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Ranga Somanathan

Meet the CEOs: Omnicom Media Group’s Ranga Somanathan

Last year, Omnicom Media Group appointed Ranga Somanathan to lead Singapore and Malaysia as its CEO.

Currently, Ranga spearheads Omnicom Media Group assets in Singapore and Malaysia, working alongside the senior management team and leads for OMD and PHD. He reports to Torie Henderson, CEO for Omnicom Media Group, SEA and India.

He describes his management style as being an enabler of people. He believes that leadership is not about self, the leader; it is always about the people. Moreover, he strives to set to the true north and clear the interference that comes in the way of his team in achieving their goals

In a conversation with A+M, Ranga gets real about his proudest moment, his key to a perfect work life balance, toughest moments and much more.

Who was the mentor who influenced you the most and how?

I have been fortunate enough in my career to have worked with a diverse set of people who have inspired me in their own unique way and more importantly shaped me as a professional. So, it’s hard to pick one name on who has influenced me the most.

However, I must add that it’s reverse mentoring that keeps me going. Youngsters come with fresh eyes, open minds, instant links to the technology of the future and instinctively have a pulse on what’s ahead.

The other day, my 12-year-old son gave me insights on Snapchat, and what drives them to use it every day.

I would have never got this insight from any seasoned practitioner, and I find that fascinating.

What has been the proudest moment in your career?

I feel the proudest, when I see my team realise their potential. In the last few months at Omnicom Media Group, I have seen tremendous success both at OMD and PHD across Malaysia and Singapore, winning a number of new clients, including OMD Singapore retaining Singapore Science Centre’s account for the third time in a row. The alignment on purpose, and ‘playing to win’ attitude of the team makes me very proud.

While the big wins drives up the pride quotient, I get lot more drive from a series of micro moments and experiences. My passion of empowering people to do their best and finding their ‘aha!’ moments is something that I treasure. It is akin to help someone climb a mountain. Ultimately, it is their own effort but sometimes you need that extra push or energy to reach the top. The feeling you get when you help people put together things and owning a moment where they feel better and smarter about themselves, is priceless.

Ranga _Chloe_Wangyn_CNY2017

What inspires you the most?

When people give their unconditional trust, and demonstrate confidence in my abilities, I feel humbled and inspired to do my best. There was an instance in my first role as an office head, that I recall. The market that I was heading was going through some tough times and my boss said to me that even if we have to start all over, he’ll back me 100% to lead the charge.

That’s the level of trust, he had in me and it acted as a catalyst to swing into action and turn the business around, which we did.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

At very high speeds, one develops a tunnel vision.

The pace of change in the industry is creating a severe case of tunnel vision to practitioners. If we were to quantify our speed, I would relate it to Usain Bolt running a 100-m dash, only focussing on the end goal. Given we have to keep running at that speed over a long haul, it is critical to take a pit stop, expand your vision to the dynamics that are developing around you and plot your future strategy. Making time to pause –  to imagine the future, how success looks like, how our behaviour looks like – is an interesting challenge.

Ranga Somanathan_ CNY_ Lunch

What’s the harshest thing said to you?

The harshest message was delivered to me by my daughter when she was eight years old. I had decided to get back home early to spend time with the family. However, upon reaching home, I was constantly on my phone, continuing to attend business calls and respond to emails.

My daughter said, “What’s the point of coming home if you have to be stuck to your phone, attending office work. You might as well be in the office, at least that way, I’ll just miss you and not feel you are ignoring me.”

That was a wake-up call to be present in the moment, when spending time with the family.

Ranga Somanathan_ Family

What do you do in your free time?

The relentless demands of work makes you miss a lot of heartbeats. I enjoy my running, which helps me catch up on all the missed heartbeats. Running helps me sync my thoughts, words and action, which creates its own rhythm. I enjoy taking pictures on my iPhone when running and post it under #RunWithBenefits on my Instagram account.

Reliving my childhood by watching my son play some of my favourite songs on the guitar and listening to my daughter sing and play the piano, has a very therapeutic effect on me.

How do you ensure a proper work life balance?

When you view life through the lens of abundance, one does not have to draw lines between work and life.

There is a saying, choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. I believe in that and fortunate to be working in a profession that I am passionate about. I am equally passionate about my family and they integrate into my life, seamlessly.

What is your favourite vacation spot?

Well, driving holidays are a classic family favourite. We also tend to choose destinations based on our kids’ current interests.

For example, we chose Greece one year, as my son was engrossed with Percy Jackson titles and Greek mythology was the flavour of the month, while another time it was China as we wanted to experience the culture of the land, whose language, the kids were learning. Next on the list is UK, as we are riding the Harry Potter highs.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?

When starting out, there is a tremendous urge to go with the strategy of availability. Take whatever that comes your way in terms of career choices. I keep telling the folks who are starting out that they should go with the strategy of “aligned values”.

I think it’s important to align your actions to your values. You need to look inwards and ask yourself some key questions – “How do I want to live? What do I want in my life? What is important to me?”

If one makes the effort to understand their ‘why’, and what makes them tick guided by their values, the less you have to think about work-life balance as you grow up.

Ranga Somnathan _OMD_Team Dinner

What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2017?

There are two things. Firstly, benchmarks/standards in digital measurement. It is still complex and fragmented which is a hurdle to maximising effectiveness of campaigns.

Secondly, to have a conducive work environment for mums so that we don’t lose such a valuable chunk of our female talent.

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