A conversation with the former CEO of Dentsu, co-founder and president of RD&X Network.
Ashish Bhasin joins global advertising and marketing startup RD&X Network as Co-Founder and Chairman. Bhasin moved from Dentsu, where he spent 13 years and was CEO of Asia Pacific and Chairman of the Board of Directors in India, about six months ago.
Founded by Rajiv Dhingra, former CEO of WATConsult, RD&X Network is headquartered in Dubai. It has technology teams based in Bengaluru and Mumbai, catering to the needs of the global market, with a particular focus on the US, Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.
RD&X Network recently launched ReBid, a unified marketing and advertising automation platform. It uses AI-based algorithms to provide a unified end-to-end workflow, data orchestration and real-time reporting. Covers more than 98% of relevant global digital advertising expenditures, helping marketers take back control and prepare for a world without cookies.
horizons! I spoke to Bhasin recently. Here are the edited excerpts:
Q: What prompted you to undertake this pilot project?
A: After 34 years in business, this will be my first entrepreneurial project. I feel the future of advertising is going to more platforms. This is where the growth will come from – adtech, martech, AI and ML domains.
India is well positioned to become a world dominant in this field. The reason is that we have a great understanding of markets, brands, and high-quality talent – especially tech talent, which the rest of the world lacks. It may take time, but the possibility to do it is there.
So far, in the world of advertising, our thinking (our mindset) has been aligned with the service-based agency model. When you want to scale it, you need a platform-based approach.
To give you some global context, the entire digital advertising market is worth about $550 billion and by 2026 or 2027, that number will reach a trillion dollars. When you have a trillion dollar market, which produces a lot of data, unless it’s automated or AI powered, you can’t analyze it at scale.
Q: You have a wealth of experience – nearly three decades – in the world of advertising and marketing. How will your experience help the RD&X network grow?
A: The only area I have experience in is advertising, since I have been in this field for almost 34 years. The key thing is to understand what your customers need and get a view of where the market is headed. You can’t create a company where the market is, you have to create a company where you think the market will move.
You must also have the ability to put together a team that can help you achieve your vision. What drew me to the RD&X team is that Rajiv (Dingra) and his team have already put together a platform – ReBid, which has all the ingredients to drive massive growth in this market.
The most important thing is that you cannot have only a technical or marketing orientation without a commercial orientation. I want to put it all together and lead this journey. That’s what excites me the most about the team, and that’s where I hope to add value.
Q: Can you tell us how this new role will be different from your last Dentsu assignment?
A: Being part of a startup is completely different from being part of a large, well-established network. When you run a startup, you are responsible for everything – from maintaining balance sheets to cleaning toilets. You have to roll up your sleeves to do whatever the business might need.
In an established setting, there are systems, departments, and many resources. In comparison, startups have relatively fewer resources. For example, our startup currently has around 50 employees, while in my previous assignment, I handled a team of over 10,000 people.
The business principles remain the same in both types of companies, but there is a huge difference in approach, scope, agility, speed, etc.
Q: If you want, you can get a job in any network in the world. Why choose the path of entrepreneurship now?
A: I’ve been in the corporate world for 34 years, but I’ve only had two jobs so far – 20 years at Lintas and 14 years at Dentsu. I have spent much of my career in some very high-ranking positions. If I don’t take this entrepreneurial step now – I don’t know when I will be able to. I’m 57, heading 58, if I didn’t do this now, I don’t think I’d ever be able to take that step.
Q: The RD&X Network website claims that the company is the meeting point of adtech, martech, and deep technology. These are areas with a lot of growth potential, but how do you plan to bring it all together?
A: Herein lies the challenge and difficulty – to provide a unified solution based on the needs of our customers. The problem now is that marketing operates in different walled gardens. With data and privacy laws, it’s getting even more difficult, especially as we’re now moving into a cookie-free world.
We are building a platform of platforms, which unite all aspects of digital marketing in one place. If a customer wants to plan, buy, activate or view data, they can do so across platforms. Not just platforms, but people who can have different inventories for you from different settings. In this way, more than 90% of the entire global inventory is available on a single platform.
This is the unique and difficult thing – how to unite it. If you have large campaigns, you want your audience, geography, brands, and any data you need to see in real time. It doesn’t work to generate a performance report after a week of running the campaign.
In the digital world, you can measure performance in minutes. This platform will enable various aspects of digital marketing and advertising to work in real time.
I am convinced that the future of advertising will be across platforms and that one needs a technical approach.
Q: What challenge are you looking forward to taking on in your new role?
A: The biggest challenge for any startup is expansion. We have global ambitions – the company will be headquartered in Dubai, and we are also looking to acquire markets such as the US, Middle East, Europe, etc. Our main focus is on getting new customers, and making sure that many of them can see and use the product.