Come July, CVL Srinivas, who currently wears two hats, that of GroupM's South Asia chief executive officer and WPP India's country manager, will shed one, the former, paving the way for his complete transition into the latter role. The change, announced a week ago, comes at a time when WPP's high-profile chief executive Martin Sorrell has stepped down. Srinivas says he is prepared to take up the challenge. In his first-ever media interaction since the announcement, Srinivas tells Viveat Susan Pinto his priorities for the group. Edited Excerpts:
What would be your immediate areas of focus as full-time WPP country manager in India?
I will be working closely with the global leadership of WPP and will look to leverage all our assets to benefit clients. WPP has a massive footprint in India and using services for the betterment of clients is something we can do. Secondly, there is a lot of opportunity for us to run the operation in a far more efficient manner and this is something I will pursue keenly. Thirdly, my endeavour would be to bring about transformation (in the business) with the help of data, technology, content, and, of course, creativity.
Unlike in the past, the country manager's role is no longer titular in nature. Country managers are increasingly getting powerful. Your thoughts on this...
Yes. That is true. In the last year and a half, WPP has appointed more active country managers in about 20 of its top markets across the globe. The reason is the management feels there is far more collaboration and efficiency that can be driven within the group in these markets. And that is also why I will fully transition to the role of WPP's India country manager shortly. This is a full-time job and there is so much to do. I am excited to take up the challenge.
Where else can you drive synergies after global integrations in media, public relations and data analytics within the group?
I think e-commerce is an area where we can drive synergies within the group here. There is a lot of interesting work that WPP agencies are doing. GroupM, for instance, started its e-commerce practice a year and a half ago. And we have won some interesting mandates from clients. Wunderman, a WPP digital agency, has a globally renowned e-commerce practice, too. A US-based agency called Marketplace Ignition, specialising in e-commerce, was acquired by WPP. We are now looking to bring it to India. Salmon is a WPP company in India, which has expertise in building websites. Kantar, WPP's research agency, is useful in measurement and closing the feedback loop. I think all of this can come together.
India witnessed the biggest M&A deal last week, with Walmart acquiring Flipkart. How is WPP gearing up for more online-offline partnerships?
I think we are best prepared to handle the reality that the online-offline worlds are coming together. Most people look at things in a binary fashion. In reality, there is one connected world out there. Our biggest strength is we have been driving an integrated product across digital and traditional media and will continue to do this.
How real is the threat of WPP breaking up? Speculation about Kantar being hived off and sold has only grown after Martin Sorrell's exit.
This point has been addressed by our global leadership recently. We (WPP and Kantar) are doing stuff that can bring us even closer, so we can drive more value to our clients. We are also looking at how nimble we can get even as we work towards this objective.
What about acquisitions? Are you contemplating any in the near future?
We do look at acquisitions from time to time. Unlike other groups, for us, it is not about scale, but adding value to the services we already have. We are in discussions with companies in areas such as digital, data, technology, analytics and content.