"We are not aggressive about our international operations"

Sray Agarwal | January, 2011

Leading communication company Madison is a one stop solution for all your advertising and communication needs. The company is headed by veteran Ad. maker Sam Balsara who is the Chairman and Managing Director of Madison World, and his daughter Lara Balsara. Having biggest names like Coca Cola, Godrej, Airtel, Procter & Gamble in their client list, this company has been amongst the most influential and powerful advertising companies in the country. After completing graduation in economics from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, the young and enthusiastic Lara has joined the company five years back. She is a blend mixture of a shrewd and incisive businesswoman. Her approach has taken the company ahead multifold. In all, she has the passion to make a mark for herself.

Madison started in 1988 with Godrej and Nelco accounts and within a span of 23 years it has become the pioneer among the Communications Industries. How has the journey been so far?

Sam Balsara: The limited success that we have achieved today is because of our strong value system of putting our client’s interest ahead of our own interest, capitalizing on opportunities and most important of all being patient and not just chasing growth.

Lara Balsara: It has been fantastic, with lots of highs and some lows. Overall, it has also been a huge learning experience.

Last year Madison grabbed an account of GM worth Rs 100 crores. How far has the company moved since then? Did the deal mark a stepping stone in the success of the company?
 2010 was a fruitful year for Madison. We won the coveted ITC media AOR that spans 13 categories from personal care to hotels to apparel to food. That was our largest win. We set up a 40 member team in Bangalore and Kolkata to service the account.
Sam: We also retained the GM and Airtel account in a multi-agency pitches (we have been handling the Airtel Media AOR since 2003 and GM media AOR since 2005).

What are the changes you brought in the companies?
My focus has been on organization building and conceptualizing Madison World as a concept that holds all Madison companies together to a common vision and value system.
Lara: Human resource is the most important for the growth of any company and we have realized it at nascent stages. That’s why I have introduced Stock Partnership Scheme to attract and retain talent within the group.

Yours is a more informal kind of an organisation. What kind of corporate and work culture do you follow?
 Our style is open door, informal and has enough room for individual initiative as long as our people deliver to our clients’ objectives. Lara is focused internally and I am externally focused.
Lara: We try to build a very open and friendly work culture and encourage Madisonites to come up and give their suggestions.

How do you make sure that in spite of being different individuals, you both strive towards a common goal?
We are both aligned on a common vision for Madison World. So whilst there may be differences in the tactical plans or routes to follow from time to time, we both know what we are striving for.
Lara: We settle them based on what is best for a given situation. My dad has strong views based on his past experience, but is fortunately open to change and not dogmatic. 

How do you find each other as colleague? Which has been the most cherished moment?
The first time I proved him wrong! As a colleague, Sam has tremendous energy and can work really long hours. He is determined and never gives up things easily. Right in the beginning, my dad wrote down a vision and value system. He also has some fundamental operating systems which he follows unwaveringly. But he is little impatient at times.
Sam: The first time she proved me wrong! I must admit that Lara is mature beyond her years and can take a hard, cold, emotion less decision in the interest of the job at hand. Lara has taught me the importance of focus and prevented from making mistakes by going into too many diverse things. I feel she can be more corporative at such times. 

You recently had a Joint Venture with Beattie McGuinness Bungay (BMB)? Any such future plans in pipeline.
 For some reasons, Madison is known more for its media than creative service; so we feel that we have not been able to achieve what we hoped to. We felt tying up with another partners who have strong creative reputation would help us. So, we partnered with BMB, a UK-based creative ad agency founded by internationally renowned Trevor Beattie. BMB India is a 50-50 joint venture (JV) with BMB and Madison World.

Madison seems to be going global [with JV in Sri Lanka and Thailand]. How do you plan to bring a paradigm shift in your modus operandi?
We are not aggressive about our international operations and feel that we are living in times where India is the toast of the world. We get into JV abroad only when we find a right partner. We started Madison Media Sri Lanka as a JV with an independent local media company — Media Factory. In Thailand, we have a JV for Events, Exhibitions and Artiste 

How has increase in digital media changed the entire media industry? How do you plan to increase your presence in the same and are you planning to increase spending on digital services?
Digital media as a marketing medium is growing every single day. When any media plan is made, digital is always included in that plan. We have a team of specialist digital people who help our media planners plan for digital, at the same time we are trying to get all our off line planners to understand the medium by having workshops.

Did you feel a change in the way media industry works, since last one decade? 
Media is continuously evolving with time and the pace of change is really very fast. A decade ago things were totally different and therefore we need to continuously change our business strategies and thus we can’t be very rigid in our approach.

Madison's strengths...
We believe in having a few but satisfied clients. Our aim is that each client gets a dedicated team servicing them and it seems to have worked well over the years. So our strength is our clients.