Q&A: Shams Jasani – Creativity is Not Only Great Storytelling But Also the Creative Use of Technology

In October of last year, Wunderman Thompson tapped Shamsuddin Jasani as its Chief Executive Officer, South Asia.

Jasani is a veteran of the industry, having launched Isobar in India in 2008, growing it from a two-person team to over 300-strong across South Asia. Now he’s taken the helm of one of India’s oldest ad agencies at Wunderman Thompson.

We recently caught up for a conversation with Jasani to talk about the new gig, his lofty goal of doubling in size over the next three years, how he’s managed the WFH era, and more.

 
 

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

My new innings at Wunderman Thompson has been exciting. It is a privilege and honor to be Leading the agency that I once interned at as a youngster. I’m really excited about the growth trajectory of the agency and the work we are looking to create. I am looking forward to leveraging our existing capabilities and being ahead of the curve and being the best in the communications part of our business.

Creativity is always going to be the center of everything we do and I want us to focus on doing brilliant work and helping clients really take part in this ever-evolving landscape and making consumer experience better.

You’ve said that one of your goals is to double in size over the next three years. You noted yourself that it is a “lofty” goal. How do you plan to accomplish this?

Yes while this goal looks like an ambitious one, we are well poised to achieve it. With creativity always being our core focus, we will fuel our growth ambition with technology and commerce. With our strong legacy, we want to move from brand experience to helping brands find solutions across the consumer journey including the post-purchase experience.

 
 

We have great capabilities in the form of two companies that are part of our group – Mirum which is strong in martech and Wunderman Thompson Commerce which offers solutions for the largest clients across the world on commerce. Moreover, we will be keenly looking at acquisitions in data, martech technology, UI, UX, consumer experience and commerce.

“I think we have all lost out on the human interaction in the last 2 years which is critical to a people-driven business like ours. The ideal work policy strategy will be a mix of both worlds – virtual and online leveraging the best of both worlds.”

What has been your working policy strategy for the evolving workplace created by the pandemic?

It will definitely be a hybrid one where we will encourage our people to get back to the office with all the Covid protocols in place.  While WFH does provide that much-needed flexibility, but the sense of belonging and the culture organization are best articulated in the office.

I think we have all lost out on the human interaction in the last 2 years which is critical to a people-driven business like ours. The ideal work policy strategy will be a mix of both worlds – virtual and online leveraging the best of both worlds.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from managing and motivating during the lockdowns that will carry over into your management approach when things are “normal” again?

It is our people who make the agency and it is vital they feel appreciated and proud of the company that they work for. The last 2 years have been extremely challenging for our people who have gone through increased levels of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. During times like these more than ever, they have looked to their leaders for support.

“In the past creativity was primarily driven through storytelling, but as we are going more and more into a digital-led future, the marriage of great storytelling with the right use of technology and platforms is of equal importance.”

Prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our people is extremely important to us and creating a work-life balance is imperative particularly given how these boundaries have blurred over the last 2 years. Thus my responsibility as a leader is to make sure that our people feel appreciated, a part of the team, and that their views count.

The industry has become more dependent on big data than ever before. How do you see the relationship between tech and creativity evolving side by side in the future?

In the past creativity was primarily driven through storytelling, but as we are going more and more into a digital-led future, the marriage of great storytelling with the right use of technology and platforms is of equal importance. Today’s creativity can not only come from storytelling and great artwork but also creative use of technology.

Outside of your day job, what personal projects do you enjoy working on?

I enjoy fatherhood the most. My 7-year-old son is my most important project. Beyond that, I like to experience new cuisines and good single malts.

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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