What is the implication of the one-child policy on the value system of Chinese mothers regarding baby care? Should we hammer out creative differences in the meeting room or take people aside and discuss it privately?
While Sanjai Srivastava, senior business director, Lowe is figuring out the former in Shanghai, Santosh Menon, general manager, FCB Indonesia is trying to understand what is the most sensitive option for the latter. Srivastava and Menon are not alone in learning and savouring the thrill of working in foreign markets.
They represent the growing club of young, Indian ad pros who are being increasingly sent by their global networks to head operations or significant accounts in Asian countries.
A trend that has caught significant momentum in the past one year has these managers going to markets ranging from Sri Lanka to Bangladesh and China in the neighbourhood to Vietnam, Indonesia and Hong Kong further East. The move has meant growth, learning and overall upward movement in an exciting format.
As the Indian economy booms, the Indian ad pros are in the spotlight for the working ethos and talent they can bring to the table. International recognition for its work at awards has helped immensely as the networks are looking this way for global leaders.
The Indian agency is becoming the rising star of its network and can command such appointments. Lowe India for instance is one of the 11 'lighthouse' agencies of the network and among the top three agencies in its network on most parameters. O&M India enjoys a top-end position as does Grey India in their networks.
There is clear 'regionalisation' among clients who are getting out of country-centric marketing models. The agencies are mirroring this change. As Pranesh Misra, President and CEO, Lowe India explains: "As the managers at the client's end move from one market to the other, they seek out the ad professionals they worked with here." India is the centre for advertising creation for specific international brands, for instance Unilever brands like Fair n Lovely, Surf Excel and Clinic Plus.
Indian talent is hence being increasingly spotted and perceived as hard working, analytical with enviable adaptability. In India for instance you learn to treat every region as a separate market so the learning is wide. Not the last or least, they speak English. "We are both strong leaders and yet great learners," observes Vaishali Sarkar of OgilvyOne.
Says Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT: "Our training exposes them to MNC brands, a wide range of product categories and adapting to different time zones." Adds Kalpana Rao, talent director, O&M: "We see giving international exposure as a part of the career planning process for these senior employees." Credit is also fast piling up for the senior Indian professionals who are running meritocracies and churning out these well trained young 'uns.
Harris says that this is akin to outsourcing of talent at a price point beneficial to international players. However as these professionals are growing in strength this price gap is also closing. And that may well be the next significant development to announce the arrival of the Indian professional in the global ad space.
"Once you peak at a job the next door has to open innovatively. This role is bigger and hence more challenging." "The big learning is adapting management styles to get the best out of a team coming from different work cultures." "Having grown up in the chalta hai culture of Delhi, this has been an eye opener. Getting used to a mature market is an experience."
"Bringing together a team in a foreign country is a challenge next to only acquainting myself to the local cultural pulse." Running the P&G business since '97, he continues to enjoy bringing "specialist solutions to a smaller market that are difficult to try in larger markets.”
"This role was predominantly for people from the US earlier. But JWT and Ford were keen to get more Asians in the regional team." In charge of the AmEx business for Japan, Asia Pacific and Australia. "I work with nine countries with different communication needs." "I was excited to handle the China market for J&J." This is significant because J&J is Lowe's second biggest account and China is becoming its largest market."
He runs the regional Unilever business. "The exposure to a diverse set of markets is my greatest gain." He leads BAT business, one of Grey's biggest accounts. "My performance led the client to pay an extra fee to extend my contract."