Havas Health & You’s Susan Josi and Havas Life Sorento’s Sangeeta Barde have been successful partners in business since 1998.
Sorento has gone from strength to strength since the agency was acquired by the Group in 2017, and the pair were recently elevated to take on the mass of opportunity offered by APAC in the health space. Here, Susan, Havas Health & You’s Managing Director for South East Asia and the Middle East, and Sangeeta, Managing Director of Havas Life Sorento, tell us about their powerful partnership and what the future holds.
Congratulations on your new roles! Can you tell us a little about them?
Susan Josi: In April, I took up the role of Havas Health & You’s Managing Director for South East Asia and the Middle East. The agency has established a solid footprint in this region since the acquisition of Sorento in India in 2017. One of the definite ways to expand and grow this opportunity was to leverage and build Havas Health & You’s global client roster in the SEA and ME region. To do this, we had to devise a robust model so that we did not have to recreate a similar team everywhere, which would entail a significant investment in terms of both time and cost. Throughout the past year, we have been experimenting with our hub model in India and it was proving to be successful and cost effective for our clients. That is how my new role was created, to lead this opportunity in the SEA and ME region.
Sangeeta Barde: I am heading Havas Life Sorento as Managing Director. India is undergoing major digital transformation and I am sure healthcare companies will be a very important part of this. My role will be to further tap growth opportunities in India. I am looking forward to leaning into the vast digitisation opportunities in our data and media centres, and working to perfect new and simplified content creation models. Deep collaboration with groups and partners domestically and internationally is a necessary and exciting endeavour to achieve many of the goals that we have set for India. I am thrilled to be taking this next step to connect the dots across these groups and regions.
You both form such a solid partnership. Why does this collaboration work so well?
Susan: I have known Sangeeta since 1995 when she was first my client and then became my business partner in 1998. That is now almost 26 years of friendship and business partnership. We have a joke between us that except for this lockdown period, we have spent more waking hours together than with our husbands. Jokes aside, we are two different personalities who are strong headed in our own ways, but driven by a common agenda and passion. And that is why we work well together, even if we do not always agree on everything. One of the interesting things about our partnership is that we almost always reach the same decision even if we take drastically different paths to get there. What we have learned deep down is that both of us value and respect each other’s capabilities and have similar ideologies.
Sangeeta: We are two people with the same vision. Our paths to reach the vision are be different at times, but they converge at some point and become one. As individuals, we are different but that’s what is needed, I suppose. We appreciate and respect each other’s point of view. But one thing on which we don’t differ at all is the trust that we have built for each other over the years and our focus on our people and their success.
Susan, you recently said the APAC market “offers a rich scope of potential.” In what ways?
Susan: APAC is home to almost 60% of the world’s population and includes some of the world’s most populous countries. It is also a diverse population accompanied by changing demographic trends as well as rapid urbanisation in most countries. The pharma world is thereby aggressively pivoting their lens to this growing patient pool, which creates huge opportunities for us in this domain. That is also why many of our global HH&Y clients are keenly reaching out to understand how we can service their business in APAC.
It is truly the best and most interesting time to expand our footprint in this region by offering a myriad of solutions including digital transformation, multichannel engagement through data and patient care programmes, in addition to many of the services that we render to the healthcare industry. With the power of Vivendi we can go beyond and offer meaningful engagement solutions through music, gamification and other innovative ideas which differentiates us from most agencies here. That feels exciting and futuristic for us.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the years since the acquisition of Sorento?
Sangeeta: There are quite a few of them, but I’ll share a pertinent one! I’ve continued to remain an entrepreneur but I’ve also become an employee, so how do you balance between the two? I believe the entrepreneurial spirit should never die if you want to continue to make a difference to your people and keep raising the value of your brand built over the years. You need to have the power of a holding network and the agility of a boutique agency.
Havas Health & You centres around Human Purpose. What is yours?
Susan: In John Lennon’s words, “life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” The onslaught of Covid last year taught us that the only way you can be prepared for what tomorrow has in store is by living right and meaningfully today! And that is what I strive for.
Sangeeta: Without a doubt, patients, and from the day I landed my first job in a state-run hospital doing scans that has been my purpose. I have seen the pain and anguish of patients and their care givers and I want to positively impact the people hidden in those patients. Fortunately, the work I pursued helped me fulfill both my profession and passion and I’m excited to keep moving forward.