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wpp: WPP will look to double its India biz revenue in 5 years, add to headcount: CEO Mark Read

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WPP, the world’s largest advertising holding company, plans to double its India business revenue in five years and hire 7,000 to 8,000 people, CEO Mark Read told ET.

India is currently the fastest-growing and the fifth-largest market globally for WPP, which recorded revenues of over $18 billion in 2022.

The advertising giant wants India to be among its top three markets worldwide in the next five years. “I have an ambition to double the size of the Indian business in the next five years, which will take it to be a top three market for WPP. India contributes close to 4-5% of our global business,” Read said.

“India is our fifth biggest market and has been our fastest growing market for the last decade, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be our fastest-growing market for the next decade,” he added. Besides aiming to double the size of the Indian business, the WPP chief also said that the company will double its headcount in the country over the next five years.
“That probably means we will hire 7,000 to 8,000 people over the next five years,” he stated. Currently, WPP employs 10,500 people in India and 115,000 globally. Read said the expansion of the Indian economy coupled with the rapid pace of digitisation and proliferation of new media channels are some of the factors that will drive WPP’s growth in India.He noted that the Indian advertising market is projected to grow at 12% in the second half of 2023, which is double the global growth rate.”The Indian ad market is forecast to grow by about 12%, and the global ad spend number is about 6%. India’s growing twice the rate of the rest of the world,” he said.The WPP head honcho is also optimistic about the benefits that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will bring to the advertising sector. “AI is the number one priority for me from a long-term technology investment perspective,” he said.

Read offers a contrarian viewpoint to the widely held belief that AI will result in employment losses. “AI will likely create many jobs and change the nature of other jobs. It will probably destroy some jobs. If I look at WPP, half the people are in jobs that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Our task in leading the company is to position it to create those jobs and not to try to be too defensive,” he stated.

According to Read, AI will disrupt the advertising business, but it will also help agencies build new capabilities. “AI will enable us to do many things that weren’t done before. It will enable us to make our creative messages much more relevant to people. AI is not going to eliminate the need for creative judgment,” Read said. Read noted that one of the big trends globally is the fragmentation of the media space due to the entry of newer players like Netflix and Uber into the advertising business.

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