How I Manage: Rakesh Singh - Havas Media's Managing Director
Rapid innovations in the era of technology 4.0 (also known as the fourth industrial revolution), together with the robust growth of the marketing industry in Vietnam challenge businesses to think on their feet. One of the biggest quandaries is how to organize and manage a brand’s marketing activities.
Responding to an increased demand for outsourced marketing, a slew of media agencies have set up shop in Vietnam in the past few years. Some struggled to scale up, others, like Havas Media Vietnam have thrived and built a loyal client base.
As part of Havas Media Group, a global communications group founded in 1835 and headquartered in Paris, Havas Media Vietnam had the expertise of the parent company to fall back on when they first opened in Vietnam in 2011.
Its mission is to create meaningful connections between people and brands through creativity, media and innovation. To achieve that, Havas Media relies on the “Village” model.
In a nutshell, the model is based on the premise that it takes a village to build a successful product or solution. To that end, departments lean on each other: the media team coordinating, communicating and collaborating with creative, content and production departments.
Rakesh Singh has made a significant contribution to Havas Media’s growth since 2015 leading a talented & energetic team of media professionals. Prior to making Vietnam home, Rakesh has forged a formidable career with legendary brands like Unilever, Emirates, Airtel, Diageo, Rolex, Swarovski, Citibank and Wrigley’s among his clients across multiple markets like Asia & Africa.
Rakesh Singh, Managing Director at Havas Media
Join Vietcetera as we sit down with Rakesh Singh to learn about his managing strategies and experiences working at Havas Media Vietnam.
Could you tell us about yourself and your background story?
I grew up in the outskirts of Hyderabad–a city located in the southern part of India.
In my childhood I was an active sports & fitness enthusiast who is always fond of Health, Fitness and Arts. Waking up early in the morning at 4 with the breeze of fresh air always mesmerised me. I was also fascinated by the life of army men. The military has a disciplined lifestyle filled with exciting challenges, a healthy lifestyle and rigorous hard working attitude, to achieve their goals.
Early in my career, I found the allure of the advertising industry irresistible: dynamic, passionate, enthusiastic and positive, all the traits that I found very attractive. Great admen can make a big difference in the fortunes of a company.
I am ambitious and results-driven. I thrive on challenges and constantly set goals for myself and my team. In addition, I am not comfortable with settling, and perhaps that explains why I have been a globetrotter working in eight cities across five countries in Asia and Africa throughout my career. Having experienced a variety of markets around the world helps me to adapt easily to different cultures.
How would you describe your work as a Managing Director at Havas?
I joined Havas Media Vietnam in 2015. Before moving to Ho Chi Minh City, I have worked with many global media agencies, namely GroupM, Omnicom and Publicis, in emerging cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi (India), Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria).
Working at Havas Media with the Vietnamese millennials generation has been a truly rewarding experience. It’s been quite a ride!
While five years ago we operated as a small media agency affiliated to Havas Media’s global network, today we operate as Havas Village — A 360-degree communication solutions company offering services like creative, PR and Content along with Media.
“I thrive on challenges and constantly set goals for myself and my team.”
The company grew rapidly–from fifteen employees in 2015 to the current number of over 120. Since 2016, we’ve been consistently ranked as one of the top agencies according to RECMA’s quarterly diagnostic report that ranks agencies on new business performance, momentum and vitality.
What are three words that describe your management style?
I believe the millennial generation today does not need to be “managed.” They just need to be shown the direction. There is a lot to learn from this new generation whose enthusiasm, passion, agility, distinctive ideas and entrepreneurial spirit are very inspirational.
Three key words I think that describe my working style would be:
- Optimistic: I think those who are optimistic about their work will get things done more efficiently and quickly. With optimism comes innovation, and with innovation come great results.
- Accountable: Accountability has a clear correlation with high performance and fosters innovation by making people become more invested in the company.
- Transformational: I think transformational leaders can inspire and motivate their teams without micromanagement, by encouraging them to take authority over decisions and tasks.
