Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India

September 2022

Self and Company Introduction

In my current role as the Group CEO of Havas Group India, I am leading what is today India’s fastest-growing advertising and media network. I joined the company in 2018 with the sole focus of restaging the Paris-headquartered Havas Group in India, (been around for a while in India) which had renewed plans of growth and expansion. We were just 3 agencies and a little over 200 people. Today, we are a 15-agency conglomerate across various expertise, with over 1200 employees. That this complete resurgence happened within a short span of just three years, including the two years of the pandemic, is a result of our unflinching belief in our brilliant leaders, the fabulous people, our differentiated product, and the progressive culture that we are collectively building. The evolution of the network has been possible due to the power of collaboration and integration as I truly practise the philosophy of Havas Groups #BetterTogether.

What steered the fortunes of Havas Group India in a direction that is progressive, agile, profitable, and growth-oriented from both a business as well as an industry perspective was a result of a pinpoint focus on inclusive, future-forward culture and DE&I, our #Meaningful work for our clients, thought leadership, our unique model of integration, various Group initiatives, CSR, our strong industry associations and our clients and more.

While at the very core I am an advertising/media man, what also keeps me invested is the ability to lead from the front to make impactful changes in our policies, in the advertising and marketing industry and finally to the larger community. Our vision is to make Havas Group India into the most progressive advertising network in India. Over the last 3 years, we have managed to have steered the company in adopting several firsts (in India) and transformative initiatives. And we will continue with this endeavour.

Havas Group India became one of the founding members of the United Nations Unstereotype Alliance India Chapter which was launched on 30 March 2021. The initiative sought to address harmful gender-based stereotypes in all media and advertising content and draw focus toward the realities of the advertising industry. Havas Group India is also a signatory of the National Chapter Women’s Empowerment Principles, which will be utilised as a self-assessment tool through the creation of a Gender Action Plan along with the Gender Gap Analysis Tool (GAT). We celebrated our first anniversary of this marquee alliance on March 30, 2022.

Towards the end of 2020, we formed within Havas Group the ‘Women Who Inspire’ Committee with 12 members that aim at fostering gender diversity and women leadership across our group of companies. In addition, as part of our wellness programme, in 2022 we rolled out an initiative called Be Kind To Your Mind, which focuses specifically on the mental well-being of our people.

I am also an active member of various industry associations, which gives me the opportunity to make a meaningful difference to our industry. I am the Vice President of The Advertising Club (TAC) Mumbai, the marketing and advertising industry’s apex body. I am also on the Managing Committee of the IAA – India Chapter and the Honorary Treasurer of the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). I recently played a pivotal role in bringing The Abby and the global coveted One Show together.

In an industry as dynamic as ours, being a jury member of some of the most respected award shows across the world including New York Festivals, APAC Effies and more, I feel privileged to get a first-hand experience of the greatest work across the world and meet some of the brightest minds from around the globe.

What are the business and investment opportunities you see between India and France?

Trade between India and France has been rising steadily for the past decade. Indian companies, particularly start-ups, are significantly increasing their presence in France and France is one of the largest investors in India where almost all the CAC 40 companies have a presence. There is a potential for partnership in industries including defense and security, cybersecurity, space, education, energy, and pharmaceutics. France and India are also working closely together to tackle climate change via a roadmap to enhance their bilateral exchanges on the blue economy.

How can businesses tap the huge potential that exists between the two countries for developing business ties and for creating more jobs?

France and India have solid political relations but there is a huge untapped potential for developing business relations which is made possible by factors such as Brexit and recent economic reforms. Businesses in both countries need to keep investing and innovating to forge long-lasting business relations that create value and are beneficial all-round.

Any comments on the post-COVID business ecosystem in India?

The Covid 19 pandemic has forever altered the way businesses will be conducted. After facing such a tough time, only to emerge stronger than ever before, currently, businesses are not only racing towards normalcy but are in fact finding better and more efficient ways of carrying out their daily operations. The human brain is such an incredible tool, just when you hit a roadblock, one swiftly adapts and comes up with solutions that make life better and easier. That is exactly what happened to us all post-Covid.

Yes, there are macroeconomic challenges, but the overall sentiment is bullish. Reports suggest that the Media and Entertainment sector is expected to reach INR1.89 trillion this year and recover its 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Media gurus are seconding these numbers and are predicting a rather strong comeback of our sector as we rediscover the incredible power of human connections. The tough two years that all of us experienced collectively due to the Covid 19 pandemic have resulted in some incredibly ingenious ways of operating within the workspace.

The constraints imposed by Covid 19 have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for us. Because there was no manual on how to deal with the unprecedented crisis, it created opportunities for innovation. We used technology as an ally to become more efficient, accommodating, agile and extremely fast and efficient. What used to put us through the wringer is no longer a challenge.

How has IFCCI added value to your organisation in India? Would you recommend other companies to join as a member?

The Havas Group is a Paris-headquartered advertising conglomerate. Given our French roots, our association with IFCCI is a natural fit. IFCCI is one of the most credible platforms to build and promote the reputation of the organisations that associate with it. There is a wealth of opportunities that IFCCI members can utilise not just for business growth but also CSR and HR-related progression and enhancement. IFCCI offers us unparalleled opportunities to open channels of communication that immensely help us with perception building, knowledge sharing and exchange of ideas.

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