Robert Sawatzky
Jul 6, 2021

Vishnu Mohan sets up Avyan Holdings and invests in Philippines-based agency

Former Havas APAC leader takes a stake in Castle By The River with the aim of expanding regionally.

Vishnu Mohan sets up Avyan Holdings and invests in Philippines-based agency

Vishnu Mohan is wasting no time in setting out his next move. The former CEO of Havas Group in India and Southeast Asia and Havas Media in APAC, whose official duties with Havas and Vivendi ended on June 30, has set up Singapore-based Avyan Holdings as a vehicle to pursue a multitude of business interests with a foundational agency business at the core.

As a first step, Mohan has teamed up with former fellow Havas and Digital Arts Network leader Eduardo Mapa Jr., by taking an undisclosed ‘key stake’ in Mapa’s Manila-based digital transformation agency, Castle By The River (CBR).

The agency, which has about 25 employees, provides a variety of creative digital services including performance-driven campaigns for a group of anchor clients that includes Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation, AIA/PhilamLife and Munipharma. CBR has been an affiliate of Malaysian-based Entropia, which was recently acquired by Accenture Interactive, but no longer carries the Entropia name. 

Ed Mapa Jr., Castle By The River

Describing Mapa as a “digital maverick”, Mohan tells Campaign that CBR’s innovative storytelling abilities “fit in perfectly well, at the intersection of design, data and tech [with the kind] of brand I want to create.” Mohan adds that whilst most agencies are now focusing on the bottom of the sales funnel, top-of-funnel services like design can be bigger catalysts to innovation.

“There's a meeting of hearts and minds,” Mapa said in a statement. "It's great to be working again with Vishnu. We've done innovative campaigns when we were at Havas. We at CBR are excited about Avyan Holdings' vision and the commitment.”

Mohan’s aim is to make CBR the anchor brand within Avyan Holdings, build a regional hub out of the Philippines and roll the agency out to other countries which would likely begin with India and Indonesia. While there is no fixed timeline, he says the next move could happen later this year or in 2022.

“I do believe there is an overemphasis on hubs in Singapore for most organisations. When I look at the Philippines, its skill sets, cost advantages, and the language benefits in this market, I see no reason as to why [it could not] become a centre of excellence,” Mohan explains.

A holding company of interests

For Mohan, Avyan Holdings is a means to several goals, personal and professional, that include giving back to the industry, mentoring talent and investing in passions. “’Entrepreneurial’ is a very big word, but I wanted to basically carve out what I would like to do,” he tells Campaign.

While CBR will form Avyan’s ‘vertical’ core agency business, it’s one of three main pillars Mohan would like to develop. A second pillar will involve horizontal media businesses that could include ecommerce and video content along with developing new IP across music and film, leveraging his experience at Vivendi. Finally, Mohan would also like to set up a venture company to assist early stage firms aiming to create social good.

“I'm extremely excited by it, and also by the fact that I've kept it as a collection. I still value the importance of ASEAN, both from the perspective of its demographics and business potential,” Mohan says. “If I can create something very strong in it, I would feel satisfied.”

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