September 10, 2017

In conversation with Vikas Mehta

With a handful experience in advertising industry spanning over 29 years, Vikas Mehta has worked with numerous numbers of global and local brands, in India, Egypt, Indonesia, Dubai, Oman and Bahrain. He has worked with brands like Surf, Pepsodent, Lifebuoy, Sony, Boost, Bharti Walmart, HSBC, Hero and many more. He has worked with Lowe, JWT, and Havas; handled country level and regional level roles in terms of strategic thinking and bottom line responsibilities. He is an Ex-CEO of Lowe Dubai.
Vikas Mehta was one of the key-note speakers at the recently held 7th Communication Summit. In an exclusive interview with Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF), Vikas Mehta shared insights on agency management, customer service and changes in the communication industry.

BBF: How does it feel visiting Bangladesh?

Vikas Mehta: My last trip in Bangladesh was during the 90s. Between then and now, the changes in Bangladesh are significant. From my way to the airport, the physical changes in Bangladesh took me aback. There is greenery on both the sides, flyovers etc. But more importantly, if you look at the marketing and advertising field, the night before the summit, I turned on the TV to some local channels just to see how are the marketers doing now and I was quite impressed with the local brands here. The finishing of the advertisement still requires improvement but nonetheless, given the thinking and approach, promotions have come a long way.

BBF: How has the communication industry changed according to your 29 years of experience in this industry?

Vikas Mehta: The change has been massive. It was a very labor-intensive industry back when I stepped in. We had something called a “studio room” where everything given – backdrops, billboards etc. were prepared manually. From there we have moved to an age where computers are doing more than half the job. Now, we don’t seek for creative people, we want technology-oriented creative people. We not only look for ideas but ideas that can go across the spectrum of technology medium. Until that time, advertising was the last resort for workers, if they didn’t find employment elsewhere; but now, advertising requires a particular skillset from the workers. We used to make advertisement on radio routes, even the television was not a choice to be taken and in today’s time, we are shooting a television commercial from our hand-held devices. That’s the change I have seen and lived through in my years of being in the communication industry.

BBF: How has the significance of customer relationship changed for brands?

Vikas Mehta: From a brand viewpoint, this is a never ending process. Customer relationship will always be in need of constant improvement. A brand is bound to make mistakes but the crucial and the most important thing is how resilient the brand is. Taking Amazon as an example, it is a service company and has sourced out even the smallest of the things that make their customers satisfied. Unlike many other customer services where the individual is put on hold for a frustrating few minutes, Amazon takes the liberty of calling the customer instead at their own preferred time. To me, that is customer service. There is always a scope for improvement but it’s actually on the regular people to force your brands to enhance in customer relationship.


BBF: What are the essentials of agency management?

Vikas Mehta: My perspective on agency management is a bit different. If I were to start my own agency, there are a few factors that I would consider. The top and foremost factor is management because this is one business where you are not working from your own money. Cash flow is the most important thing because if you are managing someone else’s money, you better do it well. The second essential is the talent to sought, that is, whether people are joining you for the money or for the communication. I am using the word “communication” because we have passed the era of advertising, it is now all about how well you communicate. The third and the most crucial factor is the sense of pride in your work. Do not undersell yourself. If you are adding value to the company’s name, the company is bound to pay you. The fourth and the last factor for me is to simply be proactive. A good agency thinks ahead of the client and will never wait for the brief. For me these are some of the essentials of agency management.

BBF: Do you think the industries in the Middle East and South Asia have different approaches in their strategy of work?

Vikas Mehta: Honestly, I think globally all agencies work in the same way. For me, it’s basically understanding your customers. A mother is the same right through the world, a teenager acts the same way as well but the differences come in show due to the social context. I don’t think globally there is a change because of the regional aspects.

BBF: Share few words about your experience working at Lowe.

Vikas Mehta: I think one of the biggest thing for me was knowing and understanding the customers. What we really need to understand nowadays is that consumer is the king and not the client. If we understand our customer well and their behavioral patterns, we can make them satisfied which in turn will make our clients happy. It’s not selling something to the client, it’s actually selling the consumer to the client. To me that’s a big learning to never forget who your consumer is.

BBF: In your key-note, you mentioned that “staying true to the core is imperative”. Is it because of the shifting global market and the increased emphasis on innovation?

Vikas Mehta: Definitely! I think it works more strongly for local brands. Taking a look at the various countries of the world, everywhere local brands with strong ideas have been doing very well. Despite being able to stand up to the competition, they have developed a solid positioning and been following for themselves. For me, the way a local brand can only survive the ever-challenging competition, is by creating a distinct positioning and idea for themselves. They should be everything to everyone but at the same time maintain their uniqueness for certain people as well. The classic example is – Patanjali. This brand has come from nowhere but it’s doubling its expansion and fame by minutes. However, its core is very simple: patriotism; the nationalistic view. This one brand has decided what its core is going to be and has been successfully holding on to it.

BBF: What would be your remarks on the Communication Summit?

Vikas Mehta: I think these sort of discussions and collaborations are definitely required, especially for countries where communication is not yet a recognized industry. I personally would recommend you to organize these summits more often. I seriously believe that it’s not just about having these discussion but there should always be a takeaway from it, that is, our learning that can later be implemented in our course of actions. These collaborations are a great way to forward the industries towards their designated fields. This is the first time I am attending this summit and I had no clue what it is, however, I am quite positively surprised at not only the turnout but also at the number of participants in the summit.

Interviewed by Alvi Rahmaan Atoshie

Watch the Full Video Interview

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