Eularie Saldanha
Mar 30, 2022

Havas India scouting for acquisitions in PR, performance marketing, digital and consulting

Rana Barua, group CEO, Havas Group India and Hari Nallan, founder and CEO, Think Design, also speak about how their union has strengthened the network's position in the industry.

From left: Rana Barua and Hari Nallan
From left: Rana Barua and Hari Nallan
Havas Group India wants to have only one specialist in each of the services it encompasses. 
Taking to the growing need for design communication, it added the acquisition of Think Design in 2019. The agency offers strategic, creative, and technical prowess through a design journey.
Campaign caught up with Rana Barua, group CEO, Havas Group India and Hari Nallan, founder and CEO, Think Design to understand more about the acquisition. The duo gave us insights into the journey of both, the network and agency, post the acquisition, the importance of UX and UI, the impact of design among content and data, and more... 
While Barua spoke about the value that Think Design brought to the network, Nallan highlighted how the acquisition was a blessing for his company, in more ways than one.
Edited excerpts: 
What has the acquisition of Think Design brought to the table of Havas Group India?
Rana Barua (RB): Agencies are offering UI/UX to their clients as part of their service. However, for Think Design, this is not just an extension, but their expertise. Having this agency under the Havas Group India gives us an undeniable edge. Ever since this acquisition, our digital-design capabilities have been bolstered significantly not only in India but also globally. From a group perspective - clients who are absolutely clear on what they need, and are not looking at a buffet system, come to Think Design. While most of the clients they have are their own, many of ours are showing an interest too. 
Havas entered into a joint venture with the Conran Design Group in February 2021. How different is it from the services rendered by Think Design? 
RB: Think Design offers expertise that is inextricably linked to the entire customer experience journey, while Conran Design Group’s capabilities are more in line with traditional brand design and allied solutions. They can co-exist, but they do not enter each other’s turfs. In fact, they’re currently working together for a large client of ours.
How much has Think Design contributed to the growth rate of Havas since the takeover?
RB: Think Design has added tremendous value and growth to Havas Group India. Speaking about one of our clients, we would have lost a client if Think Design wasn’t there. Now, I’ve got all the parts of the business for the client. It was one of the biggest wins of last year for us and helped us tap into new business opportunities to create an overall premium perception and positioning in the industry. 
Are you looking at any more acquisitions or joint ventures? 
RB: Since India is one of the key markets of growth for the Havas Group globally, we will continue to further enhance our product and the integrated model. Since we’re missing in the world of PR and corporate communications, we have to add to that. It’ll take a year or maybe more. We’re also looking at performance marketing, digital and consulting in a very big way. Since we don’t repeat any particular expertise, you won’t see two of the same kind within the group. 
What is the biggest advantage of being acquired by the Havas Group?
Hari Nallan (HN): The biggest advantage is the integration with specialisations that complements our expertise. We are now able to take our clients through the entire journey of value creation, right from research to design, to creative, and all the way to deployment and measurement. The best HR practices too, adds a lot of confidence among our employees. We learn from a larger group how to function in an organised manner. Being among different creative people, we see all important aspects of the creative world. We’re also globally exposed now and everyone appreciates us. 
From your services including UI/UX design, user and research design, data design and service design, which are most popular in demand? 
HN: UI/UX design has the highest demand, followed by data design - in terms of topline and the number of inquiries we get. Only a few companies have an appetite for user and research design. Although UI/UX has the lion’s share of more than 50%, this number would be similar for most companies offering this service. 
What are the major changes that have taken place post the acquisition? 
HN: Being a part of the Havas Group, our perception has improved in the eyes of our clients. So, they’re not talking to an independent company, but a global powerhouse that’s been present for decades. Our business has considerably gone up after being acquired by the Havas Group. Also, the ability to offer benefits to employees because of the scale of the organisation has gone up. 
Which categories are leading in the business currently and which ones are expected to turn to design soon? 
HN: Education and edtech have become a huge opportunity in the last two years. Although we’ve worked in both these sectors before, the budgets now have considerably changed. Financial services is another category that has seen a lot of growth over the past couple of years. 
Categories like healthcare technology will start to come into our ambit too. This category has been fuelled due to the pandemic and the presence of Havas Group’s health and wellness wing - Havas Life Sorento. 
Which categories/verticals have shown a drastic growth now, as compared to the pre-pandemic times? 
HN: Virtual Reality (VR) has taken flight during the pandemic since people did not want to step out. However, even post the pandemic, a lot of them are opting for VR to help them finalise their decisions. We’re working with a company that is into the manufacturing of raw materials, and even they are digitising their entire journey. We have seen enormous growth in e-commerce, especially social commerce. Going forward, expertise like AR (augmented reality), VR and MR (mixed reality) are all going to be clubbed under Metaverse. Finally, data, analytics and systems that involve intelligence and predictions too, have surged tremendously in the last two years.
How are you planning to bridge the gap that the design industry faces? 
HN: We have to create challenges for the client so that they can raise their bar. Even when students graduate from design school, they come out assuming that they are good craft persons, who can craft good pixels. However, most times, clients are not looking for that. They want the right thinking and strategy in place. A very high quality consulting offering is something that the design industry needs. We have created structures and programs internally to this effect, and we are already seeing the outcome of the same. 
What are the current trends that you’re witnessing in the design world? What according to you tops the hierarchy - content, data or design? 
HN: Consumerisation of data has become a very big trend. The other one is the Metaverse. We started working on AR and VR, even five years ago. However, that’s going to be even more now because the post-millennials in the age group of 14-15 years, do not see a difference between the physical and virtual world. In the future, we might look at NFTs too, including PPNFT (profile picture NFT), which is created by a designer and then bought by someone to be flaunted. 
As a designer being true to his profession, I’d pick design over content and data. However, if I weren’t a designer, I’d definitely say content. Design and content ultimately converge into data. 
RB: I would go with content and design because they co-exist. For me, when it’s data vs idea, it’s always the idea, since data can be rigged, but ideas are original. 
Campaign India

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