The first thing that strikes you about Himanshu Shekhar is his enthusiasm and optimism about his job. In attitude, the newly appointed CEO of GroupM Indonesia (see "GroupM names new Indonesia CEO; Ed Thesiger to depart") comes across more like a fresh new recruit than an executive who has logged 18 years in the industry, most of that with Mindshare.
Shekhar's positive spirit no doubt helped his steady rise through Mindshare's ranks; even a two-year break from the agency in the late 2000s, to test the waters in the emerging Indian radio industry, didn't deter his upward advance (see his CV below). As he takes on the coveted CEO role, Campaign Asia-Pacific sat down with Shekhar to discuss his predictions about Indonesia, his aspirations for GroupM and any obstacles he sees in his way.
You're a true-blue Mindshare lad. How will you ever get Mindshare out of your system and embrace the other GroupM companies, Mediacom, Mindshare, Wavemaker and Essence?
I need to add more to my plate, not take anything off it. More than 60% of GroupM’s revenue accrues from Mindshare, and it is critical that Mindshare keeps going strong.
On the agencies’ front, thankfully we have very strong and stable leadership positions. Both Ajay Gupte (CEO of Wavemaker) and Partha Kabi (CEO of Mediacom) have been with the group for a long time and seen and held through many transitions. Come New Year, we will jointly identify GroupM priorities going forward and build successes for our clients locally, regionally and globally.
What are the immediate items on your task list as the new GroupM Indonesia CEO?
I want to make Indonesian media work shine on a global platform. With the advent of the likes of Google and Facebook that are using the same templates of technology and strategic outlook everywhere in the world, we cannot be thinking and planning just for local media.
Secondly, with the talent mobility in the world, we have client CEOs who have worked in multiple markets across functions. So when they access our work, they provide feedback from the entire experience and not just the local context.
If we are not measuring up to global standards of excellence in all disciplines, there are others who can offer them. There is no longer a choice of being best-in-class locally. Either you are best-in-class globally or you don’t exist. There is nothing called 'local standards'.
CV: Himanshu Shekhar
What was the headline figure for adspend in 2018, and what do you project for the next year?
Indonesia has been a growing market in the last many years but rates of growth have changed. 2018 was slightly tougher for many of clients and us. Reported Adex figures show an 8% growth, but these are rate card-led numbers. Real market growth is different, and we are in the process of getting different inputs to establish that figure.
The coming year should be better, where digital will see a very healthy double-digit growth and TV a high single-digit growth. I am very bullish about the future of our companies in this market, and we will be one of the growth drivers for GroupM globally.
Are Indonesian consumers shifting their spending away from FMCGs?
There is a massive shift in the way Indonesian consumers are shopping. There is an evident shift from FMCG spending to more lifestyle-driven expenditure. The emergence of ecommerce platforms and the openness of consumers to embracing them in a big way, in all walks of their lives, has given them a much larger basket of goods to choose from. That, coupled with Internet-led exposure, is making them shift the share of wallet from products to experiences in a very big way.
Consumers are spending a lot more time outside of the home; eating out and travel categories are growing exponentially. FMCG growth has slowed down and a lot of creativity is required to recapture that growth.
With FMCG’s squeezing their budgets, how are you—with the bulk of your revenue coming from these players—coping?
It is a classic chicken-and-egg story. Marketers need to invest behind the brand, and growth funds the investment. If growth doesn’t happen, then something has to give way. We all live in a real world.
In Indonesia the internet-economy companies are driving the growth in media, rather than traditional companies. We have participated in that growth, as a lot of these new economy clients, such as Lazada, shopee.com, Traveloka, Tokopedia and Pegipegi.com, have chosen to work with us.
While we have long-lasting relationships with all of our FMCG clients, these new companies have new challenges, and participating with them gives us a share of growth in the marketplace.
What are the challenges you see lurking in the future?
The speed of change is the biggest challenge in our industry. Consumers find something new to do or watch in the same 24 hours and the marketers need to follow them everywhere. The entire ecosystem needs to be ahead of the curve.
For instance, OTT is growing exponentially in Indonesia. Even the first movers like Netflix can’t be complacent. Every telco has its own OTT platform—iflix, Hook, etc—and each model is creating a push and pull in the marketplace, driving subscriber numbers. The marketers have no choice but to move into this complex marketplace, and we have to be with them. Complacency is not an option for anyone anymore.
With you, GroupM has filled the CEO chair with a homegrown talent. Will we see a familiar face taking over your old job?
Mindshare has a very strong network of talent in this part of the world. We are in the process of identifying and finalizing internal candidates, and it may take some time as this is a Southeast Asia role, based out of Indonesia. Hopefully, it will work out for the betterment of internal talent.