Wavemaker has made a bold move, electing to tap into its own client talent pool in selecting its next Asia-Pacific CEO. The GroupM media agency has appointed Sindhuja Rai to the position, who currently leads global media investment and AMEA consumer experience for Mondelēz International.
Rai will begin the role in September, filling a vacancy left by Gordon Domlija, who exited the agency earlier this year. Her new position involves joining Wavemaker’s global executive team as well as the GroupM leadership team ExCo.
Rai is a well-known marketer in Asia-Pacific, active in industry events and outspoken on issues relating to diversity, inclusion and staff development. A member of Campaign Asia’s CMO Power List in 2021, 2022 and 2023, Rai also has extensive previous agency experience through senior roles at GroupM, Publicis Media, Havas and IPG Mediabrands. “I’m truly excited to join the many familiar faces at Wavemaker,” Rai says. “Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the collaborative relationship with everyone at the agency and I’ve been impressed by its culture of positive provocation.”
Mondelēz has been a client of Wavemaker’s since 2019. The agency recently retained the account in Australia, New Zealand, India and Japan while extending duties across Southeast Asia to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, accounting for $225 million in media billings.
For Wavemaker global CEO Toby Jenner, the decision to bring in talent from such a valuable client was not one taken lightly but included extensive consultations with the FMCG multinational.
“I’d like to thank Mondelēz and [its global SVP of consumer experience] Jon Halvorsen in particular for supporting Sindhuja’s transition,” Jenner said in a release, who tells Campaign he never set out to bring over a client leader.
The impetus for hiring Rai began as a straightforward client breakfast meeting, Jenner explains, but evolved over the next two hours into an “amazing” conversation that left him with a nagging feeling that he found someone who would be perfect for the role.
“I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” Jenner admits, who waited three to four weeks before deciding to ask her if she was interested and to ask Halvorsen for his input and guidance on how to proceed. To his delight, Rai was interested in the role and Halvorson was highly supportive.
“I was just looking for a great leader, a great professional who had enormous value to our clients and to our network,” Jenner says. With several key regional clients like L’Oreal, Colgate and others, Jenner says he was looking for someone with regional connectivity to lead and grow their clients.
“Over the past 12 years, Sindhuja has been a standout performer within the Mondelēz organisation,” Halvorsen says. “Under her leadership, we’ve consistently delivered double digit ROI growth, led the region in digital excellence and pioneered critical new capabilities in consumer data, personalisation and AI. I know that in her new role she is going to be an amazing partner to many media leaders, category presidents and CMOs as she has been at Mondelēz.”
“On a more basic level, I really like her,” Jenner adds. “We spend so much time at work with our colleagues. I think it’s really important that you like and are inspired and I think she’ll have the respect of the global ExCo as much as people on the ground in Asia Pacific and in our larger markets in India, China and Australia so I couldn’t be more pleased.”
In addition to driving results, Jenner adds that Rai’s passion for diversity and inclusive staff development was another strong consideration for her hiring.