Sakhuja right leader to continue Maxus' global growth story: Dominic Proctor

MUMBAI: Vikram Sakhuja becomes the first Indian to head an international media agency, being named as the global CEO of Maxus in GroupM‘s latest changing of the guard.

Sakhuja takes charge of Maxus at a time when the GroupM media agency is riding a strong growth phase amid an economic slowdown. According to RECMA, Maxus is the fastest growing agency and has seen a 43.6 per cent jump in its global billings to $6.875 billion in 2011.

In an exclusive telephonic chat with, GroupM global president Dominic Proctor said Sakhuja is the "right leader" to "take up Maxus‘ challenge of continuing its growth globally."

The confidence in Sakhuja shows how GroupM is looking at moving its talent pool from across the world at a time when technology enables companies to be run from anywhere.

"We had a discussion with Sakhuja and he wanted to be based out of Mumbai. Logistics is not an important issue in today‘s age," Proctor said.

Sakhuja‘s rise is all the more indicative of his individual acumen as he has been given the new position not because India has become strategically important for Maxus but due to his leadership skills. The agency, in fact, has been growing much faster in some of the other matured markets than India.

"There is nothing India-centric in his appointment. If anything, it is only a symbolic coincidence that he will be based out of Mumbai. Maxus is growing very fast across and India is an anomaly. India, though, is doing well and has the potential to become one of Maxus‘ jewels," Proctor said.

In India, Maxus is growing at 25 per cent and posted billings of $570 million in 2011, according to RECMA. The agency, on the other hand, more than doubled its billings in the US where it ended with $2 billion from $900 million in 2010. In Asia-Pacific, Maxus‘s billings stood at $1.94 billion, up 22.4 per cent.

Much of Sakhuja‘s time and attention will move towards the matured media markets where Maxus gets most of its growth and businesses despite global economic stresses. Agencies are needing to adapt to technology and digital demands in the marketplace. The US, in particular, is going through massive changes. Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple are the digital media giants and have spread their tentacles far and wide across the globe.

Sakhuja‘s global entry is at this opportune moment. Maxus has pocketed a string of new accounts over the last one year including the prized NBC Universal and SC Johnson.

Sakhuja is not new to media companies. Before joining GroupM in 2002 and rising to the position of CEO for South Asia, he has spent a year in Rupert Murdoch‘s Star India from 2000. He set up the marketing department at Star for its TV entertainment channels, including the launch of Star Vijay and Radio City.

Proctor believes Maxus has "headroom for growth". Sakhuja‘s agenda will be "to drive growth in not just billings but also new products and services".

According to RECMA, Maxus has been one of the fastest growing agencies over the last few years. "Maxus‘ growth has come mainly from the organic route. We also strike all sorts of partnerships to grow," explained Proctor.

Maxus and Motivator South Asia managing director Ajit Varghese is already feeling special. "We will have the added advantage of sitting closer to the global CEO. Clients also will feel excited that they will get the global CEO‘s time and dedicated attention ," he said.

Verghese, however, feels Maxus‘ growth in India will not directly see any dramatic spurt because of having an Indian global CEO sitting in India. “We are growing pretty strongly and this year have already won four major accounts – Discovery India, Mannapuran Gold Loan, Wipro and Matrubhumi. Our strategy is not just to add size but to work with good brands."

The agency’s existing big clients include Vodafone, Hero Future Group, Tata Motors, Nokia and Google.

Will having the global CEO based out of Mumbai mean less procedural delays for India business? "Maxus is extremely agile as an organisation. Even under Kelly Clark (whom Sakhuja is replacing), we used to get very quick responses. I used to get responses to my emails in two minutes," said Verghese.

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