In Conversation With Umesh Shrikhande, CEO, Taproot Dentsu Communication
By Umesh Shrikhande
Tuesday, 14 Jul 2015
Everyone seems to have a good thing to say about Umesh Shrikhande. Someone also wisely said that no one truly interesting is universally liked. So would you prefer to be universally liked or truly interesting :)
While everyone can decide how boring or otherwise I am as a person, all I can say is that when it comes to people I have always played with a straight bat giving credit where it’s due. Over time, that - above all else - tends to go down rather well in a business where playing games with people is not uncommon.
You are credited to being the low profile CEO, pushing the spotlight towards your Creative Partner/s … yet anchoring the organization. Does this come from strength or a weakness?
It comes from clarity that in our business, creative teammates and their ideas must take precedence over everything else. After all the value we create is rooted in their ideas. It is therefore in the fitness of things that they get the spotlight. Investing my time and energy in creating a humane, energizing, thinking and result-oriented workplace is equally rewarding because it helps creativity to thrive.
You are part of the core team that built Contract India and made WPP proud. Was it heart breaking to move on?
Over the years, there were many stalwarts who made brand Contract happen by keeping the faith and building on it. I was fortunate to be one link in that long chain. I had also developed very deep bonds with many wonderful teammates. So the decision to move on certainly wasn’t easy. But after spending 17 odd years (over two stints) at Contract, it had become very important for me to test if I could work equally well in a new context with extremely talented people.
You have dabbled in being an entrepreneur, been part of start-ups like Lemon & Taproot (does still have the soul of an entrepreneur) worked with hard nosed multinationals like Interpublic & WPP… so where do you feel you really fit in?
For me it wasn’t a case of fitting in any one place. At various points in my career I craved for new challenges and experiences. And even if I am saying so, I have realised that I am not too bad at adapting to very different kind of work places and cultures rather seamlessly. The eclectic learning has been a boon. It has made me richer (if only in experience) and wiser (so I’d like to hope!).
Taproot’s strength (& reputation) has been built in the ‘Seniors’ being passionate & maniacal about each piece of work that leaves the Agency door… So what happens with the growth expectation of Dentsu? Will it be another Enterprise or Trikaya that will be sacrificed at the altar of growth?
Dentsu has the wisdom, patience and sensitivity. They understand the needs of a creative-focused agency like Taproot and have given us all the space we deserve. Their expectations are fair and well reasoned. Most importantly they are clear and keen that the creative stature of Taproot needs to be both protected and nurtured.
Taproot is that rare & precious ‘start up’ that has got the goat of the 800-pound gorillas. So what gets Taproot’s goat?
It’s not an exclusive Taproot list. What gets our goat is exactly what is meant to get the goat of our entire industry. (Just that a very few try and many don't). Anything that gets in the way of doing good work is what it is about viz. unnecessary stress, unclear briefs, unreasonable timelines, unfair contests and unfair remuneration. Our endeavour - with the help of our wonderful team - is to work with clients who respect these basics. So far we’ve been lucky in that we’ve got hugely supportive and appreciative clients, who are keen on making a difference.
So what are plans for Taproot? Taproot Asia? Taproot India Group? Taproot the Shiny Boutique or Taproot the core ideator to keep Dentsu India flying?
For us the core imperative is to fiercely protect our culture and work ethic. And it always helps to remain mindful of the fact this is fragile territory. Reason why scaling up x times overnight is not our goal. The idea is to grow in as sure-footed a manner as we can. But of course a scaled up Taproot with its core engine protected is the objective. We will get there very soon. It’s WIP.
Scroll down to see what Umesh helped create:
3. Mahindra | Kisi Se Kam Nahi
4. Asian Paints | Video Game 5. Cadbury | Diwali Celebration