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Arvind Sharma steps down from Leo Burnett, Saurabh Varma to take charge

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MUMBAI: Tom Bernardin, Chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett Worldwide announced today the new leadership of the India operations. Chairman and CEO of Indian subcontinent Arvind Sharma will be leaving the agency to pursue other business interests outside the industry after a successful stint of 30 years.

The currently regional chief strategy officer of Leo Burnett Asia Pacific Saurabh Varma has now been appointed as the CEO Leo Burnett Group India.

I would like to start something totally new, says Sharma after his 30 years of successful stint with Leo Burnett

The appointment will be effective from 1November, 2013. In his new role as CEO for the India operations across Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore, Varma will report directly to Leo Burnett Asia Pacific President Jarek Ziebinski.

As chief strategy officer of Leo Burnett Asia Pacific, Varma oversees all heads of strategy and planning directors in the region. His role also sees him playing a key role in the management of regional and global accounts. A post graduate in Communications from Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA), Varma has 16 years of experience in the business. He has spent seven years with Leo Burnett based at Singapore. Some of the brands he has worked on include Indian Oil, Lakme (Unilever), Vicks (P&G), NIVEA, Fosters, Philips, HP, Blackberry, Samsung, Friesland Campina Asia Pacific (Dutch Lady/ Foremost/ Frisian Flag), MCYS and UOB Bank.

Varma has spent the first nine years of his career in advertising in India. He began his career with DDB India and within four years of being in the business, he was made head of account management at TBWA India. In the last three years, Varma has won more than 50 awards including the Effie Gold, the Appies Gold, the Grand Prix for Direct Marketing, the most effective media campaign at Hall of Fame, 2 Gold Lions at Cannes, the Grand Prix at the ADFEST, the Viewers’ Choice Award (Mediacorp) and many more. In 2010, Varma was awarded the ‘Strategic Planner of the Year’ at the Hall of Fame Awards.

His strength lies in being able to bring life into a strategic process, unearthing societal contexts and creating out of the box briefs.

Commenting on his new role, Varma said, “India is home to me. This new role is coming full circle to where it all began. Over the years, I have always kept a keen eye on the developments in India and in some ways, I felt like I have never left. I look forward to coming back with a fresh perspective gained from my time away and bring the best learnings of Leo Burnett network to India. Being a part of the regional team for Asia Pacific has given me a unique perspective and experience of diverse markets across the region and I look forward to bringing this understanding to my new role. Together with the management team, most of whom I already know and have the privilege of working with, we will be focused on driving a positive change for the agency to take it to the next level.”

Varma's strength lies in being able to bring life into a strategic process, unearthing societal contexts and creating out of the box briefs

Bernardin, who is in Mumbai today with the regional management team for the announcement said, “We would like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude and appreciation to Arvind Sharma. He has worked tirelessly over the past 30 years to build Leo Burnett into one of India’s leading creative agencies and laid down a solid foundation for the agency to progress to the next level. During his tenure, Arvind built a stellar client base that includes blue chip multinational and local clients and nurtured some of the brightest stars within the Indian advertising industry today. Though he remains available for his advice and counsel, we bid farewell to Arvind today, in his official capacity, with our very best wishes and as a dear friend.”

Ziebinski added, “I’d like to thank Arvind for his contribution to our success and close collaboration over the past four years since I arrived in the region. I wish Arvind nothing but the best for his new future.”

While bidding adieu, Sharma had some fond memories, as he said, “I had a very long and fruitful run as the leader of Leo Burnett in India Subcontinent. As I approached the company-defined age of 58, I would like to start something totally new. I look back at my 30 years at the agency and 21 years of leading it with a great deal of satisfaction.”

The agency was awarded Global Agency of the Year by Leo Burnett Worldwide for 2003 and 2008. In partnerships with its clients, the agency has been recognised creatively across leading award shows globally including Cannes, Clios, D&AD, One Show and London International Awards. Work produced by Leo Burnett India has also run in multiple countries worldwide. Last year, the agency successfully completed the acquisition of digital agency, Indigo Consulting and integrated it into the Leo Burnett Group.

Continued Bernardin, “We are fortunate to have a strong management team on ground in India and equally fortunate in having the bench strength in the region in naming Saurabh to this role. Saurabh’s talent and track record is well-recognised within the network. His combined experience and knowledge of having worked across creative, media and digital agencies is invaluable as we look to elevate the agency to its next stage of development in India, a key market for the network globally. He will have the full support of the global and regional management in his new role.”

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