While there are those who spend their nights wondering about their position in the corporate ladder, unravelling the future of the industry is what keeps Rajat Basra (pictured), CEO of Indonesia at Omnicom Media Group, up at night. While he feels his journey is a great one thus far filled with many achievements, there is more that needs to be done.
Basra spent about 19 years in the media industry and draws much pride from being a media planner. Having explored 36 countries, Basra has also worked in three Asia countries, namely India, China and Indonesia. In 2013, Basra helped to launch Omnicom Media Group in Indonesia and was tasked with establishing its presence in the market as its first employee.
Since then, the company has increased its headcount to over 150 and quadrupled its billings in less than five years, it said. Prior to joining Omnicom Media Group, Basra was the regional managing partner for IPG Mediabrand’s Universal McCann, based out of Hong Kong. In a conversation with Marketing Interactive, Basra discusses his journey in the ad world so far.
How do you describe your management style?
I find that people are very different, so a one-size-fits-all management style doesn't work. Some people respond to aggressive goals; others don't thrive under pressure. Some people prefer frequent check-ins; others prefer clear direction upfront and then space to get their work done. My management style varies quite a bit, but I feel that I adopt a decisiveness and blended leadership style the most. Working in Indonesia – the happiest and most optimistic country in the world – requires such a dynamic leadership style and for me, it’s what helps me connect with my staff and clients.
Who was the mentor who influenced you the most and how?
From the onset of my career, I found everything about this industry and my job very inspiring, including the people who consume a large part of my life – my peers at work. I absolutely attribute a lot of my success to my great mentors, people I could go to and ask for advice.
Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.
However, if I need to single out one individual, it would be my CFO, Lana Dardjowidjojo. He is Lana (the left brain) and I am Rajat (the right brain); he doesn’t need a meal or coffee as gesture of appreciation every time I go to him for advice, I can call him anytime and get the sort of advice that feels like a punch to my face, he brings clarity to my mind. He is definitely Mr. Dependable – always brutally honest.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
Consolidating a previously fragmented operation and creating a over 150 strong team that is trusted by our clients, partners and staff is one of my proudest accomplishments. The responsibility and trust bestowed in my leadership makes me proud to go into work every single morning.
My proudest moment: I am living it right now.
As a professional, I consider myself to be people focused, so an unsatisfied client or employee can rattle my day or remove any sense of past achievement. I hope this trait stays, as it helps me to continue striving for better results for our stakeholders. I hear a lot from my clients and partners about the superiority of our product offering as well as the quality of the teams within our brands. It is appreciation like these that make me feel proud about what we have accomplished. I know we need to continue the momentum, but at least we are on the right track and our clients can endorse it.
What inspires you the most?
I come from a family devoted to their nation by serving in the defence services. At a much younger age, I would be amazed and inspired by the people representing the Indian Army, the spirit of camaraderie and how they were all connected by one cause - "One for all and all for one”. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Experiencing diverse environments in my professional life – having worked in India, China, Indonesia – I have been equally inspired by the collaboration within our industry and the camaraderie when we come together for common missions that are bigger than anyone’s egos. We truly put the profession first and that is highly inspirational.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
As is the case with any leader, it’s important to get the right dynamic with each of your stakeholders.
How you are perceived by your staff, clients and peers is extremely important in a market like Indonesia. Striking the right balance is definitely a challenge. My wife also says: "If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone."
My job has always occupied most of my mind space and though I have been able to manage the delicate balance between family and work, one person I often neglect is myself. I have never really been bothered about my health, medical issues or eating habits, and my wife’s inputs have really helped me realise that I should. I would highly recommend having both short and long meetings with yourself every morning. It is a very good way of maintaining a strong momentum, motivation and an inner connection. Also, let no one come in between.
What do you do in your free time?
I make it a point to spend weekends with the family and also devote time on things that make me happy. The gym – getting fired up on cardio and weight training every weekend – makes up most of the free time. Additionally, I like to read, contribute to my kid’s academic requirements and create what I call "happy tummies" – eating out as a family.
What is your favourite vacation spot?
Travel for me is the healthiest addiction one can have. As for my favourite vacation spot, I am torn between Las Vegas and San Francisco, and it’s all to do with the experiences and the energy those two places offer. Every time I need a break, the thrill of “living the American dream” gets me back on my feet. Up next are London and Iceland.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
Life doesn’t go in a straight line, and you can’t predict where it will take you. But if you raise your hand, have confidence to do different things, take risks and build your capabilities, you will surely achieve what you aspire.
When I meet the young recruits here in Indonesia, joining us fresh out of prestigious universities, they are very conscious about how they can contribute to the highest set goals of the organisation immediately. I have seen them very focused on the size of the task being bestowed on them and really seeking recognition and fame instantly.
I don’t think it matters how small or how big the task is, if you can do it just a little bit better than what is expected, you will be noticed and rewarded.
What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2018?
As the marketing function gets more granular, it seems the differences between a client’s agency roster are blurring. We can look at it as insecurity or an opportunity. However, the evolution of our industry requires a line of trust between clients and agencies to talk about a new world and agency model that we need to create and charter together.