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RANJAN KAPUR STRIVING TO MAKE O&M INDIA A WORLDWIDE PLAYER

By Published on .

BOMBAY-Fresh out of Singapore, Ranjan Kapur is the new agent of change at Ogilvy & Mather India.

As the ad agency's new managing director as of Jan. 1, Mr. Kapur succeeded S.R. "Mani" Ayer, who occupied that chair for nearly two decades.

"I've come back from overseas obviously with a broader perspective of what is happening in the rest of the world, with a much broader point of view on how international clients are operating," said Mr. Kapur, 51, who has worked also in the U.S.

It is also part of an effort to integrate the Indian operation-the fourth largest agency in the country with $31 million in billings-with O&M Worldwide. "India, in a sense, reported to no one," he said, acknowledging the agency's unattached status.

Such privilege gave the agency a lot of freedom. Even WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell's takeover of O&M in 1989 hardly created a ripple in India. But on the flip side, it made the local agency quite complacent-and parochial.

As a result, Mr. Kapur is looking to win more multi-national clients.

"Competition was inward," against other Indian agencies, said Mr. Kapur. "Rather than competing with the Thailands, the Indonesias, the Taiwans [all] in Asia itself or [with] western countries, there was no competitive spirit here."

This was an understandably a deplorable state of affairs for someone who has spent 11 of his 26 years in advertising outside of India, rare for an Indian adman. Maybe even more rare for his family, wife Lorraine ("Jimi") and daughter Tina, 23, who moved along with him.

Given India's high population of 850 million, Mr. Kapur is a believer in one-child families and has, in fact, formed an informal society among parents who unofficially advocate the practice.

Mr. Kapur is a native of Patiala, Punjab, a city in the north of India. After earning his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Majhendra College, Punjab, and his M.A. in English from Stephen's College, Delhi, he chose to join Citibank's New Delhi branch as a management trainee in 1965.

Given advertising responsibilities, he worked with the bank's agency, British-owned S.H. Benson. In 1966, Mr. Kapur went over to the other side as account executive and within 18 months rose to become manager of S.H. Benson Delhi.

Not long after, he moved to Hindustan Milkfood Manufacturing (still owned by SmithKline Beecham) as brand manager, rejoining S.H. Benson in 1978 as account director around the time the agency was being bought and renamed Ogilvy Benson & Mather.

Soon after, he was named, at age 29, to the Indian agency's board of directors, and served for two years with O&M New York as account supervisor on Unilever and Kraft General Foods.

In 1978, he returned to India, this time as deputy managing director and six years later moved to Singapore to build another O&M agency network, Meridien Advertising.

When it was sold to Michael Ball in 1987, Mr. Kapur stayed with O&M as regional management supervisor for Asia-Pacific. In 1990 he was appointed O&M's director of regional clients for Asia-Pacific.

Now, as managing director of O&M India, he plans to concentrate on three areas: investment in quality people; developing the agency's in-house research capability, and introducing technology to bring the agency to the same level as its international counterparts.

He is also keeping an eye on agency rankings. At No. 4, O&M trails Hindustan Thompson Associates, Lintas: India, and Mudra Communications.

"We have to grow faster than the industry, faster than Lintas and Thompson," he said, "in order to catch up with them so that I can play the big-league game."

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