Publicis to also look at inorganic growth to double rev in India by 2015: Naouri

MUMBAI: Publicis Groupe chief operating officer Jean-Yves Naouri has set himself a stiff target. The 53-year-old South African, tipped to take over as chief executive officer of the third largest communications group in the world after the retirement of Maurice Levy, is aiming at doubling the agency‘s growth in two of the fastest-growing ad economies of the world.

Naouri, however, feels that he can grow faster in China than in India. “We plan to double our size in China by 2013. And we are well on our way to doing that. In India, we will be able to double our size by 2015,” he tells

Faced with a slowdown in the matured ad economies of the world, Naouri needs to be aggressive in the other markets. “We are working towards two things. We are getting aggressive on digital. Our other focus is on the fast emerging markets. We have already trebled our size in Brazil,” he avers.

Naouri feels that there is a lot of potential in India and the time is not far when the world will see what this country is capable of. “Publicis surely will be there when this happens.”

Publicis has started shopping in India to strengthen its presence in a market that is led by WPP. The agency has made four acquisitions in India over the last one year, three of them being in the digital space. The first to be gobbled up was Indigo (April), followed three months later by Resultrix. The Paris-based media communications conglomerate has just announced two more acquisitions: digital marketing agency iStrat and marketing consultancy firm Marketgate.

"We are looking at both inoganic and organic growth in India. We see opportunities in acquisitions," says Naouri.

But doesn’t he agree with WPP CEO Martin Sorrell’s recent comment about valuations in India being economically extravagant? “Maybe he is speaking for himself. We do not have exorbitant valuations. We are known for being very conservative. Despite not being the highest bidder on several occasions, we have been able to consummate deals just because they wanted to join us. So I do not concur with Sorrell’s assessment.”

Naouri also refuses to concur with the WPP boss’ assessment that India lacks self confidence. “I am very positive about India. And I feel that when you look at the potential and look at the talent, one should be excited with all the opportunities that India is showing.”

India’s sluggish GDP growth rate of 5.3 per cent does not dampen Naouri’s bullish view on India. “We do not hold a dismal sentiment. We are cautiously optimistic. When you look at the rest of the world, some countries would dream to have a five per cent growth. I am not saying that things are easy for everybody in India. But I would say it’s manageable,” he says.

Apart from investing in India, Publicis is also focussed on the growth of digital within its operations. The vision is to become a ‘Human Digital Company’. “We have said that digital and the fast growing markets like India, China and Brazil are the co-pillars of our future. And today if those two pillars are contributing 50 per cent of our revenues, our ambition is to take this up to 75 per cent,” explains Naouri.

Publicis’ strategy is to acquire local agencies and align them with its global agencies. This allows Publicis to service the clients of that geography efficiently.

“What is interesting is that we are starting to see the potential to work not only with local Indian clients, but also with Indian companies that have a global ambition. We are extremely excited at this opportunity to work with such clients. We look forward to a time when Leo Burnett and Indigo or Publicis Worldwide and iStrat can partner with and deliver outstanding work for such Indian companies,” says Naouri.

Publicis is also bullish on e-commerce. The company recently entered into a partnership with IBM’s Smarter Commerce Initiative through its consulting-centered interactive agency Rosetta. The partnership combines Publicis Groupe’s deep experience in consumer insights, technology and building a broad eCommerce ecosystem around transactions with IBM’s technology, expertise and business process innovation to serve the needs of today’s Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) who want to align their organisations and purchase decisions around integrated content and commerce.

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