Surviving and Thriving – Against All Odds!

A WZCC Webinar Featuring Sam Balsara and Lara Balsara Vajifdar

WZCC- Building the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, Dubai Chapter, organized a webinar on 19th December, 2020, titled, ‘Surviving and Thriving – Against All odds’ with charismatic speakers – the dynamic Chairman of Madison World – Sam Balsara and the inspirational Executive Director of Madison World – Lara Balsara Vajifdar – who enthralled all those who attended the same.

A stalwart of the Media Industry, Sam Balsara’s rich experience spanning 45 years, in Marketing, Advertising and as an entrepreneur, has won him innumerable accolades and awards worldwide. His passion for community service has him actively involved in innumerable causes including Jiyo Parsi, GWG and WZCC. The Chairman of one of India’s foremost Media agencies, Madison World, Sam Balsara is the revered recipient of the Advertising Agencies Association of India’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been felicitated with the Kolkata’s Hall of Fame Award and has entered the International Advertising Association’s Hall of Fame.  The Economic Times’ Brand Equity Ad Agency Reckoner has ranked Sam as India’s Most Influential Media Person for 11 consecutive years now!

Following in the illustrious footsteps of her celebrated father, Lara Balsara Vajifdar is as much a visionary, playing a key role at Madison World for over 16 years, currently an Executive Director, overseeing Marketing, HR and Legality for Madison World companies. She has featured in the Economic Times Brand Equity Ad Agency Reckoner’s Top 50 Most Influential People In Advertising and also in Impact’s Top 40-Under-40. She has also been featured in Impact’s Top 50 Most Influential Women in Media, in India for nine consecutive years.

The webinar commenced with Global Director, WZCC, Middle East Region – Meher Bhesania, welcoming the guest speakers, along with WZCC Global President- Edul Daver, WZCC Regional Directors, members and all present. She said, “These webinars have created a circle of friendship within the community and the organization. Madison, today, is India’s largest independent communication’s company and was recently ranked as the world’s fifth largest independent media agency by size of billing in the US, and second in Germany.” Nozer Buchia from Houston presided as the guest host. A short film showcasing WZCC was screened.

Introducing Sam Balsara and Lara, media expert, Jasmin Sohrabji, showered praises on both. She spoke of how Sam is truly an industry leader, admired by generations of media professionals. She spoke highly of his work ethics and his ability to cultivate long-lasting, close relationships, in an otherwise cost-driven industry. She credited Lara for ensuring that Madison always stays relevant and future ready, and for strengthening its digital offering and adding new dimensions to the business.

Nozer Buchia started the talk show stating Madison phenomenal achievements, being India’s second largest media house and the fifth largest independent advertising agency in the world, with approximately 900 full time workers, 500 clients in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Turning to Sam, who originally hailed from Balsar and had done his primary schooling from Gujarat, he asked him to share a glimpse of his journey into the world of Advertising. Sam shared, “Till my sixth standard, I was in Balsar. I feel it is an advantage to have spent a few years in a small town in India because city folk tend to camouflage their persona, whereas in small towns, everyone knows everyone and their real emotion and the real person comes out. This is very important for a communications and advertising person because then you understand what drives individuals in society, what they think…what makes them buy and not buy. What would appeal to them…I have come to recognize that starting life in a small town like India is actually a big advantage.”

On taking the entrepreneurial jump, Sam said, “I did not have a dying ambition to start a business of my own…but somewhere it got into my head that… a small agency with a few large clients was an ideal agency and my earlier stint in Mudra, after its initial successes which I contributed for, developed the ambition that they should be the largest agency in India. That somehow did not appeal to me initially. Even today, I remain a craftsman at heart and not a manager. Later, I thought, why not start on my own and I must say that I had a very easy start. An agency that existed and not doing too well, called Madison, owned by a Parsi gentleman, fell in my lap. I went to two of my largest clients and both were ready to move their accounts to this agency and it so happened that I decided to start the agency on 21st March and the next day was our first release.”

Speaking with Lara, Nozer asked what made her decide upon joining her father at the workplace. “When we were younger, dinner time conversations were around advertising, so getting into advertising was natural for me. I completed my Masters in Marketing and things simply fell into place.” Speaking about her journey and its evolution in this dynamic industry, she added, “Our industry is constantly evolving. When I started out, we had just 5 businesses – Creatives, Media Marketing, PR, Outdoor and Rural; today we have 24 across 11 functional areas! Earlier, only 1% of the Ad-market was focused on the Digital aspect – today, it’s at 30%! In this business, you have to continuously evolve and change with times.”

Sharing about wisdom gained from his initial setbacks when he nearly lost 70% of his business, in the early years of Madison, Sam sought motivation from the saying, ‘Real success can come after real failure’, and recovered even more strongly from this debacle, with Madison increasingly gaining recognition in the industry as also top clients.

Speaking about some of the immutable laws at Madison and what makes it a great organization, Lara’s advice to young entrepreneurs was that one needed to possess a good combination of professional confidence and a good service / product to start with. “One needs to have a sufficient capital and plan for all eventualities… Parsis are lucky thanks to WZCC, an entrepreneur can get access to so many talented senior advisors. It’s quite difficult and challenging, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges,” she said.

Nozer also revealed how a decade ago Sam Balsara was able to successfully negotiate the tough terms of a partnership with WPP, which later worked out brilliantly in his favour. “Sometimes, ownership is not important. You have to give sometimes to get back. It worked for Madison too,” he shared.

Lara then expounded the reasons for Madison’s success, highlighting their client focus as a prime factor. This would explain how clients have been with them for a long time. Their strong value system of honesty and integrity as also a great team of people empowered their success. She explained the difference between media marketing and advertising, alongside concepts like public relations, outdoor and digital advertisements, events, celebrity and sports management.

Nozer praised Sam and Lara for their excellent efforts which have made Madison World a massive success.  Global Director – WZCC UK, Perses Sethna, further conducted the question-and-answer session. Concluding the captivating webinar, Percy Master gave the vote of thanks, expressing gratitude to a fab team of people for making the WZCC webinars a resounding success – including Edul Daver, Meher Bhesania, Jasmin Sohrabji, Nozer Buchia, Sam Balsara, Lara Balsara Vajifdar, Perses Sethna, IT Guru Yazdi Tantra and Tantra Tech in tech-support for hosting webinars and zoom meetings, as also the audience.

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