Mahesh Neelakantan is leaving his role as head of regional growth at ADA. He joined ADA in 2018 as country director for Malaysia and Singapore before being elevated to his current role in 2019. In a LinkedIn post, Neelakantan (pictured) said Malaysia has been more than a second home to him, having spent at least a decade in the country.
"Thanking all the amazing colleagues, peers, teams, bosses, clients and friends who have made this an absolutely memorable journey. Time to embrace the next chapter," he said. He arrived in Malaysia in 2010 to take on the dual role of OgilvyAction MD and Asia Pacific Hub director. Neelakantan spent a total of 17 years with the Ogilvy network and three years in his dual role before leaving to establish Advocacy in Malaysia in 2013. He then started Newton Malaysia in 2015 and Newton Lanka in 2016 before finally landing the role at ADA.
Meanwhile, ADA told A+M that it is sad to see Neelakantan leave the company as regional head of growth. "He was a wonderful leader and team player, and he’s certainly left some big shoes to fill. We wish him all the best," the company said.
According to ADA, there have been some changes to its internal structure, as ADA looks to continue growing its business in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Among the updates, growth will now be overseen by the regional practice and country leads.
ADA has received significant funding over the last few years. In 2021, SoftBank invested US$60 million in ADA to expand and accelerate its analytics, data and AI digital marketing business in the region. As a result of this investment, SoftBank now has a 23.07% share in ADA, establishing ADA’s valuation at US$260 million. Axiata Digital Services remains ADA's majority shareholder at 63.47%.
In 2018, it received US$20 million from Sumitomo Corporation to help solidify its path towards becoming the leading integrated digital advertising firm, leveraging telco core and digital and analytics capabilities in Southeast Asia by 2021.
Aside from the additional financial firepower, ADA also doubled down on growing its operations in 2019 by investing another RM120 million in the next two years. It also invested RM60 million in data and talent to boost Malaysia's data infrastructure.
More recently, ADA was named a WhatsApp Business Solution Provider in Asia Pacific to empower businesses to connect with their customers in a private and secure environment across its markets in South and Southeast Asia. ADA CEO Srinivas Gattamneni said chat commerce is changing the way businesses operate, and customer engagement solutions is the key driver.
"With this WhatsApp Business Platform, ADA now offers a truly seamless end-to-end business solution across our practices – eCommerce, MarTech, business insights, and marketing services – for that complete customer experience and journey. The face of chat commerce as we know it will change too, with the integration of our AI and machine learning models, deepening the level of personalisation and quality of conversations," he added.
This latest appointment adds on to ADA's integrated eCommerce practice which was launched last year through a merger with Awake Asia, a regional eCommerce enabler operating in six countries in Southeast Asia. Awake Asia's operations were fully integrated under ADA last June, covering Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, South Korea, and Vietnam. The integrated eCommerce practice brought together Awake Asia’s deep eCommerce expertise with ADA’s media, creative, and analytics solutions to drive online sales for brands.
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