Lowe consolidates SBUs; from nine to four

MUMBAI: In the last one month, Lowe India has taken some very strategic decisions. The functioning of the agency has taken a drastic shift in terms of its structure. Lowe, which previously entailed nine strategic business units (SBU), covering different segments of the market has now in effect been reduced to essentially four SBUs.

The agency also launched a strategy division as a step towards revamping its planning services.



The modus operandi that the SBU's followed earlier were smaller constructs of business units, with each SBU head leading both the business as well as the strategy side of brands.

What was observed with that model was that business heads were focussing more on the day to day business needs and hence the time spent on building brands was shortened.

The current structure of four business units will now cater to a broader portfolio, thus encompassing the nine business units into four. The four business units will now be headed by senior vice presidents -- Joseph George, Sabyasachi Misra, Anahita Goenka and Tarun Chauhan.

While Joseph and Misra will be handling a mix of Hindustan Lever Ltd and non-Lever brands, Goenka and Chauhan will be handling all non-Lever portfolios. All, the four were earlier SBU heads in the former structure as well.

Interestingly, the other SBU heads have been realigned into the newly launched strategy division. The strategy division will be manned by eight brand strategists, four of whom have been former SBU heads with over 10 years experience in advertising, market research and marketing. Termed as the 'brand strategists', they will be assisted by a team of 20 other planners across the agency.

Says Lowe president & COO Pranesh Misra, "The SBU heads will focus solely on the business aspect and will be the ultimate responsibles for delivering the product to the client. The strategy team on the other hand, will act as the sounding board on the marketing devices and will be responsible for the creation of the brand."

The vision of the structure being, creating a product that can command a premium in the market and justify it. The agency is also looking at investing in a slightly different skill sets and are also open to taking people across field so as to get different perspectives and hence create out of the box products.

Misra also mentioned, that the brand strategist will also be consulting clients on the channel strategy to be used for the brand."Creative agencies are no longer involved with medium decisions. This is one trend we want to buck, and will be a value added service that we will be offering our clients."

When questioned as to why the move and would this not threaten the AOR's role, Misra points out, " I believe that as we move forward, there will be re-intergration of services, as more and more clients are beginning to realise that one touch point for the array of media services works with more efficacy."

Lowe believes that this structure will hence be a step forward in that direction.



The eight brand strategists heading the strategy division are -

T Krishna - Senior VP

Rama Iyer - VP

Sanjay Srivastava - VP

Krishnan Ananta - VP

Srija Chaterjee - VP

Anand Chakrovarthy - Associate VP

Shavez Afridi - Associate VP

Aditi Patwardhan - Associate VP

Harish Krishnamachar who is a senior vice president will be heading the strategy unit in Delhi.

Of the eight brand strategist mentioned above T Krishna, Rama Iyer, Sanjay Srivastava and Krishnan Ananta were SBU heads in the former structure.

When queried about whether this change would lead to any dissatisfaction and exits for the agency, Misra pointed out that the creation of these roles have been done with specific purposes and the decision has been made in consensus with the people involved.

Although it is important to note here that the brand strategists will now be reporting to the SBU heads.

Misra also stated that there will be a fair amount of rotation that will be employed into this structure, so that everybody is exposed to the different facets of the business. So, there could be a possibility of SBU heads getting into the strategy team and the current brand strategists becoming SBU heads.

Misra for the moment will be heading the strategy team, and the SBU heads will be reporting to him as well.



While on the surface, Lowe's restructuring seems perfectly logical, the question at hand is - what's the real agenda? The challenges posed in front of the agency are multiple. One, being people management and reassurances that senior people in the agency will be looking for. One other concern that seems to surface is the fact that Lowe being a creative led agency, what will really be the role of the brand strategists considering the number of people who have been aligned to the strategy division.

The second being, explaining to the client the new structure and convincing them that it will actually aid the end product. And the last and most vital being, will Lowe actually manage to command a premium in the market considering direct competition as well as the emergence of specialised services in the media agency space.

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