Prasad Sangameshwaran
Sep 16, 2019

For DAN's new APAC CEO Ashish Bhasin, the sequel is where the plot thickens

The career trajectory of Ashish Bhasin, the newly appointed CEO of DAN APAC, shows that it's possible to have a longer and more impactful second innings in advertising.

Ashish Bhasin, then and now
Ashish Bhasin, then and now
In India, many ad veterans who spent a large part of their careers in a single agency have fallen by the wayside when deciding to script a new beginning at another agency of their choice. Others have lost their way after trying to be entrepreneurs.  So it’s rare to find many cases where the sequel in one’s career in adland becomes larger than the first part. 
In June 2008, when Ashish Bhasin, quit the Lowe Lintas Group as the EVP of Lowe Worldwide and Asia regional director for integrated marketing, many feared that he would go down the road to obscurity. So when Bhasin later joined the Aegis group, the odds seemed stacked against him.
After all, he had quit a long and high profile career of 20 years and a month with the Lintas group – a career that also saw him benefit as long-term employee from the 51% stake sale to the InterPublic Group in 2007.
In comparison, the operation of Aegis that Bhasin was to take over in India, had just about 50 people. And it was a loss making operation. No one, including Bhasin, would have probably visualised at that juncture, that this career move would go on to pay such rich dividends over a 11-year-period. Over the next five years, Aegis would acquire some size and scale.  
By the time Dentsu was set to merge the operations of Aegis with itself, post the acquisition in 2013, the operation of Aegis India had scaled up to be of a similar size to Dentsu's operations in the country, putting Bhasin in contention for the top job as DAN’s India head. (Dentsu’s India CEO Rohit Ohri had by then relocated to Singapore as the CEO of Dentsu APAC operations ex-Japan.)  
Over the years, with a string of acquisitions under its belt, consisting of creative boutiques, digital hotshops and even looking at areas like event management firms and public relations agencies, DAN in India had built up an impressive arsenal.
  • August 2012 - Taproot Dentsu
  • August 2012 - iProspect
  • May 2013 - Webchutney
  • July, 2014 - Milestone Brandcom
  • January, 2015 – WATConsult
  • October, 2015- Fountainhead MKTG
  • September, 2016 - Perfect Relations Group
  • October, 2016 - Happy Mcgarrybowen
  • December, 2016 – Fractal
  • March, 2017 - Grant Group
  • April, 2017 - SVG Media
  • July, 2017-  Sokrati
In 2015, Bhasin used this to his advantage to launch a campaign across outdoor media and digital touting that DAN had become the second largest network in India. The network's vision was to achieve this by 2017, but it had reportedly crossed the mark in 2015 itself -- a claim that many rivals contested. But Bhasin dispelled any doubts by challenging industry rivals to bring their respective audited financials to a common table. “I will bring the calculator,” he told The Economic Times.
Big wins like Maruti’s reportedly INR 1000 crore advertising account, further led to some sort of credence to that claim. There were other positive indicators for the group as well. Digital agencies within DAN were contributing to as much as 35 per cent of DAN’s revenues in India, as per internal estimates, when digital accounted for only 12-15 percent of advertising spends in the Indian market. Also, digital as a medium was the fastest in terms of annual growth rates.
Was DAN's success story in India purely because of picking up the right acquisition targets? Bhasin claims that only 50 percent of his network’s growth was fueled by acquisitions. “We are the only group that has managed to execute the one P&L model in its true spirit,” Bhasin told Campaign India, a day after he was given charge of the APAC responsibilities. He adds that the group has also managed to retain the talent post acquisitions and in some cases, promoters have been retained well after the payout.
So will acquisitions play a larger role in his APAC model for growth? "It depends on market to market," is his response.
Meanwhile, severe economic headwinds may be the biggest challenge in Bhasin's new global role. “Tough times call for smart management,” Bhasin says, ready for the next sequel to begin. 

This article has been edited slightly for Campaign Asia from its original publication in Campaign India.


Campaign India

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