Gunjan Prasad
Aug 16, 2017

Indonesia: Social upheaval demands nimble agencies

Shubhabrata Sarkar (Shubho), recently appointed as CEO of Dentsu Indonesia, discusses the collaborative, idea-oriented culture required to serve clients in a market undergoing massive social change.

Shubhabrata Sarkar (Shubho) recently moved from British American Tobacco (BAT) to Dentsu Indonesia.
Shubhabrata Sarkar (Shubho) recently moved from British American Tobacco (BAT) to Dentsu Indonesia.

Dentsu Aegis Network has hired Shubhabrata Sarkar (Shubho) as CEO for Dentsu Indonesia, luring him from British American Tobacco (BAT) Indonesia, where he was the head of brand marketing. Sarkar’s appointment is part of DAN’s wider initiative to strengthen the brand in Indonesia. Sarkar will report to SK Biswas, CEO, DAN Indonesia.

For someone who has spent most of his advertising career with WPP, including a regional role of Bates Southeast Asia CEO, just before moving on to the client side, Sarkar seems well embedded into the Dentsu culture of collaboration and team thinking, within a fortnight of joining.

“One of the most important lessons I learned at BAT was how critical ‘culture’ is to organizational success. You can create a culture either through stringent processes or you can create a culture of a safe, ideas-oriented, thinking environment where everyone collaborates to build on another’s idea. The latter was a refreshing change from what I was used to and it was almost heady. Dentsu is built on this philosophy of collaboration and, thus, was an obvious choice,” says Sarkar.

Indonesia has amongst the world’s highest digital platform usage and that has ushered in a huge social change. It has helped a rather closed community to come forth and express itself. It has given Indonesia the confidence to voice itself.

When asked why he moved back to advertising, he replies instantly: “I am a storyteller at heart and love all the nuances of advertising, including the variety of marketing issues we get exposed to, the consumer insights discussions and the unbridled creativity it offers. Having ticked the box on my bucket list of being on the ‘other side’, I decided to get back.”

So has he faced any teething issues?

“I cut my teeth in advertising, so no teething issues,” he quips. “WPP and Dentsu work on different philosophies and I now realize that it is possible for both to co-exist. Based on clients’ own corporate cultures, they naturally align themselves with partners they are in sync with. WPP gained success through vertical P&L offerings to clients. Dentsu, believes in collaboration and that the one P&L approach is the way to be. We believe that revenues follow great solutions and therefore don’t see the need to tailor our offerings to revenue size.”

According to Sarkar, this collaborative approach gives them the agility to react instantly to any opportunity or challenge the market may throw at them. And given the way pace of change that is sweeping through Indonesia, marketers as well as their agencies need to be 10 steps ahead of the curve all the time.

“Indonesia has amongst the world’s highest digital platform usage and that has ushered in a huge social change," he says. "It has helped a rather closed community to come forth and express itself. It has given Indonesia the confidence to voice itself. With exposure, consumers are moving from seeking brands to seeking brand experiences. It’s the age of multiple experiences and the value proposition needs to be embedded in that. Mere branding or brand messaging is passé.”

With the young age profile of the nation and continuing consumerism, it isn’t a nation any brand—global or local—can take for granted. Brands that provide greater value through unique brand experiences will pocket more growth.

Aware of the importance Indonesia has for its global, regional and local clients, DAN has been consciously investing in its capabilities and people. “Now there is scale and that needs sensible management," Sarkar says. "A series of short terms don’t necessarily make it a long run. The drivers of success in the long run are different. For me, while every new win is an achievement, the biggest vote of confidence is when you get more business from a current client partner.”

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