Kartik Sharma is the Chief Executive Officer – India and South Asia, Wavemaker. The agency has completed a year of operations, and is continuously growing to become an agency to reckon with in the space of media, content and technology. A quick flashback, Wavemaker was formed by the merger of Maxus and MEC globally.
Before leading Wavemaker, Kartik was an old hand at Maxus, having spent close to 12 years across various roles including Managing Director of the South Asian region for Maxus. He has handled brands such as Vodafone, Tata Sky, Coca Cola, Airtel, Cadbury, Asian Paints and etcetera… it’s a long list. He has worked with Madison and Mindshare too for a good seven years.
An MBA from NMIMS, Kartik, who is a veteran in the media, content and brand space, has been sharing his knowledge and wisdom with students of premiere institutes such as IIM-B and MICA.
We spoke to him on Wavemaker’s first anniversary, its restructuring post the merger of Maxus and MEC global, new account wins and a lot more.
Tell us about Wavemaker and its body of work.
We launched Wavemaker last November and have completed one year of operations. It has been an incredible journey. Wavemaker helps brands grow their business. This has been achieved through our Rapid Growth Planning framework underpinned by the world’s largest consumer journey study called Momentum. Momentum has over 7,00,000 journeys across 70 countries and 35 categories.
Early this year, we also launched a first-of-its-kind content effectiveness lab in collaboration with Ogilvy. Our focus on effectiveness has helped us deliver some outstanding solutions to clients, and which have resulted in Wavemaker winning the Agency Of The Year. Our client Vodafone has won the client of the year second time in a row. This is a clear testimony of the quality of work being done by Wavemaker.
Are you satisfied with the performance? Could you share a progress report supported with a few numbers?
We have done extremely well in our first year. We have won close to Rs. 1000 crores of new business with brands such as Mondelez, Eureka Forbes, Bisleri International and many more. We have also been successful in retaining clients like Tata Sky, Perfetti Van Melle and Policybazaar. I feel we are in the right direction of building our business and it’s a continuous journey.
What were the major challenges post the merger? How did you restructure the agency? How did you overcome those challenges?
MEC and Maxus have been two strong well established legacy brands. As a result, we did not face major challenges. Our global teams gave us great advice on how to manage the merger. The teams were restructured for better delivery to our clients. The restructure saw a few team changes based on the clients’ feedbacks.
One of the major highlights of the restructure was to strengthen our product stack. We have senior leaders managing our core product offerings across analytics, content, performance marketing and e-commerce. This has immensely helped us deliver to our clients.
Which were the major business challenges you faced?
Challenges are a part and parcel of any business. I am blessed to have a fantastic leadership team. Whenever there are challenges we huddle and discuss the same. Invariably, we are able to solve these challenges.
Retention is also an important part of our business. We care for our clients’ business and keep pushing ourselves to do what is best for them. We listen to their feedback regularly and keep improving if there are any gaps.
With long term clients and businesses such as Vodafone, we work very closely with them at every stage and therefore are able to work seamlessly with all their stakeholders.
Which according to you are the major need gaps in the industry? How does WM plan to fill those gaps?
I feel, the two major need gaps in the industry which need urgent attention are talent and automation.
At Wavemaker, on the talent side, we focus on both talent attraction and retention. We strive hard to articulate our vision and give purpose to what our teams are doing every single day. We also invest heavily in training them on both soft and hard skills.
Currently, we are doing a lot of work in the area of automation, some of which are already being beta tested. Automation will be a game changer for our industry.
How is WaveMaker using technology to service its clients?
In 2018, we deployed artificial intelligence based analytics products which helps us optimize marketing investment to deliver a higher ROI. We are also deploying lot of technology solutions in the area of performance marketing. You will hear about some very soon.
On the personal front, what are the most important things you look for in the people who come to join you? Values, or skills? What are the three most important values and skills respectively you look for?
Personally for me values and attitudes are important. With practice people can pick up the skills required to do a job.
At Wavemaker, we look for five values in an individual which are Passion, Agility, Collaboration, Entrepreneurship, and Diversity.
How has WaveMaker planned the road ahead? Where do you see the agency 3 years from now?
Our mindset is one of growth. Both to grow our clients’ business and our business. This will not change. Additionally we will continue to focus on building a diverse team and give them an enriching platform.
A special piece of advice you would want to share with our readers, who also include young media and entertainment professionals who look up to you as an industry thought leader.
Our industry is going through some big changes and therefore, you must keep yourself abreast of all the latest developments. Often, I find young people stop learning once they settle in a job. I would urge all of them to continuously learn and experiment with new things including trying to do well established things differently.
Lastly, I strongly believe that there are no shortcuts to success, so work hard and keep improving your craft.