GroupM’s Wavemaker opens for business in India

Wavemaker, GroupM’s new billion-dollar revenue, media, content and technology agency created from the merger of MEC and Maxus, opens for business in India. 

Wavemaker India will open with a team of 700+ professionals, led by the recently announced Managing Director, Kartik Sharma, and will service a portfolio of clients, including FMCG giant ITC and L’Oréal. 

Wavemaker India will be headquartered in Mumbai with offices in Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Thrissur and Cochin. 

Kartik Sharma, Managing Director, South Asia of Wavemaker India, remarked, “I am excited as Wavemaker officially starts operations today in India. All our people, processes and technology are united through our focus on understanding, accelerating and optimising purchase journeys; making them more satisfying for consumers and more effective for our clients.” 

Wavemaker will have offices in 90 countries with over 8,500 employees. Major global clients include L’Oréal, Vodafone, Marriott, Colgate-Palmolive and Paramount. 

Wavemaker is a billion dollar-revenue next generation agency that sits at the intersection of media, content and technology. The customer’s purchase journey forms the core of its operations and is what connects the agency’s mission directly to its client’s business challenges.

Explaining the hierarchy structure, Kartik Sharma told Adgully, “I continue to look at India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which we see as additional responsibilities. Looking at the global expo of Wavemaker, that’s a significant change, which essentially means that they will help in shaping the country based policies. This is a great opportunity as this is probably the first time that an Indian agency has been able to get that kind of representation at a global level. Till now, we were just rolling as a regional structure. The current team will continue, besides some minor changes to strengthen the team. We will include some fantastic diverse talent in the team.” 

“There will be some structural changes from within the organisation in such a way that clients do not get disrupted. There will be career enhancing opportunities to the team,” he added. Sharma further said that there is a global structure that the agency will customise for each country. Directional functions will be similar, but technology, e-commerce, content and other disciplines will be strengthened, enhanced and changed. 

When asked whether the agency also plans to expand to smaller markets like Indore or Rishikesh, for instance, Sharma said, “Market expansion is always under the radar, but there are a lot of opportunities with our current set of clients. However, if there is any merit observed, we will definitely do that.” At the same time he maintained, “We have always been cautious of any kind of market expansion. We do not blindly expand to any market, we ensure that unless we are convinced that we can deliver a great product to the client, we do not open an office in any of the markets mentioned.” 

“The quality of talent that we require is not uniform in this country, let’s face this. While talent exists, local conditions are such that business may be there but the talent may not be moving. We, therefore, do not promise any clients to whom we cannot deliver. While moving to relatively smaller markets which may have business, we will weigh all the pros and cons and only then expand,” he said.

Asked if they have a specific team placed for data, technology space, Sharma replied, “Yes, a specialised team for data is already in place. On technology, particularly the Ad Tech part, we have a diverse talent coming in from different industries.” He also confirmed that many of these services would be value added services and in many cases would come from a different pricing structure. For different matured clients who understand the services fully, it would be structured differently. But in most cases they would be additional services coming at different prices. 

On being queried about the tools that would be used for planning and purchase, he informed, “The first biggest tool will be Momentum for research. Inside it, there will be sub tools that will be developed. For instance, some tools will be helpful in selections of touch points, some will help us select the media and some that will help us in optimising multiple media and schedule the media. We already have a suite of tools and some will be integrated. Some best-of-class tools are already available to us which will be integrated.” 

“Our tools will be deployed keeping in mind the type of clients and their business needs, and accordingly these tools will work as a value add. We work on the approach that a doctor uses – first diagnose the problem and then prescribe,” he remarked. 

India is a shining example of how to work in collaboration: Kartik Sharma

On whether there would be a special approach towards the new set of clients and in the technology space, Sharma said, “In the technology space, we will be playing an important role of being neutral, more like a consulting job. Our job is to help the client take decisions and telling them how they can wisely use technology and which one to be used. In terms of approaching the clients, we have always been bold, challenging the norms. This is intrinsic to our DNA. It will, however, go up many notches now, providing world-class solutions and making India shine globally.”

Commenting on how the transition has been with two agencies coming together to form one Wavemaker, Sharma remarked, “The transition has been pretty smooth. We first spoke with the clients, who were more than supportive. They understood the value proposition we were bringing to the table and understood the opportunities that the entity would bring in. Secondly, culturally there are similarities in the way the Maxus and MEC teams work. Thirdly, India is a shining example of how to work in collaboration, so it was like the most logical thing to do.” 

Sharma further informed that apart from India in the South-Asian region, Pakistan is an important market with strategic inputs coming in from them. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also equally important markets. “They may differ in size, but all are important. Sri Lanka’s growth has been phenomenal in the last two years. These three will be the second most important markets for us after India,” he concluded.


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