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Indian powerhouse Adfactors—which, with fee income of $20 million is the only firm from the sub-continent to rank in the world’s top 100—is best known for its work in the corporate and financial realm, but its 28 nominations in the South Asia SABRE Awards competition this year (three times as many as any competitor) confirm that the firm is now a well-rounded full-service firm capable of delivering great creativity as well as strategic counsel. That’s partly the result of adding a new value—innovation—to those that established Adfactors as a market leader: freedom, transparency, integrity and respect for the individual. Those values manifest themselves in numerous ways that have differentiated Madan Bahal’s firm from its competitors: an investment in professional development that has seen Adfactors send its rising stars to the Indian School of Business, Indian Institute of Management, and Harvard, among others; an in-house gymnasium and regular yoga classes; and a commitment to corporate responsibility that has led the firm to decline clients in tobacco and gambling as well as major multinationals with dubious environmental records. Long-term clients include Larsen & Toubro (India’s largest engineering and infrastructure conglomerate); Mahindra Group; State Bank of India; The Carlyle Group; Jet Airways; IDBI Bank; Rothschild; and Mother Dairy. New business over the past 12 months included Chhattisgarh Government; Deutsche Bank (India); Football Sports Development; GNRC Hospitals; Hockey India; and the India Brand Equity Foundation.—PH
Genesis Burson-Marsteller (WPP)
Genesis BM considers its story to be a reflection of India’s own post-liberalisation growth. The firm has certainly come far from its founding days in 1992 to ultimately being snapped up by WPP-owned Burson-Marsteller. In 2014, its revenue growth exceeded 14% — with a remarkable 91% client retention. In the first six months of 2015, Genesis has won 33 new retainer clients and 91 new projects in a client base that includes household names and Fortune 500 companies (Genesis BM couldn’t publicly name these because of confidentiality agreements). Notable campaigns include its work with Ford India’s EcoSport: The Launch of A Gamer Changer” and COLORS, Viacom18’s broadcast campaign “24: Bringing real-time narration to Indian television.” New initiatives rolled out over the last year include a data-driven initiative called GBM Live! Newsroom; and a communication offering under the Step Up brand to meet the requirements of early-stage ventures and PE investors and incubators. Over the last year, Genesis BM also made a point to add more experts from digital media, former journalists, content writers, crisis management experts and videographers. Two senior leaders — Shekhar Ghosh and Ajit Sahi — joined in 2015. At the helm of the agency is still founder, Prema Sagar and president Nikhil Dey. Starting from a small office in Delhi, Gensis BM now has seven wholly-owned offices across India’s key metros: New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune and an affiliate network that spans over 200 cities across India and in neighboring countries. - AaS
MSLGroup (Publicis Groupe)
While MSL still operates under three distinct brands in Asia—the former Hanmer, acquired in 2008, and rebranded MSL in 2013; business-to-business and technology specialist MSL 20:20; and Publicis Consultants Asia, focused on e-commerce and start-ups—but the three are working more closely together than in the past and together form a powerhouse that can handle any assignment in the sub-continent. New managing directors Chetan Mahajan (who has been with 20:20 for a decade) and Amit Misra (who joined MSL two years ago from Zeno) took the helms of their respective firms in November following the departure of Jaideep Shergill and have been building on the impressive momentum he engineered. MSLGroup is the largest of the three, with 300 professionals in eight offices (supported by a network of local partners that covers an addition 100 towns and cities), and with a culture that recognizes the critical importance of talent—the firm has been named one of India’s Best Companies to Work For by Economic Times for the past two years. The firm works with Star India, ABB, United Technologies, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, Volkswagen Group, Nike, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Airtel and more, with key wins over the past 12 months including Vibrant Gujarat, Coca Cola India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Marico, DHL Express, Franklin Templeton India, and Kuoni Travels. Highlights of the firm’s creative work include Abbott FreeStyle LibrePro launch and the “Good Vibes Campaign” for Viber Media.—PH
SPAG Asia (Independent)
An impressive newcomer, SPAG Asia has carved out a niche for itself in two areas that are under-served in the region: focusing on clients in the healthcare sector (and the pharmaceutical space in particular) and offering an impressive expertise in public affairs. The firm has two things that are necessary to cut through the clutter in a highly-competitive environment: a distinctive point-of-view grounded in its “be real” value statement, and an intellectual approach that begins with its research-driven IDEA (Influencer Driven Engagement Approach) methodology. The firm has also introduced a new C-Plan offering, a suite of crisis management services. All of this helped SPAG expand quickly—it now has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore, and Washington, DC, after just two years, with fee income of $1.5 million. The firm has picked up business from the US Chambers of Commerce (a mandate expanded from India to include Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia); PhRMA; Gilead Sciences (another multi-market assignment); the Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases; and IKEA Foundation. Interesting work has included building awareness of the “value of IP” for the US Chambers, and ensuring that non-communicable diseases were a priority in Indian health policy for the Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases.—PH
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