I was brought up in a progressive middle-class family that truly shaped my zeal and confidence to take up any challenge.” says Dipali Mahesh, MD in India, when asked about her childhood. 

One of 16 first cousins, she knows a lot about communication and adaptability which have come in handy throughout her life and career. A business school graduate, Mahesh chose Media & Entertainment as her field of work, above banking or consultancy, saying that “M&E is the only industry that will never go out fashion, look at how it’s evolved! It’s fascinating how media interacts and intersects with every other sector; opening up the landscape where all elements come together.”

She landed her first role as brand manager with a leading publisher, when the company visited her university campus. Since then, Mahesh has completed the full circle of media sectors, having also worked in radio, broadcast, and digital. 

Media & Entertainment is the only industry that will never go out fashion. Look at how it’s evolved!

So, what drew her to Adstream in 2016? The official answer goes something like this: “I was excited to work with a technology company that has a footprint in over 40 countries, that presented the opportunity to learn from mature markets and affect tangible progress in regional operations. Driving India to a lead position among markets in Southeast Asia was another challenge that motivated me to sign up for the remit.” 

The unofficial answer is of course more fun. Adstream’s Rohit Shivdasani reached out to her at an opportune time and a call with Christine Sterk, CEO of Southeast Asia followed. Given the choice to present a business case or a competitive analysis for the company, Mahesh chose the latter. Despite being unfamiliar with Adstream, she wanted to “make the effort to understand the business and the ecosystem it operates in.” 

Armed with all the information needed, she was on the plane to Kuala Lumpur two weeks later. A presentation and interview scheduled for 30 minutes lasted for three hours. The process, says Mahesh, made her “realise that I was ready to step into a new industry and a new role.”

The value of unlearning

Staying true to her love of learning, Mahesh went back to business school after two decades in the industry, with a view to “refresh knowledge and contemporize concepts.” Going back to the classroom was as much about learning as unlearning. 

She was able to complete her year-long course while at Adstream, thanks to weekend classes and approved study leave for on-campus sessions. “Times have changed, the use cases have changed. There are so many new concepts in leadership and management now. When you’ve spent such a long time in the industry many practices often become rigid in your mind, habits and perceptions formed can restrict you from thinking out of the box. After 20 plus years in the industry. I wanted to open up the box again and fill it with new ideas.” 

After 20 plus years in the industry. I wanted to open up the box again and fill it with new ideas.

Mahesh’s discerning ability to see through complexity is clear in her approach to the competitive business environment she operates in. When asked about which trends she wishes the industry paid less attention to, she’s quick to say that “Most new concepts and trends become fashionably jargonised. Industry leaders must take it upon themselves to simplify and share knowledge so that it may be used to lead the change." 

Likewise, when it comes to dealing with new or potential business, she steps back first to look at the overall picture. “I try to understand the need gap. You cannot force your product if there isn’t a need you can fulfil. It may take a while but finding the need gap is half the job done! Identify the problem, offer the solution, and that’s your product pitch - the right way of selling - and you’ve created a relationship in the process too. I know it might sound simple but really it isn’t. 

"At times you might have to walk away from a potential business opportunity just because “It didn’t fit!”

A customer-centric approach

With regards to the trends driving progress within the industry, Mahesh singles out customer centricity, observing that “Customers are now in complete control of their brand relationships.” 

How to win over and delight this newly empowered customer? “To be truly customer-centric, businesses need to design a strategy that will address both the cultural and the technological approach. The technological approach will focus on delivering market-differentiating customer experiences. From a culture perspective, business leaders will need to think holistically and extend complementing changes at every level within the organisation. Marketers must continue to look for opportunities to make rich content readily available for any engagement that moves at the speed of their customer.”

[India is] one of the most prolific consumer bases with a high proportion (almost 49%) of early tech adopters.

Thinking about India as a market specifically, she wants marketers to move beyond a homogeneous vision of the region, instead viewing it “as a combination of micro-markets.” One thing to know is that “it’s one of the most prolific consumer bases with a high proportion (almost 49%) of early tech adopters.” 

It’s also an extremely competitive market, which means “brands need to work harder and be aware that customers are more price-sensitive, though this will change as disposable income increases. India is the fastest-growing major economy and is expected to be the third-largest by 2025.”

Google – Reunion

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Her favourite ad of recent years is Google’s Search campaign, titled Reunion

Simple, emotive, effective, Mahesh loves how it “communicates product utility while the narrative strikes a strong emotional chord with the historical event, Partition.”

While full of energy and optimism for the future of the industry, she does wish the silos that still plague so much of media and entertainment could be eliminated. “It’s about time enterprises started to collaborate not only within, but across industries. This will help in establishing more sustainable models for the future.” 

Regarding Extreme Reach, however, she feels confident that it’s a future-ready business that’s ahead of the curve. With our unique offering that simplifies campaigns on every screen, we are here to assist better collaboration for our clients and their teams.

Finally, Mahesh shares a piece of advice she wishes she’d heard before starting in the industry - one we can all benefit from today: “Value your contribution at each stage of your career.”

Adstream was acquired by Extreme Reach in June 2021. Together, they are the global leader in Creative Logistics; the first and only solution that seamlessly integrates Linear TV delivery and video ad serving in one platform.