Wunderman Thompson South Asia’s CEO Shamsuddin ‘Shams’ Jasani was announced as the agency’s head towards the end of last year
and since that time, described his experience as ‘absolutely fantastic’. Joining in the midst of a global pandemic, that doesn’t seem to be showing signs of letting up in India, is no mean feat. So, the industry veteran comes in with a plan and one that he hopes to execute in the short, medium and long term.
He explains: “I had a vision of what the agency of tomorrow should look like and what we need to do and that is what we want to bring to life. In Wunderman Thompson South Asia we've got a nine decade old legacy, which is just an amazing legacy and brand experience. Short term and long term is very relative to me - long term is about three years. In the long term we want to grow, we want to double our size in the next few years.”
“The midterm is just about adding commerce and technology to our arsenal and making sure that we are winning against the bigger clients and the evolution of the agency from brand experience to consumer in the next 12 to 18 months. We're looking at driving and fuelling our growth with the organic growth with the team in-house, that's my theory of the short-term plan in the next six months.”
Shams is no stranger at all to short and long-term plans, having had an illustrious career. He entered the creative industry in 2001 just as the dot.com bust hit - at a time he remembers as him wanting to be a ‘brand manager’. From there, he worked for agencies in India before being asked to start Isobar in India in 2008 – a job he calls his “real contribution” to advertising, though doing this in the midst of a financial crisis was a learning curve. “Every way I look at it is that every scenario like that brings challenges also bring opportunities because I really got to get some great talent, which I would not have been able to get if it was business as usual.”
While he refers to starting at Wunderman Thompson South Asia as the “most exciting chapter”, it wouldn’t be without the skills he’s picked up along the way that he’d be here right now. One in particular is the learning that, no matter what your role is, no one is too small to take on any task. He says: “I think humility is something which is a very important part of the job that that comes in. It doesn't matter at what level you are.” It’s also probably why one of Shams’ greatest prides is in hiring people who are better than him to “create something that can work by itself, even without you and I think that's respected a lot”. He adds: “I think, as a CEO, if you are able to get the team right and get the people right, that's one good job.”
Looking at the market in India, digital is driving communications right now more than ever. Though, it wasn’t always like that but thanks to mass communication via mobile phones, marketers are able to utilise campaigns that play to consumer desires. Shams says: “I think the whole adaptation of a life which is very seamless between physical and digital worlds means that we as marketers, both from our business as well as a consumer perspective, need to accelerate our understanding to be able to live in both worlds.
“How are we seamlessly doing what people call online to offline? Of course, digital has its part, what we call traditional has its part. The seamlessness of where online to offline really exists and where each part of that and how do you connect, and how do you help consumers go from online to offline and back online again, that I think is the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for us as an industry to address right now.”
Addressing those changes is key, but ensuring a happy team is able to undertake them is essential for any CEO. With Covid-19 changing a lot and the future of the workplace becoming more hybrid, Shams shares his opinion of how best to keep the team working in the future. “Working remotely is a big part of the future but what we need is to find these moments of community building, these moments of interaction for our teams, which was so easy to do when we were in a physical environment. We need to be able to find those moments of inspiration those moments of community, the moments of driving culture. I think the most important part of an organisation is the people of the organisation.”
Shams is three months into his tenure as CEO of Wunderman Thompson South Asia and with a zeal for celebrating the little achievements of his team and a clear vision for how he can take the business forward, he’s all for living in the moment: “Let's have a spirit of really celebrating and enjoying each moment that we are actually living in.”