What does the digital marketing landscape in Vietnam look like at the moment?
Vietnam is undergoing an enormous digital transformation. However, with an estimated ad spend of $329 million, the current spend is quite small in comparison to other markets, so there is ample room for growth.
It is perhaps the only medium with a double digit growth rate. Digital ad spend currently accounts for approximately 12% of the total advertising pie in Vietnam and is expected to grow to 14% by the end of 2021.
While global giants like Google, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are in the lead, local platforms such as Vnexpress, Zing, Kenh14, CocCoc and others have also got a toehold.
Compared to the global market, what have we done well and what else do we need to improve?
With the per capita GDP expected to grow at 6.7% till 2023, Vietnam is soon expected to join other economic power houses in the region. Its biggest asset is the young and vibrant population always on the move and quick to adapt and embrace global trends.
“Vietnam is undergoing an enormous digital transformation.”
Like many countries who have a strong desire to foster tech giants, Vietnam launched a “Make in Vietnam” initiative, which is aimed at encouraging local tech companies to manufacture and export their own products instead of assembling goods for foreign companies.
Local industry’s growth depends on how fast companies in Vietnam adapt and embrace global technological innovations.
What was the most meaningful moment for you and Havas team in 2019 ?
Our transformation from an independent media agency to a client centric organization by adopting the Havas Village model. Bringing media, digital, content, creative and PR under one roof was one the most meaningful moments in 2019. This laid the foundation for the group’s collaborative culture and was well received by our clients and partners.
What do you foresee the key trends in branding and digital marketing in Vietnam in 2020?
Vietnam represents a huge commercial opportunity for brands and marketers. The development of platforms for collection and analyzing of big data and the use of newer and efficient technologies for better customer targeting will lead to substantial growth.
“Local industry’s growth depends on how fast companies in Vietnam adapt and embrace global technological innovations.”
The three key trends I foresee in the digital marketing space are:
- Search: More than 40% of all search on mobile is voice search. Brands need to be ready to adapt this new phenomenon and revise their research strategy accordingly.
- Video: With the growth of 5G data and innovative ad technology, more and more engagement is likely to happen through video content.
- Live streaming: Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn already offer live streaming. Brands would need to embrace these opportunities to make content more engaging.
What is your ideal recruiting quality? Could you describe your ideal hire.
- Positive attitude and goal oriented
- Team player with a strong work ethic
- Self-motivated with eagerness to learn
- Good communicator
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in a management position?
I think a great leader needs to encourage collaboration and cooperation within the organisation. Promoting and helping other members of the team grow and develop into leadership roles within the company.
- Recognize others’ efforts
- Set and clarify the company’s goals and vision
- Be approachable
- Be organized and familiar with the company’s affairs
- Use your power in the right way
- Don’t be afraid to learn from the youngsters. They can always teach us something new.
What keeps you here in Vietnam for so long?
Vietnam is an amazing country and a land full of opportunities. Having lived here for over five years, I have fallen in love with its rich culture, vibrant energy and dynamism. The people are just fascinating with their enthusiastic and entrepreneurial spirit, as well as inherent motivation to grow. Its economy is in the process of liberalisation and is steadily sustaining impressive growth. I want to grow with this developing country.
“Vietnam is an amazing country and a land full of opportunities.”
What are your future plans and goals?
First of all, I hope that the current disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will end soon and that we will be able to get back to normalcy as early as possible.
Meanwhile, I have also decided to quit Havas by the end of March. I want to begin a new journey on the advertiser’s side as a client where I aim to work closely with ad technology companies to bring quality advertising solutions.
The traditional agency’s role today is being challenged more and more by these tech startups as they are rapidly evolving, providing advanced and dynamic ad solutions at competitive prices.
Traditional agencies need to reinvent themselves to keep up.
One of my future plans is also to provide advisory to the startups through new initiatives such as “Visionfly,” which aims to collaborate and combine relevant ad-tech offerings.