Vishnu Mohan steps away from Havas brand after 25 years

Vishnu Mohan has stepped down from his role as chairman and CEO, Havas Group Southeast Asia, India and North Asia after 25 years with the organisation. Mohan (pictured) will continue to serve as the chairman of the Vivendi Committee Southeast Asia and India, reporting to Simon Gillham, member of the Vivendi Management Board. 

Mohan told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it has been "a chequered career" over the last 30 years actually in the industry, with over 25 of them at Havas, and added that the recent reorganisation of the group in the Asia Pacific region presented an opportunity for him to relinquish his current management mandate at Havas and focus on an area that "bode a great importance to the future of the industry and for the Group".

"This dedicated focus on a journey that I had already commenced in parallel at Havas over the last 18 odd months gave me a great window to set new challenges and new milestones leveraging my career's learnings, experiences and relationships," he added. 

Gillham, who is the chairman of Vivendi Village and senior executive VP, communications, said Mohan's career in Havas is marked by transformation, partnerships, building and leading future-ready teams. "He was quick to tap into the power of Vivendi and combine it with the nimbleness of the Havas Village model to create new opportunities that have served Vivendi well. I wish him all the very best for his next chapter," Gillham added.

Following his departure, Alberto Canteli, CEO Middle East and Eastern Europe Havas Group, will extend his remit to include Southeast Asia and North Asia including Singapore, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Indochina, Indonesia and Vietnam. Meanwhile, Rana Barua, will continue to run Havas India as group CEO. Both Canteli and Barua will report to global CEO Havas Creative Group Chris Hirst and global CEO Havas Media Group Peter Mears.

Havas first simplified its line of management system for its creative and media leadership teams in 2019 to be more directly connected to the teams in the Asia Pacific markets. This came after the departure of former Asia Pacific CEO Mike Amour. Following that, the leadership teams in Greater China and Australia now report directly to Hirst and Mears in New York and London respectively. Mohan remained in his role when Amour's departure was announced.

Mohan began his journey with Havas with EURO RSCG and the agency said he played an instrumental role in accelerating network growth leveraging a challenger mindset, service excellence, partnerships and talent. Since 2007, he led the development of the Havas Media network in the region and saw through the establishment of the network from New Zealand to India. In early 2017, he oversaw the bringing together of all Havas’ communications disciplines in the region - creative, media, digital, activation, events, public relations - under one roof and one P&L.

According to Mohan, the biggest joy of having worked at Havas is "the sheer feeling of having played an immense role in nurturing many great talents over these years". He explained that Havas gave him "a phenomenal opportunity to behave as an entrepreneur" in tasking him to build a network in the region from scratch.

"The journey from being employee number one at Havas Media in the region to building a strong and credible network from New Zealand to India is hugely gratifying, and one that would never have been possible without these amazing talents. Building a brand from ground zero by punching above our weight leveraging a challenger mind-set is a reminder that nothing is impossible if you are driven and focused in your goal," Mohan explained.

He also strongly believes in the importance of focus and sets a transformative goal for himself every year. When he received the opportunity to helm the Village across India and Southeast Asia in 2017, Mohan said he had his eyes set on India. 

"We had a single-minded vision of tripling our presence and growth by building a robust integrated offering. Incorporating a new leadership team and the acquisition of three agencies in a span of 12 months in 2019, seeing that through and getting the industry to truly see us very differently than before fills you with an immense sense of pride and a fulfilment," he added. Mohan said he has "a huge indebtedness" to the global leadership support that he has had in realising the plans.

"Village and Vivendi have been at the heart of what gives the network its true competitive edge. We have successfully established Villages across every country and have seen its genuine advantage for us internally and for our clients, but have been only just at the very beginning of harnessing the content power of Vivendi for the brands we have and the brands we aspire to have," Mohan explained. 

Future goals

Mohan also spoke to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE about his plans for the future.

He explained that the Vivendi Committee in Southeast Asia and India is at the heart of realising the objective and potential.

Creating transversal IPs and strengthening Vivendi Integration by leveraging the various Vivendi business units across music, gaming, films, television, streaming and live would be the key focus for Mohan as he continues to helm the committee in Southeast Asia and India as chairman. 

"While we set the ball in motion some 18 months ago and already have projects that are currently in production, we are really looking at accelerating this by giving it the due focus," Mohan said. Citing an example from last year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Mohan said he helped lead a joint Vivendi Unicef initiative together Grammy award winning musician Ricky Kej in India to produce My Earth Songs Concert. The one-hour virtual concert aimed to raise awareness of the 17 sustainable development goals using the power of songs.

Meanwhile, having spent three decades in the industry, Mohan said now is the best time for the media industry to evolve because there is a real demand for disruptive work that pushes the boundaries and takes cognizance of modern media consumption behaviours.

"Creating deep customer engagement through innovative content and enabling brands through that to consideration and transactional outcomes is key to survival, for only then can we break through the clutter, media fragmentation and the commoditisation. And the path to innovation always starts with the human ingenuity," he added.

He explained that there will be a segment of the industry that will keep getting commoditised, automated and machine driven and, in all probability, get better every day at providing outputs that truly result in outcomes. However, the industry must take pride in the fact that talented people will always stay a step ahead of talented machines and will ensure that that the core of the industry and the DNA in"creativity will survive any platformisation.

"We are far from being a sunset industry as is quite often referenced to these days, however we are trying to do too many things. We should do what we were created to do. This industry was born for creativity and not for anything else. When you do everything, you lose focus," he added.

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