I can cook an awesome Kerala Sadya all by myself, now I am planning to expand my cooking horizons. I also love making pickles and experimental chutneys.
Music is another passion, and after a gap of almost 30 years, I’ve started learning classical music again. I’m getting back to theatre after a 16 year gap; hoping to stage a comeback production in 2021.
I run a podcast with daughter Dia called “Alternate Dia Mentions” where she’s the content creator and I’m the comic relief. Malayalam languages is another passion and off-late have rediscovered the language through books.
Being part of the Advertising Club Bangalore committee helps contribute back to the fraternity.