Omnicom Takes Majority Stake in India's Mudra Group

Holding Company Continues Streak of International Acquisitions

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In a sign that the second largest ad holding company is upping the ante in Asia, Omnicom Group has acquired a majority stake in Mudra Group, India's top agency.

John Wren
John Wren

Mudra has 26 offices across the subcontinent, and four different agency networks: branding shop Mudra India, advertising agency DDB Mudra, experiential shop Mudra Max and Ignite Mudra, a unit that caters to entrepreneurs. Omnicom Group-owned DDB and Mudra Group, founded in 1980, have had a relationship since 1993; the ad conglomerate until now had a minority stake in the company. In 2007, the two groups partnered to create DDB Mudra, which established DDB India, Tribal DDB, Rapp and DDB Health & Lifestyle in the Indian market.

The two companies share several major clients, such as Volkswagen, PepsiCo, Hewlett-Packard and Unilever (India's biggest advertiser is Hindustan Lever). Mudra's local clients include Aircel, Union Bank of India and Jet Airways.

The move to become a majority owner in Mudra comes as Omnicom has begun to see tangible evidence of its stepped-up investments internationally. In its most recent earnings period, Omnicom's international revenue came close to outpacing its U.S. revenue, and its growth was driven by emerging markets as international revenue soared by 21.8%. India has been a particular focus, with Omnicom earlier this year acquiring Sampark Group, a local public-relations firm. In other Asian moves this year, Omnicom bought Biz Group, an integrated marketing firm in Vietnam.

Omnicom's increased investment in Mudra also comes on the heels of the Indian group's success on the international awards circuit; it won more prizes at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity than any other Indian agency.

Still, Omnicom doesn't have the same heft in the region that WPP Group, the world's largest ad global holding firm, does. WPP long ago made inroads throughout Asia and its agencies are deeply entrenched in India, China and emerging markets in Asia.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the deal lies in its star power. One of India's best-known business barons -- and one of the wealthiest men in the world -- Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani, will join Omnicom Group's International Advisory Committee. His influence in the business world could help Omnicom open more doors internationally in areas such as telecommunications, entertainment and health.

Said John Wren, president-CEO of Omnicom Group in a statement: "This acquisition is an important step in achieving Omnicom's strategy to extend and deepen our presence in rapidly growing markets. ...Mudra's innovation and depth of talent will strengthen our business capabilities not only in India but around the world."

"Omnicom and DDB have clearly been the inspiration for Mudra Group's transformative growth over the last five years," Mudra Group CEO Madhukar Kamath said. "My colleagues and I look forward to the next decade of explosive growth in the Indian market."

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