Brand Makers

They are happy that I'm not going away to the Himalayas: Ogilvy's Piyush Pandey

Piyush Pandey and Ogilvy's global CEO Devika Bulchandani on succession planning, leadership, talent and the India story.

By  Shibani GharatSep 26, 2023 7:14 PM
They are happy that I'm not going away to the Himalayas: Ogilvy's Piyush Pandey
Ogilvy's Piyush Pandey states, "My belief from day one has been that I don't work for clients. I don't work for brands. I work for the people it reaches. If that is your starting point, then you will make a difference. That has been my biggest learning." (Pictured: Devika Seth Bulchandani and Piyush Pandey)

After over four decades at Ogilvy in various creative and leadership roles, Piyush Pandey, chairman global creative and executive chairman of Ogilvy India will move to an advisory role. In this role Pandey will continue to work closely with major clients and the agency’s executive team to ensure that Ogilvy India maintains its leadership position in India. Along with the leadership team, he will be involved with key Ogilvy clients and new business prospects and the creative product of the agency. Storyboard18 caught up with Piyush Pandey and Ogilvy’s Global CEO Devika Bulchandani to find out more about the changes.

Edited excerpts.

Can you dissect the new Ogilvy India structure for us?

Bulchandani: We're talking about a leadership team that has been here for over 140 years collectively. So the people who have grown up here and who have been in leadership positions already. For the last 4 to 5 years, I think Piyush and I have been talking about this (succession) for a while. They've sort of been doing the job right while Piyush has been here in his role. So Hephzibah Pathak, who's going to become executive chairman, VR Rajesh, is going to become the CEO. Sukesh, Harshad and Kainaz who have been the chief creative officers are going to lead the country from a creative perspective. Prem, who's our head of planning is going to continue that role, but together they ultimately become part of the board. And I think what's really interesting to me about this is that we have a board with three of the members who are creative leaders. Because it's our belief that creativity is not a department. It is our business. So having that seat at the table and having the creative voice go broader than just the work that we do, but be involved in how the business is run is super important. And by the way, Piyush has done that in his role.

As you pointed out, and this is very interesting to me as well, that the existing leaders are given a seat at the board and leaders within Ogilvy India have been promoted. Were you tempted to get somebody from the outside or not?

Bulchandani: Not for a second. Well, I am sure there is every other agency that has been talking to them from a fresh perspective. We often forget that people that we have are fresh for somebody else. And then we think they are not fresh for us. Sure. I don't even think we even discussed it.

Piyush, you are taking an advisory role going forward. You must have spoken to some of the clients with whom you have had a longstanding partnership at Ogilvy. How are they reacting to this news?

Pandey: They were happy because half of them know these people. They have worked with them and all of them have responded by saying ‘what a good choice’. The response from everyone has been fantastic, the response from our own people yesterday has been superb. And they are happy that I'm not going away to the Himalayas.

You've been here for more than four decades. For somebody who spends so much time in the industry, at any point in time did you feel ‘I can’t do this anymore, ab bass ho gaya!'?

Pandey: Just once. On a different point of view. But then I thought why should I leave, the other guy should leave. But we cleared it the next morning. I have been fairly nasty with those who have been bold enough to offer me a job. It's a home for me. So there was no question.

Mark Read was here just two weeks ago and he said very clearly that India is one of the fastest growing markets for WPP. What does it mean for Ogilvy?

Bulchandani: India is one of our top five markets. It's a growth market for us. It's a market where our creative product is the best. But one thing you all probably know is our creative product is Ogilvy and Piyush and Sukesh and Kainaz and Harshad. But we have over a thousand people in Coimbatore and Hyderabad. That is our tech team which is a tech delivery team for the rest of the world, where we run campaigns, whether it's on Salesforce or Adobe. So India for us is a twin peaks of growth agenda. From a creative perspective that we know we're all very familiar with, but also from a tech and enablement perspective. So it's a big priority for me. I'm not at all biased when I say that it's also the jewel in the crown. It's not just because when we land up on the global stage, India performs for us consistently. A lot of markets will come up and down. But the one thing I know is that when we're on the global stage, India will be consistent in its creative performance.

This industry has been going through a people crisis in terms of attracting the right kind of talent, and you are somebody who is known to nurture talent within the agency. What would be your pro tip to the Ogilvy CCO trio as they take the baton forward?

Pandey: You don't create. You give the opportunity. They're all creative people, they have the talent. Therefore you went and hired them. The industry has a problem. It is that you call them to play in the best place. And then you curtail them. So backing them, giving the opportunity and their own satisfaction with the kind of work that comes out of this place.

In all these years what is it about the industry that you have learned as a creative leader?

Pandey: My belief from day one has been that I don't work for clients. I don't work for brands. I work for the people it reaches. If that is your starting point, then you will make a difference. That has been my biggest learning.

First Published on Sep 26, 2023 7:09 PM